Which One : The minaturised alien zoo.
Cast : The Doctor : Jon Pertwee
Jo : Katy Manning
Kalik : Michael Wisher
Orum : Terence Lodge
Pletrac : Peter Halliday
Vorg : Leslie Dwyer
Shrina : Cheryl Hall
Major Daly : Tenniel Evans
Claire Daly : Jenny McCracken
Lt John Andrews : Ian Marter
Captain : Andrew Staines
Written By : Robert Holmes
Produced By : Barry Letts
First UK Broadcast : 27 January–17 February 1973.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : On course to Metabelis 3, the Tardis lands on board a Earth sailing ship where the crew (unknowingly) are repeating the same period of time over-and-over, in a loop. The Doctor realises that the ship and all of her crew have been hijacked and minaturised into a portable alien zoo – called a ‘Miniscope’.
Whats good : Twisty, suspense laden. The Drashigs.
Whats bad : Vorg and Shrina’s costume design. Uninteresting scenes between Vorg and the custom aliens.
Review With Spoilers : Carnival Of Monsters is the 2nd episode of anniversary season 10 and the first episode – following the events in The Three Doctors, in which the Doctor is able to travel freely in the Tardis – once again.
Attempting a trip to Metabelis 3, to show Jo the famous blue crystals (which forms a small sub-story through season 10 and the Doctor’s eventual regeneration in Planet Of The Spiders). The Doctor mis-pilots the Tardis onto an Earth sailing ship.
Unbeknown to themselves, the crew are repeating the same pocket of time, over-and-over again. The Doctor and Jo escape through a door into a different swamp landscape and are attacked by a pack of carnivorous Drashig’s.
The Doctor realises that they have been minutarised and captured in a ‘Miniscope’ – an alien portable zoo device, banned by the Timelords. The machine is failing, though and the Drashigs escape from their environment into the others, attacking the ships crew and the Doctor.
Carnival Of Monsters is for the first half, a twisty, nicely building mystery piece, as the Doctor works out where the Tardis has been brought to. For the second, it ups the stakes with an action packed trade-off, once the Drashigs get loose.
In this, a minaturised Tardis is plucked out of the Miniscope. Leaving the Doctor with just his sonic screwdriver and ingenuity. The Doctor always works best when he is removed from his Tardis, which can be too lazy a plot device, for fixing things.
It’s interesting watching the writers write around the lack of a Tardis. It presents a nice extra layer of peril for the Doctor, without access to his protective blue box.
The Drashig’s present an ever present peril throughout but work best when not on screen, such as the scenes in the swamp when they are hunting the Doctor and Jo, underwater. Their design is passable, although their small puppety quality is obvious.
“Roll up and see the monster show! A carnival of monsters, all living in their natural habitat, wild in this little box of mine! A miracle of intragalactic technology! Roll up! Roll up! Roll…..!” Vorg
The SFX used to present the Doctor and Jo as minature, is well done for the era and although some of the fuzzy edges are obvious due to the overlay of scenes on top of another; are commendable for the era it was made in. It has a hint of Hartnell’s – Planet Of The Giants – about it.
If Lt. John Andrews looks familiar – its because he is played by Ian Marter, making a pre-Harry Sullivan appearance, on board the ship. There is also brief cameos for the Ogrons and; in their only appearance in the Pertwee era – The Cybermen, as Miniscope attractions.
Some of the production though is badly dated now, namely the “zoo keeper” characters of Vorg and Shrina wearing the most ill-advised ridiculous glam rock outfits. Still it was probably cutting edge stuff and inline with Top Of The Pops of the day.
The scenes between Vorg and the custom aliens – outside of the miniscope, are not as interesting as the action going on inside it and as a result, the cutaway between the two – is annoying.
Carnival Of Monsters is a twisty mystery piece where the Doctor has to uncover events – bit-by-bit. Beginning with why the ships crew keep repeating time over and why a door that none of the crew can see, leads to a huge room full of circuitry. The ante is also upped when the Doctor loses his Tardis to a huge hand.
The Miniscope concept – being a useful and unlimited plot device tool; was dusted off and used again 6 years later, in the Tom Baker adventure – Nightmare Of Eden.
Who works best when the Doctor is required to get to the bottom of a puzzle and the Doctor and the viewer uncover events together. It builds to a nice action packed conclusion, with the Drashigs threatening to escape the Miniscope altogether.