OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 684
STORY NUMBER: 156
TRANSMITTED: Wednesday 14 December 1988
WRITER: Stephen Wyatt
DIRECTOR: Alan Wareing
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
Actually I'm watching this on video. But by the time you read this it'll have been out on DVD for a few months. Yeah I'm a little ahead (128 episodes as of this morning) which gives me a little lead to get working on the second phase of the blog.....
In the Tardis an advert arrives for the Psychic Circus, the self proclaimed Greatest Show in the Galaxy which the Doctor would like to go and see but Ace is reluctant as she is scared of clowns. On the planet Segonax where the circus is based Fowerchild & Bellboy have escaped from the Circus but pursued by THE clowns riding in a hearse. The Doctor & Ace arrive on Segonax and seek directions from a local stallholder, but while they are there they encounter the motorcyclist Nord, also travelling to the Circus. Nearby they meet the explorer Captain Cook and his companion Mags, but are attacked by a robot half buried under the sand which Ace deactivates by hitting it with a spade. Elsewhere the unconscious Flowerchild is dragged away while the clowns find Bellboy at the stall. The Doctor & Ace find an old bus in the desert but when they enter it they are cornered by an aggressive robot bus conductor which the Doctor electrocutes with it's ticket machine. Bellboy is returned to the circus and sent into the ring. The Captain & Mags leave the Doctor & Ace behind and set out in their vehicle for the circus. Ace finds Flowerchild's ear ring in the sand and pins it to her jacket. Another visitor to the planet, Wizz Kid arrives at the tansmat station on a three wheeled bike and enquires of stallholder where circus is. The Captain & Mags find the circus, closely followed by The Doctor & Ace. The Captain & Mags witness Bellboy in the ring with Mags reduced to screaming by what she sees. Ace hears the screaming outside but the Doctor doesn't and challenges her to go in....
There's some good stuff in there and some genuinely creepy imagery, especially the clowns in the hearse. These days clowns and circuses are a shorthand for creepy but then, before The League of Gentlemen and Papa Lazarou ("Hello Dave, Would you like to buy some pegs Dave?").
In an odd way the Bus Conductor, played by Dean Hollingsworth, who was the Androids in Timelash, reminds me of Wordy from Look and Read! Playing the stallholder was Peggy Mount, a famed theatre actress, whose casting was publicised by the series. Flowerchild is played by Dee Sadler who I can remember being in No Place Like Home with William Gaunt (Orcini in Revelation of the Daleks), Martin Clunes (Lon in Snakedance) and Daniel Hill (Chris Parsons in Shada). She's married to Derek Thompson who every UK TV viewer will recognise as Charlie Fairhead#Charlie Fairhead in Casualty.
We're on location in this story at Warmwell Quarry in Dorset which provides the exteriors for Segonax. The bus used in the location shoot was the same one that had featured a year earlier in Delta & the Bannermen. Location filming took place on 14th-18th May 1988 after which the plan was to return to the studio to shoot the interior scenes. As we shall see it didn't quite work out like that....