Carnival of Monsters

I’ve tended to rather rush through writing up the Pertwee stories I have been watching, as they are much of a muchness, but this is different. I remember back in 1981 when it was re-broadcast, we really wondered why – surely there were other, better Pertwee four-parters out there? The Terrance Dicks novelisation is only average. It seemed as if Carnival of Monsters had been chosen mainly because it followed on in continuity directly after The Three Doctors. Spoiled as we were by the Hinchcliffe and Williams years, Carnival of Monsters did not seem all that special.

I must say that now it does. The 1973 season was probably Pertwee’s second best (after his first, the 1970 season) and Carnival of Monsters is surely the best story in it – followed by Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks, which are both OK but not spectacular, and ending with  The Green Death which is also a good one, particularly because it gets rid of Jo. The one thing that lets it down is the visual effects, rather a lot of dodgy CSO being used. But if you can shut your eyes and pretend you are still six during those bits, the rest is fantastic – Robert Holmes at his very best in the script, Michael Wisher in pre-Davros days as the main villain, Ian Marter in pre-Harry Sullivan days as a minor character, a real feeling of several different completely alien cultures (the two classes on Inter Minor and the Lurmans), and an absence of the blatant padding that mars so many Pertwee stories. A special shout to Cheryl Hall, later the girlfriend of Citizen Smith, as showgirl Shirna.

And there’s a couple of serious reflections in there too – the MiniScope itself is a futuristic development of the zoo, and gives rise to a rather caricatured discussion of conservation versus entertainment’ more seriously, Inter Minor is clearly a communist totalitarian state, threatened to its very foundations by any influence from the outside. Michael Wisher’s character Kalik is the conservative brother of the unseen president Zarb. It’s nicely observed, although not all conservative backlashes end with the leader of the hardliners being eaten alive by a Drashig. Shame.

One thought on “Carnival of Monsters

  1. The problem I have with alignment stories is they never say what the alignment is, or rather, they assume that the earth is flat, so that map line=great circle=sunrise alignment

    If they drew this with a ruler on a map, were they aware that the map is a conic projection? Are they actually drawing a great circle, or a line of constant sunrise alignment? (it can’t be both, and the constant alignment would only look straight on a Mercator map, which single-country maps rarely are)

    Also, why don’t they show all the St. Michaels nearby that aren’t on the line? There could be hundreds of them.

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