Wednesday, October 12, 2005

'Carnival of Monsters'

4 episodes

Two episodes last thing last night, one at lunchtime and one this evening - almost felt like I was watching 'properly' one part at a time! I've always had a sneaky fondness for 'Carnival of Monster' without knowing which story it was, as way back in the day (probably around 1990 when I was ten or eleven) it became the only one of the many Target novelisations I ever read, despite my library having a fair number of mostly Terrance Dicks books from the series. All I could remember was that it featured a ship on an ocean, aboard which the Doctor witnessed the crew and passengers stuck in an endlessly repeating time loop - which, Locus has assured me intermittently over the years as I tend to forget again after he tells me, was the very story that I have now finally seen! I realised this part way through the first episode, after the Doctor and Jo finds themselves on board said ship with a plesiosaur periodically appearing outside and terrorising the occupants; what is clever is that the surrounding scenes on the planet of Inter Minor, with its delightfully grey and bureaucratic inhabitants and the colourful showman Vorg and his cynical assistant Shirna, are presented as completely separate from the other half of the story - it is only later that we realise that the Doctor and Jo are miniturised inside Vorgs 'miniscope' machine, with all the attendant dangers.

This is one of those occasional Who adventures that is quick, fun and really of no consequence whatsoever, but in its knowing allegorising of the relationship between television and its viewers, excellent characterisation (typical of Robert Holmes stories) and novel setting, it is immensely enjoyable. The support cast all get their own distinctive personalities, the shenanigans our heroes get up to with the timelooped unfortunates aboard ship are clever and funny, with Jo getting increasingly exasperated of the cyclical series of events she is forced to work around time after time. The Drashigs are monsters from the 'cheesy but good' school, tearing through the miniscope's systems and ultimately out into the external world - it always bugs me, though, that their strange name sounds like it should be something else backwards but obviously isn't so... but it is a clear anagram of 'dishrag' for whatever that's worth...! The one peculiarity is the plight of the Inter Minor subordinate race, the Functionaries: early on, there seems to be a subplot regarding their oppression and bid for equality or whatever it is they want to achieve, yet this somehow peters out along the way and is never addressed. Considering the Doctor's perpetual desire to right wrongs and stand up for the underdog, it is in its own way a surprising twist in the tale that he apparently doesn't ever become aware of the situation.

All in all, though: silly, disposable, but terrific!


Episodes watched: 229
Episodes still to watch: 493

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