Doctor Who – Carnival of Monsters (Special Edition)

It’s been a while since I mentioned the first title in this second Revisitations set, but as we’ve now reached that point in the year where most of the good TV has gone away for its holidays[1], I’ve now got time to start catching up on the pile of round shiny things that I need to watch.

And so on to the monsters. This one, starring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor and Katy Manning as Jo Grant, was first shown in January and February 1973, and is the first story after the Time Lords released the Doctor from his exile on Earth. Being quite happy to be able to travel freely again, he takes Jo on a trip. He wanted to take her to the apparently famous blue planet, Metebelis 3, but instead the TARDIS materialises on board a ship on the Indian Ocean in 1926. So, his ability to steer doesn’t seem to have improved..

But, as you might expect in a story written by Robert Holmes, all is not as it seems. Life on the ship appears to be running in a loop, with the dramatic appearance of a plesiosaur in the sea being the hight point. And what’s going on with the oddly grey people on Inter Minor and their even odder visitors? And why can’t the ship’s crew see the metal hatch in the deck?

It’s an intriguing story, with some scheming aliens, cool monsters, and banned technology. Oh, and an early appearance from Ian Marter, who would later turn up as Harry Sullivan. The Drashigs are a nicely scary and voracious species of monster, and we get to enjoy an upper class alien borrowing from George Orwell when he suggests that the lower class aliens are not at all civilised:

Give them a hygiene chamber, and they store fossil fuel in it

This being an improved reissue, there’s a pretty good collection of extras. There’s an additional commentary, the usual production subtitles, pictures, bits, bobs, and wossnames and:

  • Episode 2 – Early Edit Other sources tell me that this version was accidentally put on the VHS release of the story. It’s a wee bit longer, and includes a proposed (and swiftly abandoned) different version of the theme tune. It’s presented here in unrestored form.
  • Behind the scenes short piece showing action on the studio floor and the production gallery. Mildly interesting
  • Visual effects models – model shots, performers holding Drashigs on their arms. Nice insight into how things were achieved before computer graphics approached magic….
  • The Five Faces of Doctor Who – A trailer for a repeat run of stories from each Doctor up to Peter Davison. Nice.
  • Director’s Amended Ending – when the story was included in that repeat run, Director Barry Letts[2] trimmed a bit from the end of the last episode. While I wouldn’t go as far as agreeing that the removed material “ruined the show”, removing it certainly gave a tidier end.
  • CSO Demo – A bit of genuine BBC training film, in which Barry Letts demonstrates a bit of CSO – Colour Separation Overlay, otherwise known as Chromakey, or indeed as “green screen” these days. Though in those days it was mostly blue screen.
  • Destroy all monsters! Yes, the usual cast and crew look back at the story.
  • On Target with Ian Marter Not content with playing an officer in this story, and Harry Sullivan later on, Ian Marter also wrote some of the popular Target novelisations of Doctor Who stories – in the days before endless repeats and home video, these were the only way people could get to know older stories. Lots of people with lots of nice things to say about Ian, including the recently departed Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen. A really nice piece.
  • The A-Z of Gadgets and Gizmos Fun, if pointless run through of a mildly random selection of thingies seen in the series over the years
  • Mary Celeste – Oh dear. I’m not sure what went wrong here. This involves three actual maritime experts talking about actual ship disappearances and mysteries. Now this could be the subject of an interesting documentary, but it has the feel of being cut to length, with a lack of background. For instance, a ship is named, there’s some talk about theories, but no detail on what is actually known, where it was going, and so on. Most odd.

But yes, it’s another nicely watchable release. Good fun.

[1] Or something like that
[2] Or Barry Lett’s, as the apostrophe abusing liner notes have it…