Carnival of Monsters

Carnival of Monsters
Season: 10
Episode: 2
Vital statistics
Air date 27 January - 17 February 1973
Written by Robert Holmes
Directed by Barry Letts
Episode guide
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The Three Doctors Frontier in Space

Carnival of Monsters was the second story of the tenth season of the British science fiction programme Doctor Of Who and featured Doctor Splink and his handy friend J.O.  

Minor Bits

A Cyberman shows up in one single shot but not really, so Thirdy never faced them until The Five Doctors which wasn’t canon anyways.  It also featured the first time Doctor Three got to fly the TARDIS after being exiled to Earth by the Time Lords and literally the only time he had a story without Roger Delgado in it chuckling while smoking a cigar.  Later, it turns out that Doctor Eyebrows thought he might also be trapped inside a miniscope in the Robin Hood story he suffered during his first season.

The Story

You might think these outfits look a bit naff. You could argue that they're an embarrassing attempt at sci-fi Vegas glitz on a budget of 50 pence. But you didn't win 3 Academy Awards for costume design, so fuck off.

“One must prepare one’s self to encounter the aliens” is spoken as the Flash Gordon rocket flames out a landing, and man these guys are grey and stranded on perhaps two sets, tops. The trip in in Tardis results in a funny smell.  The literally dotty showgirl peels off her space suit and Vorg the showman looks like he stepped right out of a Colin Baker episode - seriously, try and tell me he doesn’t.  “Roll up and see the monster show!” is Doctor Who humorously breaking its fourth wall, and will be happening a lot in this story, so I won’t bother highlighting it every time; this make people like Phillis Sandyfur creme their pants and admittedly it does bring something to the table.  Also, the showman Vorg and whatsername are Doctor/Jo mirrors.  The Doctor kisses his fingertips, “like wine.”  Jo and the Doctor talk to some real live chickens they have in on the set - not as exciting as a real live bear or some rats, but still something right?  The Doctor sticks his hand in a pipe while a sailor dumps a bucket of something overboard.  “There’s nothing like a good curry,” says a guy who’ll say something racist a couple of times, but that’s ok because it’s the 1920s and he's stuck in a time loop sort of thingy.   Ian Marter takes time off from writing Doctor Who novelizations to appear in this episode even before he’s been cast as that berk the Fourth Doctor called an idiot.  A musical cue lets us know that reading a book in an evil thing to be avoided, because doing so leads to yawning and falling asleep - Pertwee’s era was so fast-paced!   Clara sees a puppet monster outside and tells everyone “it was awful, horrible!” which is one hundred percent true, but what are you gonna do? This special effect had to be made for only three pounds sixpence.  There’s an invisible metal hexagonal plate on the floor.   The Doctor tells us that his sonic screwdriver only works on electronic locks, ha ha! Just wait till you see what he uses it for next episode.  “Our purpose is to amuse, certainly nothing political” could have been a quote if not a whole sequence from the Colin Baker era as well. The document the showman offers is a cassette tape.  I'm not even done with episode one and the Doctor has already silently nodded his head in a direction to indicate to Jo that they should go that way like a dozen times.   Episode one ends with what was probably one of the best uses of a Tardis model up to the Twelfth Doctor story Flatline and must have shocked a lot of viewers or made them laugh.


Episode two opens by making the connection between the two stories concrete (finally) and saying something else racist about “Johnny Chinaman.”  Come to think of it, Ian Marter and Clara seem like something of a Doctor/Jo mirror as well - smoke and mirrors, all the way down!   The Doctor beats up Harry Sullivan like a boss then flees.  The Doctor and Jo climb into (or more correctly, out of) a television set and he says “it’s like walking around inside a wrist watch.”  If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say that…  The showman Vorg and his dancing showgirl continue to put up a better defense for Doctor Who in the face of cancellation than Colin Baker and Peri/Mel ever did in Trial Of A Timelord.  The Tardis grows to its full size and scares the greys.  The Doctor and Jo escape into another TV show, a nature docu about the drippy dishrags drashig inchworms that looks like they're laughing.  

Episode three shows the Doctor using his sonic screwdriver to literally blow up marsh gas - take that all you screwdriver haters, he’s always used it for stupid things!  At least the explosions are livening things up.  Meanwhile the drashigs still look like they need a “LOLOLOLOLOLOL!” caption, even with the fire in front of them.  The story begins to lose focus with a lot of running around punctuated by talking heads wearing grey greasepaint.  A drashig knocks over the Doctor and a box; this story has loved its boxes as far back and the first episode and the programme itself has always has enjoyed featuring them for set decoration (see The Visitation) in fact, seconds later, Ian Marter opens a box excitedly.  The inside of the television gets blown up, the showman tells us he’s lost his manual and the Doctor ties a knot in a rope to go down some pit that the plot had almost forgotten about.  A six inch-tall Doctor drunkenly staggers out of the television set and makes the showgirl go “ew!”

Episode four has the Doctor introduced to the showman and his assistant twice while the greys scheme and plot.  Jo escapes and gets captured again and again thanks to the time loop sort of memory pattern the ships crew is having, like, eleven times or something.  The Doctor goes back into the television set.  The showman gives the showgirl a shock of her life!  Things get so exciting that the humans on the ship pass out, then the drashigs lay down for a nap followed by the Doctor and Jo as well, but then they end up outside the television programme.  “Disappointing ending.”


The meta nature of the story is fun, but more icing on a cake of "slightly dull" than a cake of "awesome"; still, at least we got icing.  Then again, I was also almost falling asleep while I watched it, so that  might have been my fault not the story’s.  Or not.

It also had the misfortune of being stuck between two HYPE as fuck stories. But hype will always let you down in the end.