Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Dr. Who: Carnival Of Monsters

I love the Jon Pertwee era Doctor Who like mad, but I’m not a massive fan of ‘Carnival of Monsters’ or, indeed, of the creeping, cringing sensation I get as I watch it. Is it the sock puppet monsters? The glam rock Bacofoil outfits? The insistently unsuccessful attempts at comic relief? Well, yeah, it’s all of that, but it’s mainly because Jon Pertwee doesn’t seem to be bothered, and that makes everything a bit stilted and sad.

Granted the freedom by the Timelords to take the TARDIS wherever he fancies, the Doctor heads for the beautiful blue planet of Metebelis 3 (a running joke in several stories is how he never quite gets there - and, when he finally does, it's bloody awful). Instead of going on holiday, however, he and Jo find themselves stuck in a futuristic contraption called a Miniscope, sort of a cross between a zoo and a ‘What The Butler Saw’ machine. There’s a Cyberman in there (the closest Pertwee came to one as an incumbent Doctor), an Ogron, and a load of vicious, drooly, shouty rubber dragon monsters called the Drashig. There’s also a British ocean liner populated by a group of awfully posh idiots who haven't noticed they are living the same day in 1926 over and over.

Outside of the miniscope a depressingly unfunny diplomatic incident is taking place between the miniscopes owner Vorg and his scatty asistant (grumpy old Leslie Dwyer and Cheryl Hall) and a race of pompous, squabbling bureaucrats who look like Sam the bald eagle from The Muppets and really get on your tits, although there is a good bit where one of their rubber skull caps goes a bit awry.

The Doctor and Jo have to basically get out of the Miniscopee before it blows up or is destroyed by the blue bonced powers that be, and this takes the best (worst?) part of two hours. Oh dear. Not so much a carnival as a tatty fairground sideshow.

Only ever mildly diverting, occasionally awful ‘Carnival of Monsters’ seems in many ways to herald the end of the very best of the Pertwee era, although he would continue in the role for another couple of years. There was something special about the Doctor being exiled to Earth, something unique and absolutely right for the time. Maybe Pertwee knew that as he just doesn't seem that into it, and looks weary and unmoved throughout. He's normally such a good reactor, for example, so much so that he quite often goes over the top. Here, his first sighting of the Drashig doesn't even warrant an arched eyebrow.

Later on, he has another go, and does a bit better, but it's still pretty lazy by his superlative standards.

It's just not like him to be so non-commital.


  1. I met Jon Pertwee at a science fiction convention in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1983. His combination of charisma and story-telling ability allowed him to completely overshadow his acting roles. I particularly remember his recounting of his Royal Navy service and how he was transferred off HMS Hood two weeks before her magazine was hit in her encounter with the Bismark; he said that his girlfriend had thought him dead...until he showed up on her doorstep!

  2. Also notable for the first appearance in Doctor Who of Ian Marter, playing Harry Sullivan in all but name.

    Incidentally, Doctor Who magazine ran a 'long lost' 1994 interview with Jon Pertwee a few months back. Unfortunately, it didn't reveal what he said to Dolly Dolly.