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25-04: "The Greatest Show In The Galaxy"


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Lantern7

Lantern7

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Posted Dec 23, 2012 @ 1:55 AM

What happens in "The Greatest Show In The Galaxy": pretty much the same thing as in "The Happiness Patrol." The Doctor and Ace walks into a situation that's messed up, fight the powers that be, and triumph like rock stars. One difference is that Sylvester McCoy gets to walk away with explosions going off behind him, like the complete and total boss that he is.

The last story of the show's silver anniversary might come off as dubious to some, given the volume of characters, the Ringmaster's rapping (not bad, but it's late 1988 in England, for God's sake), and the show's walking in-joke, Whizz Kid. But it is a fun story . . . the Psychic Circus is an operation run by people who used to give a damn, but are now content to amusing a family of three who are seldom entertained for too long. If they hold up three placards with "0," the act gets killed. Natch, there are folks that want things to get better, but their hopes are dashed by the Chief Clown. The good news is that Chief Clown isn't demonic or Pennywise-y . . . he's just very sinister. Of course, the Doctor and Ace get neck-deep into the affairs of the Psychic Circus, and the climax plays to McCoy's strengths: magic tricks and constant rolling of "R's."

The story came out on DVD several months ago, and it's the last of McCoy's stories to get the treatment. Anybody else think there's a two percent chance a young J.K. Rowling saw Whizz Kid and wound up using his look for Harry Potter? On the flip side, the pompous Captain Cook -- a bore so crushing, he yammers on even while being reanimated after death -- seems to be based on the old hunter guy from the "Tennessee Tuxedo" cartoons. From the review in Doctor Who Magazine, I reckon that the analysis of the story being about what happens when the love generation grows up seems spot-on. It's the sort of story that only suffers in comparison to the modern episodes. Megs turning into a werewolf in the third episode's climax doesn't seem that frightening to us, but it probably caused the last bunch of soiled britches for kids in 1988.

That' probably a lot of stuff I'm forgetting, so feel free to fill in the blanks. Seriously, McCoy gets to throw his weight around. It's like I get disappointed when Jon Pertwee's Doctor doesn't throw down on hapless fools in his stories . . . the best McCoy stories have the Doctor playing the part of the grandmaster, and "Galaxy" is definitely one of those.