Doctor Who: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

Directors - Alan Wareing

Cast - Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred

Country of Origin - U.K.

Discs -1

MSRP - $24.98

Distributor - BBC Home Video

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

The Serial (4/5)

   When I started getting back into Doctor Who, and collecting the DVD's in late 2007 one of the last eras I explored were the late 80's Doctors (Sixth and Seventh). It was not due to any sort of reputation, I was just really into the Pertwee/Baker/Davison stuff I was buying at the time, and simply hadn't gotten around to it. 

   That changed when I bought the first DVD issue of Remembrance of the Daleks.  A great addition to the Dalek canon, however, at the time I did not know what to make of the Seventh Doctor ("Professor") and his companion Ace. I loved everything I had seen of the show from Hartnell to Davison (I hadn't explored Colin Baker either), but this was such a drastic changed even from the Davison era, that I could not quite process it.

   Over the years since then in my attempt to collect every single Doctor Who DVD, I have seen many more of the Seventh Doctor's output, and he has definitely grown on me. I will admit that his era is quite a bit uneven, but starting in his second series we started to get a number of late period Who Classics.

     The Greatest Show in the Galaxy could definitely be a contender for the title of classic Doctor Who serial.

   The Greatest Show in the Galaxy sees the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), and Ace (Sophie Aldred) visiting the planet Segonax the current home to the Psychic Circus.  Ace has a fear of clowns, and is reluctant to go, but the Doctor having been enticed by a satellite invitation is all to raring to see and explore the circus.  As it turns out the circus takes members from the audience and has them perform live in the ring. If they perform well, they live. If they fail to elicit a positive reaction, they die on the spot.  The Doctor gets captured soon after arrival, while Ace manages to escape.  The two of them from their respective positions attempt to unravel the mystery of the Psychic Circus before they, and others end up getting killed under the Big Top.

   Out of all the Seventh Doctor serials I have seen up until this point (I have seen about half of his output). This has been my absolute favorite. Doctor Who like most great science fiction tends to be a reflection of the era in which it was made.  I like to attribute this typically to social and political concerns, however, with episodes like the Happiness Patrol and the Greatest Show in the Galaxy it is quite obvious that the popular science fiction of the era such as George Miller's Mad Max Trilogy, and 2000 A.D. comics are seeing their influence creep into Doctor Who.  This isn't to say that Doctor Who doesn't feel fresh, quite the contrary.  Doctor Who was in it's 25th year during the time Greatest Show in the Galaxy aired, and successfully taking on a more modern influence while still retaining the atmosphere of it's prior eras feels like a resounding achievement for the show.  Sadly, it would be only a few serials before the show came to an end just as it appears to have gotten back on it's feet.

   Greatest Show in the Galaxy offers some of the greatest set, prop, and creature design of the whole McCoy era. The soundtrack courtesy of current Doctor Who Restoration Team member Mark Ayres really helps to lend a chaotic, and circus like atmosphere to the whole proceedings. Also, the performances from McCoy and Aldred down to the crazy cast of characters that populate this piece are absolute fantastic, and truly befit the material on display.

   The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is an absolute classic of Doctor Who's original run. It's great that so far into the DVD run, we are still getting so many little surprises such as this.  I admit I have not been an obsessive fan long, so it's episodes like this that make my journey totally worth it.

 

Audio/Video (4/5)

     BBC Home Video and the Doctor Who Restoration Team have presented the Greatest Show in the Galaxy in an absolutely splendid 1:33:1 full frame transfer preserving the serials original aspect ratio. The transfer looks absolutely fantastic with excellent detail, colors, and flesh tones. There is some minor softness, that I believe is more an issue of the production than complications with the transfer itself.

     The audio is presented with a 2.0 Stereo soundtrack AND a 5.1 Surround sound track remixed by DWRT member, and original soundtrack composer Mark Ayres.  The 5.1 track is absolutely fantastic and affords the piece a new type of audio depth that isn't on the 2.0 Stereo track. This is most prominent during the Circus sequences. Both tracks, however, are completely solid. The dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, music, and effects are mixed well so no element drowns out the others.

 

Extras (4/5)

   BBC Home Video and the Doctor Who Restoration Team have put together a fantastic slate of extras for the Greatest Show in the Galaxy on DVD. The disc kicks off with a commentary moderated by Toby Hadaoke, and featuring Sophie Aldred, Mark Ayres, Jessica Martin, Christopher Guard, Stephen Wyatt, and Andrew Cartmel.  This is followed with a behind the scenes production doc called The Show Must Go On which interviews most of the members of the primary cast about the production of the Greatest Show in the Galaxy. We then gets a series of deleted, and extended scenes from Greatest Show, and a series of FX sequences that were created, but left unused.  We then get Mark Ayres Remembrance Demo. This is essentially the demo music he created over Remembrance of the Daleks to get the job on Doctor Who.  This is followed up by Tomorrow's Times : The Seventh Doctor which is a short piece on the critical opinion of the show during the McCoy era.  There is then a comedy sketch by Victoria Wood which pokes fun at Doctor Who, a photo gallery, there is an optional trivia track that can play in place of subtitles, and PDF materials.

 

Overall

   The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is a truly fantastic serial from the Sylvester McCoy era. It plunges the viewer into a dark circus atmosphere, and a world that feels like a blend of Doctor Who, and post apocalyptic Sci-Fi like 2000 A.D., and Mad Max. The restoration work on the A/V is absolutely spectacular, and the extras are elaborate and interesting. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.