The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

I’ve always found circuses a little…sinister.

The Seventh Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor and Ace receive some junk mail inviting them to the self-proclaimed ‘Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ on the planet Segonax. On their arrival, they meet fellow visitors and performers, Cook, Mags and Nord, and discover that the circus is run by the villainous Chief Clown for the Gods of Ragnarok.

Review

Before I’d ever watched The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, there was a part of me that always thought that it was a case of the show trying just a smidge too hard to blow its own trumpet. Throw in the fact that it comes in the late 1980s, in the same season as the absolute garbage that is Silver Nemesis and I didn’t feel too optimistic when I pressed play. To say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement, as I was swept along by an interesting and inventive story with some truly engaging characters. It certainly feels with this story that Doctor Who had regained some of its swagger over the course of its twenty-fifth anniversary season, although with the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see how this confidence might be seen to have been misplaced.

That’s not to say that this story is not without flaws. The rap that starts the story (see above) is pretty cringeworthy, a problem that 80s Who seems to suffer with in abundance when it is trying to be cool. I’d be interested if anyone liked it at the time, but in 2020 it is laughable. Amongst the strong band of characters introduced in this story, we have Nord and Whizz Kid, both of whom are very one-dimensional. Nord is a pretty stereotypical biker type, whilst Whizz Kid is a blatant attack on a certain section of Doctor Who fans who ‘never saw the early days, (but I) know it’s not as good as it used to be’. He is ultimately forced into the ring and ultimately his death by Captain Cook by playing on his fandom For the show to attack sections of its fan base in such a fashion is remarkable, but not unexpected considering John Nathan-Turner’s ‘the memory cheats’ comments about this type of fan.

That being said, the rest of the guest cast are pretty decent here. Jessica Martin, T.P. McKenna and Ian Reddington particularly stand out as Mags, Captain Cook and Chief Clown respectively. Martin plays the werewolf Mags with innocence that means that the eventual reveal is good, despite the story insisting on dropping clues to the audience that mean that the audience reach the conclusion before the Doctor does. I’d be interested in listening to Jessica Martin’s Big Finish adventures as I think she would have potentially been quite an interesting companion for the Doctor. Then we have T.P. McKenna, playing an almost anti-Doctor explorer figure, more similar to a certain Star Fleet captain than the renegade Time Lord. Captain Cook is an explorer of some renown, but it is perhaps his sense of detachment that stands out most of all and McKenna plays it beautifully. He is of course, horrible to his companion Mags, who is free of his influence by the end of the story. The real star is Reddington, who does so much with so little. I wouldn’t say that clowns are something that I am afraid of, unlike Ace, but I do find them ever so unnerving, thanks largely to the efforts of the portrayals of the Batman villain The Joker by Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill and Heath Ledger. The Chief Clown does not have a lot of dialogue, but it is delivered largely in such a sinister fashion that he is excellently creepy. When things start going off the rails, his voice becomes deeper and more menacing. Reddington’s smile is pretty creepy and the make-up team deserve credit for helping achieve this effect.

I would like to take a moment to discuss why The Greatest Show in the Galaxy feels so different in this season. We have had two stories that have traded (with varying degrees of success) on the show’s past glories in Remembrance of the Daleks and Silver Nemesis, and a political attack in the shape of The Happiness Patrol. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy uses the Psychic Circus as a metaphor for Doctor Who, with Wyatt showing how the circus started in a similar hippy fashion to the 1960s on Earth, with characters like Flowerchild and Bellboy, and somehow lost its way over the years. The Chief Clown’s decision to sell out to the Gods of Ragnarok, who are desperate for entertainment, can be seen to be a parallel to Nathan-Turner’s attempts to sell the show overseas by bringing in companions from the United States and Australia, with the overall result being the same: viewing figures for both Doctor Who and the Psychic Circus are tumbling. It is almost critical of the show for wanting to try and survive, despite the original vision being compromised to a point that it is no longer recognisable as the same entity. It’s a strange choice to close a season, but it is perhaps this that makes it such an interesting story.

You have to hang up your wandering shoes and stop wandering sooner or later, don’t you?

So I’ve been told. Personally, I just keep on wandering.

Morgana and the Seventh Doctor

This is a key story for the Seventh Doctor. The serial opens on the Doctor juggling, whilst reading ‘Juggling for the Complete Klutz’, amusingly losing one of his balls in the process and playing the spoons, more in line with his character in the previous season. However, by the end, we are in no doubt that we have a Doctor Who is one or more steps ahead of his foes, the Gods of Ragnarok, something that would become a theme going into his final televised season and later appearances in other mediums. McCoy does pretty well here, managing to carry off both sides of the character with necessary aplomb. Ace also has a lot to do here in this story and has some good character development. Like the repeated rap, Ace’s continued use of 80s slang (which doesn’t sound as if it was even cool at the time) is a bit grating but we do see her overcome her fear of clowns and operate independently of the Doctor for long stretches of the story. Aldred again does well and I really do enjoy this pairing – they seem to be having a lot of fun together and they have great chemistry.

I am going to finish with some final aspect to praise about an episode that I thoroughly enjoyed The first are the Gods of Ragnarok and the Family that are the sole audience members of the Psychic Circus. The family are particularly eerie, stony faced whilst watching the entertainment and dishing out their ratings. When the Doctor comes face to face with the actual Gods towards the story’s conclusion, I was impressed at how good they looked – I completely bought into their costumes and thought that they looked real and in a season that has also contained the Kandyman, that’s high praise indeed. The second aspect I wish to praise are two cliffhangers, coming at the end of Part One and Part Three respectively. The Part One cliffhanger is particularly effective, intercutting between the Doctor and Ace outside the circus tent and Captain Cook and Mags inside it, with Mags reacting to Bellboy’s torture, which we don’t see but her scream is more than enough to tell us about the horror inside the tent. The Doctor is unaware of this, although Ace hears something making her uneasy, and he gives her the option of going in or not. It is a very effective cliffhanger, and again gives the audience the benefit of more knowledge than the Doctor, something which is similar to cliffhanger to Part 3. This gives us the confirmation that Mags is a werewolf, something which the audience would have previously suspected. The effective thing here is how memorable her transformation is, which feels like vintage Classic Who. Thirdly and finally, I really like the junk mail advertising the Circus at the beginning – it is a fun way of imagining what junk mail could be like in space.

Verdict: A story which is perhaps notable for not being sentimental about the past, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is an excellent story, combining good performances and writing in equal measure. 9/10

Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), T.P. McKenna (Captain Cook), Jessica Martin (Mags), Ricco Ross (Ringmaster), Ian Reddington (Chief Clown), Peggy Mount (Stallslady), Gian Sammarco (Whizz Kid), Daniel Peacock (Nord), Christopher Guard (Bellboy), Deborah Manship (Morgana), Chris Jury (Deadbeat), Dee Sadler (Flowerchild), Dean Hollingsworth (Bus Conductor), David Ashford (Dad), Janet Hargreaves (Mum) & Kathryn Ludlow (Little Girl).

Writer: Stephen Wyatt

Director: Alan Wareing

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • Up until the release of The Doctor, the Widow & the Wardrobe, this story had the longest episode name for a televised story.
  • Due to the discovery of asbestos in BBC Television Centre, the story was nearly cancelled after the completion of location work. The story’s cancellation was prevented as arrangements were made to put a tent in the car park of BBC Elstree.
  • Sylvester McCoy was coached in magic by Geoffrey Durham (stage name The Great Sporendo) for the sleight of hand magic, marking the first time since The Talons of Weng Chiang that a magic consultant had been involved.
  • The rap song in this story was the first original song commissioned for the series since The King’s Song in The King’s Demons. The next would be Song for Ten in The Christmas Invasion.
  • The explosives placed in the arena in Part 4 were overrigged and the blast was much larger than anticipated, catching McCoy in the heat blast and setting fire to his clothes. McCoy continued walking away, knowing that a second take would not be possible.
  • The first appearance of the TARDIS interior since Dragonfire and the only appearance in Season 25. It is the final appearance of the console room set introduced in The Five Doctors, but the console would appear one last time in Battlefield.
  • The final televised appearance of McCoy’s cream coat, which would be replaced by a darker brown one in the next story, Battlefield, depicting the change in persona for the Seventh Doctor.

Cast Notes

  • Dean Hollingsworth had previously appeared in Timelash.
  • Jessica Martin would go on to reprise the role of Mags for Big Finish, as well as making an audio cameo as Queen Elizabeth II at the end of Voyage of the Damned.
  • Ian Reddington would reprise his role as the Chief Clown for Big Finish in The Psychic Circus and has also appeared in A Death in the Family.
  • T.P. McKenna was previously considered for the part of the Chief Caretaker in Paradise Towers.

Best Moment

The Doctor’s unflinching walk away from the Circus Tent as it explodes.

Best Quote

Enjoying the show, Ace?

Yeah. It was your show all along, wasn’t it?

The Seventh Doctor and Ace

Previous Seventh Doctor review: Silver Nemesis

Posts mentioned:

Remembrance of the Daleks

The Happiness Patrol

The Nightmare Fair

A gung ho robot and a ravenous space plumber. We’re going to make an unbeatable combination!

The Sixth Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS is drawn to Blackpool in 1986 where the Doctor wants to investigate a space/time vortex whilst enjoying the attractions at the Pleasure Beach along the way. An old enemy is watching from under the amusement park wanting to challenge

Review

Imagine a parallel universe. One where Michael Grade never dropped the axe on Doctor Who and Colin Baker was able to complete his sentence at the end of Resurrection of the Daleks, leading into his second full season as the Doctor. A parallel universe where Doctor in Distress would cease to exist…sounds blissful, doesn’t it?

It’s that parallel universe that Big Finish attempt to give us a glimpse of in their adaptation of The Nightmare Fair, which would have been the opening story for the originally intended Season 23. Unsurprisingly considering the tone of his era as producer, Graham Williams’ script is quite light-hearted and it would have been interesting to see what kind of reception it would have received as it does not feel like a ‘traditional’ season opener, but it does feel like a response to the criticisms of the more violent Season 22.

The Nightmare Fair is a good, if not exceptional, story which does struggle with some pacing issues. The first part of this story feels as though it takes a long time to actually get going, and although the scenes of the Doctor and Peri enjoying the rides at Blackpool Pleasure Beach are lovely, it does feel as though it piles more pressure onto the second part. As a result, the second part has to both establish what the Toymaker’s plan is and ultimately rushes the ending. It’s well worth noting at this point that I have not read the novelised version of this story so I can’t say for certain whether this is due to an issue with Williams’ original script or the adaptation to audio, but I must commend the adaptation for feeling as though it would have fit into the era perfectly, even down to the unnecessary continuity references that were rife in this period of the show, especially alluding to characters like Duggan from City of Death. The antagonist of this story was last seen in a First Doctor story, and bringing him back to front up the new season feels like the move of a programme that felt it was too big to fail.

One thing that is noticeable here is that the personality of the Sixth Doctor has changed here. It is no secret that Colin Baker has issues with how his character was written during the time that he was the incumbent on television, and Big Finish has taken steps to make him more of a likeable character. Here, he is a hybrid of the two, which works tonally for the stories broadcast in the 80s, as the Sixth Doctor is certainly an adjusted character when he returns in Trial of a Time Lord. There is a mention in this story that the Doctor and Peri have been travelling together for a while, and it is nice to see that their relationship has shifted in a more positive direction. In the Behind the Scenes feature on this story, producer David Richardson talks about the challenges involved in making sure that the Doctor presented here has similarities with the ones seen on television and heard on other Big Finish productions. There are moments where we see the flashes of the original Sixth Doctor, like when he tells the Celestial Toymaker that he will have him to deal with if anything has happened to Peri. Baker is good here, as he usually is when he has a single antagonist to rail against – the Sixth Doctor is often at his best when exasperated and fighting someone of similar standing to himself.

Big Finish developing characters also has an impact on Peri, as like a lot of companions she has seen her role increased as is now standard with the revived series. Nicola Bryant speaks on the Behind the Scenes feature on this story about her concerns about going back to a reduced role being allayed by this story where she does get a chance to display her resourcefulness, like when she manages to get the gun in Part One.

I detest caging even the wildest beast, Toymaker. But for you, there is no other answer.

The Sixth Doctor

The Celestial Toymaker makes his return here, played by David Bailie, and he puts in a strong performance as the central antagonist. The Toymaker has been trapped on Earth for several millienia, tricking unsuspecting humans into playing games against him and trapping them into immortality in servitude when they lose. He has developed an arcade game which harvests the souls of those who lose to it which then generate powerful creatures, with which the Toymaker intends to take over the World. Bailie is still recognisable as the same character as the one played by Michael Gough but adds some more childish glee in his schemes. Bailie and Baker play off each other beautifully, which help elevate this story which does have some moments that feel as though it is treading water. The Doctor and the audience learn more about the Toymaker, including that he is from an alternative dimension where time moves slowly. I quite liked the resolution to the Toymaker’s story even if it did feel a bit rushed, as I felt it was quite clever. Aside from Bailie, there are very few stand-outs from the guest performers, but I did quite like the character of Shardlow. The rest give rather stilted performances, sadly, which does detract from the story.

Verdict: A story with a good central idea and good performances from Baker, Bryant and Bailie, is let down by some pacing issues. 6/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), David Bailie (The Celestial Toymaker), Matthew Noble (Kevin), Andrew Fettes (Stefan), Louise Faulkner (Woman), William Whymper (Shardlow/Attendant), Toby Longworth (Yatsumoto/Truscott/Manager/Man) & Duncan Wisbey (Humandroid/Security Man/Geoff/Guard).

Writer: Graham Williams (adapted by John Ainsworth)

Director: John Ainsworth

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • This story would have kicked off the 23rd Season of Doctor Who had the show not been put on hiatus. Michael Gough would have returned as the Celestial Toymaker in a story which would have explained his origins. The story would have been partially filmed on location in Blackpool, following on directly from Revelation of the Daleks
  • The audio adaptation by Bigh Finish was the firest release of audio plays of other lost stories.
  • The original story was written by John Nathan-Turner’s predecessor as Producer, Graham Williams. The script was released as a novelisation which was used by the director John Ainsworth to adapt the story for audio. Williams himself passed away in 1990.

Cast Notes

  • Michael Gough had retired from acting by the time of production, so the role was recast with David Bailie. Bailie previously appeared in The Robots of Death and would reprise the role of Celestial Toymaker in Solitaire.
  • Matthew Noble had previously appeared in Cuddlesome and Return to the Web Planet.
  • Andrew Fettes has appeared in numerous Big Finish plays, including The Sirens of Time, the Gallifrey range and The Diary of River Song.
  • Louise Faulkner most notably has appeared in the Bernice Summerfield stories playing Bev Tarrant.
  • William Whymper also appeared in Dead Man’s Switch.
  • Toby Longworth has appeared in a lot of Big Finish including the Doctor Main Range, the Unbound Range, Bernice Summerfield and Iris Wildthyme.
  • Duncan Wisbey has appeared in a number of production across the Main Range, the Fourth Doctor Adventures and Jago & Litefoot.

Best Moment

Any moment that the Doctor and the Celestial Toymaker are together.

Best Quote

Ah-ha! There you are! I knew you’d be watching from somewhere. Well, don’t hurry on my account. Just let me know what you want when you’re ready. If I die of boredom before that, I hope you take it personally.

The Sixth Doctor

Previous Sixth Doctor review: Revelation of the Daleks

Arc of Infinity

It’s too late! Omega controls the Matrix!

The Fifth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor finds himself called back to Gallifrey as Omega makes another attempt to re-enter the universe from his anti-matter exile. Meanwhile, Tegan’s cousin goes missing in Amsterdam.

Review

Stories which see the Doctor return to Gallifrey are always a bit mixed bag, and sadly Arc of Infinity is one of the poorer ones and ultimately provides a disappointing start to the 20th anniversary season. There is a feeling that certain choices have been made simply on a whim of John Nathan-Turner and there are references to the show’s past, for instance, Romana and Leela get name dropped, however, it feels ultimately badly handled. I don’t think that the Gallifrey and Amsterdam plots stitch together perfectly and whilst I like the idea and the returning antagonist, I feel it could have been tightened up a bit.

I would like to talk a bit about the appearance of Gallifrey here, and why stories like this one probably lead to Russell T Davies taking the Doctor’s home planet off the table when he brought the show back. Gallifrey looks drab; almost like a mix between a coffee shop and a sofa salesroom. In the two previous visits to the planet of the Time Lords with Tom Baker, through directors, set design and locations, Gallifrey has at least looked interesting and alien. Here, it seems grey and lifeless. The Time Lords themselves are also pretty non-descript and their ridiculous collars just mean that the majority of their performances seem very stilted, which is probably not entirely down to the actors. It is easy to see, therefore, why Russell T Davies took Gallifrey off the board early on in the revival, why Steven Moffat, despite bringing it back from its fate in the Time War, did very little with it and Chris Chibnall has destroyed it all over again: it is very difficult to do something interesting with Gallifrey. Arguably, the last writer to achieve it was Robert Holmes in The Deadly Assassin.

The story also seems very disjointed between the sections set on Gallifrey and those set in Amsterdam. I don’t understand why the Earth based section of this story has to be set in Amsterdam and I think this was probably John Nathan-Turner just doing it because he felt he could get away with it. Unfortunately, it forces the writer Johnny Byrne into trying to make it relevant in some way, as opposed to the show’s first foray abroad in City of Death, where it feels much more organic for the Doctor and Romana to be in Paris. The titular arc, important to the return of Omega from the anti-matter universe, feels like an afterthought which just so happens to placed in Amsterdam. The return of Janet Fielding as Tegan feels much in the same vein, rendering her departure from the TARDIS at the end of the previous season ultimately pretty pointless. Time has obviously passed, as Tegan has managed to lose her job that she was so keen to get back to for the entirety of the last season, and the Doctor and Nyssa seem perfectly comfortable travelling with just the two of them. The Doctor’s face at the end of the story when Tegan announces that she will be travelling with them again probably summed up the feelings of a lot of the viewers of the time. The decision to bring back Omega is probably the best one as it manages to flesh him out a bit more, and I particularly like the scenes of him walking through Amsterdam like Frankenstein’s Monster. That being said, Omega only has one real motivation – to return to our universe – and this story doesn’t really add anything to this.

Amongst the central cast, Nyssa really stands out. Given some perhaps uncharacteristically aggressive moments, it might be that this is more in keeping with what Byrne, who also wrote her debut story, The Keeper of Traaken had in mind in her creation. It does have to be said that these actions might also be down to the fact that Louise Jameson was unavailable to reprise her role as Leela. Davison is okay here, more exasperated at the Time Lords than angry like some successive incarnations would be seen to be. Amongst the guests, Ian Collier does a passable Omega, but plaudits really go to Elspet Gray who really elevates some of the worst written scenes. Michael Gough is good here too, though having grown up with the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher helmed Batman films, seeing Alfred go head to head with the Doctor was conflicting for me! The less said about the ropey acting of Colin and Robin is probably best!

Verdict: Arc of Infinity is a bit of a mixed bag – a good idea that fails in execution and feels as though it could have done with another rewrite. 4/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Leonard Sachs (President Borusa), Elspet Gray (Chancellor Thalia), Councillor Hedin (Michael Gough), Paul Jerricho (The Castellan), Max Harvey (Cardinal Zorac), Colin Baker (Commander Maxil), Ian Collier (Omega), Neil Dalglish (Damon), John D Collins (Talor), Alastair Cumming (Colin Frazer), Andrew Boxer (Robin Stuart), Maya Woolfe (Hotel Receptionist), Malcolm Harvey (The Egron) & Guy Groen (Second Receptionist).

Writer: Johnny Byrne

Director: Ron Jones

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • This story started the 20th Anniversary Season, which saw each story bring back a component from the show’s past. Omega had previously faced off against the first three Doctors in The Three Doctors. Stephen Thorne, who played the character in that story was replaced by Ian Collier.
  • Tegan becomes the first companion to rejoin the Doctor after having left the TARDIS.
  • John Nathan-Turner appears in Part 4, trying to keep passers-by out of shot.
  • To keep the return of Omega a secret, Ian Collier was credited as the Renegade for the first two episodes. Despite Peter Davison also playing Omega in the final part, Davison is only ever credited as playing The Doctor.
  • It was originally intended for Leela to return in this story, however, Louise Jameson was unavailable to reprise the role. A hasty rewrite was done, with some of Leela’s actions being given to Nyssa.
  • Of all the stories shot outside of the UK in the classic era, this is the only one to open a season.

Cast Notes

  • Colin Baker, playing Commander Maxil here, would go on to play the Sixth incarnation of the Doctor. He is the first actor to play an another character on the show prior to his casting as the Doctor.
  • Michael Gough previously appeared in The Celestial Toymaker.
  • Leonard Sachs previously appeared in The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Eve.
  • Ian Collier previously appeared in The Time Monster.
  • Paul Jerricho would reprise his role as the Castellan in The Five Doctors.

Best Moment

Best Quote

You know how it is; you put things off for a day and next thing you know, it’s a hundred years later.

The Fifth Doctor

Previous Fifth Doctor review: Time-Flight

Mummy on the Orient Express

Start the clock!

The Twelfth Doctor

Synopsis

After the conclusion of Kill the Moon, the Doctor takes Clara onboard a replica of the Orient Express in space for their final trip together, where the passengers are terrorised by a mummy.

Review

Well, this is the second review in as many weeks to feature Mummies!

In the show How I Met Your Mother, it is stated that one of the leads is able to watch Star Wars in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. Doctor Who fills that criteria for me, and this episode is certainly one that never fails to lift my spirits. The story comes at a crucial time for the Twelfth Doctor heading towards the end of his first series as the titular Time Lord and seems to see him beginning to soften from his harder persona from the start of the series. That being said, he still does let a lot of people die in order to get answers!

Jamie Mathieson deserves a lot of plaudits for his work here. Although not his first script for the show (the following story, Flatline was Mathieson’s own idea and his first script), it feels as though he is a veteran scribe for the show. There is an argument that Mummy on the Orient Express is one of the perfect jumping on points for new viewers to Doctor Who and this is in no small part down to the script. The story requires very little foreknowledge of the show or even the series it fits into – besides the fact that Clara and the Doctor have fallen out. Mathieson’s script moves through moments of melancholy (Clara and the Doctor realising that this is their final adventure together), to moments of sheer terror (pretty much any moment the Foretold appears on screen) and finally to moments of humour – the whole cast, especially Capaldi and guest star Frank Skinner, get opportunities to show off their comedic abilities. The director, Paul Wilmshurst certainly deserves credit for making this story as strong as it is, especially when it comes to the Foretold. I especially like the use of the sixty-six second countdown which intercuts between scenes of the Foretold advancing, usually with characters delivering exposition about it.

I’m not a passenger. I’m your worst nightmare.

A mystery shopper. Oh great.

Really? That’s your worst-? Okay, I’m a mystery shopper. I could do with an extra pillow and I’m very disappointed with your breakfast bar. Oh…and all of the dying.

The Twelfth Doctor and Captain Quell

The main villain of the piece is the computer, Gus, who is manipulating the Foretold to attack the passengers onboard the Orient Express. John Sessions is perfectly cast as the initially innocuous and gentlemanly train’s computer, who gradually reveals himself to be ruthless in his pursuit of his ultimate goal of analysing the Foretold. The murder of the kitchen staff purely because of the fact that the Doctor will not terminate his call with Clara perfectly highlights this, and it is further reinforced by his destruction of the train after the Doctor has figured out the truth behind the Foretold. The Foretold in itself is suitably sinister, similarly to the Mummies in Pyramids of Mars. There is something about the way it shambles along which is particularly creepy. In 2015, my then-fiancĂ©e now wife bought us tickets to go and see the Symphonic Spectacular at Wembley Arena where one of the performers was dressed as the Foretold and I was absolutely obsessed with how creepy the foot drag is. I like the idea of it picking off passengers by frailty, be it physical or mental, as it is with Maisie.

This story has a particularly strong cast, led by Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, even though the episode sees them spend most of the episode apart. That being said, I’m not a massive fan of the resolution of the Doctor and Clara’s spat with her lying to both Danny and the Doctor, but I think that’s probably best addressed in a later review when this really comes to a head. I distinctly remember the outcry when the news of Foxes’ casting was released, which seems ridiculous now as it is purely for a brief cameo and I quite like her cover of Don’t Stop Me Now. Frank Skinner really steals the episode as Perkins though, becoming the de facto companion for the episode and it still makes me sad that we didn’t get more of him in the rest of Capaldi’s run. Having listened to his radio show for a long time, I know how sad he will have been to have seen that moment in the script, as Skinner is a huge fan of the show.

It’s quite a vehicle you’ve got here, Doctor. I won’t pretend to understand half of it. Having said that, I did notice that you have a couple of drive stacks need replacing.

Oh you did, did you?

Yeah. You should get someone in. And a job like that takes forever.

Really? Well, I suppose whoever I did get in, might be easier to have them stay on board for a while. I don’t suppose you’d know of anyone?

No, Doctor, I don’t think I do. That job could, er, change a man.

Yes, it does. Frequently.

Perkins and the Twelfth Doctor

Verdict: If the above review isn’t clear, I love this story. A highlight of Capaldi’s era, if not Doctor Who as a whole. 10/10

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Frank Skinner (Perkins), David Bamber (Captain Quell), John Sessions (Gus), Daisy Beaumont (Maisie), Janet Henfrey (Mrs Pitt), Christopher Villiers (Professor Moorhouse), Foxes (Singer) & Jamie Hill (Foretold)

Writer: Jamie Mathieson

Director: Paul Wilmshurst

Behind the Scenes

  • The Foretold was deemed to be too scary for Doctor Who and meant that the story was broadcast at 20:35, the latest transmission time for a televised Doctor Who story. Producer Brian Minchin attempted on multiple occasions to have footage included on the Series 8 trailer, but was unsuccessful.
  • Like The Robots of Death, Terror of the Vervoids and The Unicorn and the Wasp, this story utilises elements from the works of Agatha Christie.
  • One of the few examples of a non-digetic visual appearing on Doctor Who – the timer can only be seen by the audience and not the characters in the story.
  • The character of Perkins was based on a friend of Mathieson’s who is a train buff and helped him with details of the Orient Express.
  • Steven Moffat approached Mathieson to write this story whilst he was working on Flatline, giving him the title to work with.

Cast Notes

  • Christopher Villiers previously appeared in The King’s Demons.
  • Frank Skinner is a self-professed die-hard Doctor Who fan and had previously appeared in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot as well as making a brief cameo appearance in Dark Eyes: Eyes of the Master for Big Finish and would later go on to appear in the Fourth Doctor audio The Sinestran Kill.

Best Moment

The scene of the Doctor talking to himself in his cabin, where Capaldi channels his inner Tom Baker.

Because you know what this sounds like? No, do tell me. “A mummy only the victim can see?” I was being rhetorical! I know exactly what this sounds like.

The Twelfth Doctor

Best Quote

Oh, I remember when all of this was planets as far as the eyes could see. All gone now. Gobbled up by that beast. And there’s that smile again. I don’t even know how you do that.

I really thought I hated you, you know?

Well, thank God you kept that to yourself. There was this planet, Obsidian. The planet of perpetual darkness.

I did. I did hate you. I hated you for weeks.

Good, fine. Well, I’m glad we cleared that up. There was also a planet that was made completely of shrubs.

I went to a concert once. Can’t remember who it was. But do you know what the singer said?

Frankly, that would be an astonishing guess if I did know.

She said “hatred is too strong an emotion to waste on someone you don’t like”.

Were people really confused? Cos I’m confused. Did everybody leave?

Shush. Shut up. Look, what I’m trying to say is, I don’t hate you. I could never hate you. But I can’t do this any more. Not the way you do it.

Can I talk about the planets now?

The Twelfth Doctor and Clara Oswald

Previous Twelfth Doctor review: Kill the Moon

Other links:

How I Met Your Mother, Season 4, Episode 1: Do I Know You?