Audio Review: Doctor Who – The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

Doctor Who: The Greatest Show In The Galaxy

Doctor Who: The Greatest Show In The Galaxy - Credit: Archant

The Doctor finds himself performing for his life in the ultimate talent show...


AFTER several years in the doldrums, the last couple of seasons of classic Doctor Who saw a notable upswing in quality, with a move towards more intelligent stories and a depth to the companion’s character which hadn’t been seen in ages. In many ways, there were precursors of the way the series would develop when it finally returned to our screens in 2005, albeit in a much more rudimentary fashion.

Stephen Wyatt’s The Greatest Show in the Galaxy owed much to the likes of 2000AD, an influence script editor Andrew Cartmel had been keen to develop, and once again put the Doctor’s assistant Ace firmly in the spotlight as she was forced to confront her irrational fear of clowns.

The Psychic Circus is a faded shadow of its previous self, a far cry from the Greatest Show in the Galaxy it once was. As the Doctor becomes enrolled in the talent contest, Ace uncovers the dark secrets behind the circus acts…

Perhaps one of the biggest flaws in what is otherwise a very strong story is the character of Whizzkid, an obvious parody of your typical, socially-inept Doctor Who fan of the time. Dressed in a tanktop and bow tie, and making pronouncements that while he never saw the circus in the old days he knows it isn’t as good as he used to be, his satirical observations are uncomfortably grounded in truth.

He is joined by a host of other extremely rendered caricatures ranging from colonial explorer Captain Cook to werewolf Mags, and they are forced to perform before a panel of judges, X Factor-style, with a destructive thunderbolt waiting for anyone who fails to entertain…

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Perhaps less than the sum of its parts, Greatest Show serves to show how late-eighties Who started to realise its potential for telling unconventional stories with a comic-book bent, and it would have been interesting to see how it would have developed if the plug wasn’t pulled on the original run after the following season.

Wyatt’s novelisation offers little more than a simple retelling of the original television story, but that’s not always a bad thing, and Sophie Aldred’s vocal duties are first-rate with her naturally strong reading voice complemented by a wide range of voices for the different characters.