This Friday Docback Is A 'Carnival of Monsters'!! DOCTOR WHO Story #66, And More!!
Published at: April 13, 2012, 9:16 a.m. CST by merrick
In the early 1970s, Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson re-recorded the iconic DOCTOR WHO theme. The result was not well-received and the previous version was ultimately retained. This embed features that abandoned recording over the era's opening title sequence. More details below.
...with a look at “Carnival of Monsters,” a four part Pertwee-era story originally transmitted January - February 1971.
"Carnival of Monsters"
“These creatures may look like chickens, but for all we know they’re the intelligent life form on this planet...” - the Doctor, 'Carnival of Monsters' Episode 1
On Inter Minor - a planet populated by humorless, scheming, procedural, fussy, paranoid, germaphobes - interstellar showman Vorg (Leslie Dwyer) and his saucy assistant Shirna (Cheryl Hall) arrive to entertain the local populous.
Concurrently, the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) materialize on the SS Bernice - sailing the Indian Ocean, on June 4 , 1926 - the day history recorded the vessel’s unexplained disappearance. Time on Bernice appears to be looping, it’s daylight outside when it should be night, and a Plesiosaurus - extinct for 130 million years - is attacking the craft in recurring events unfolding at predictable intervals.
This being DOCTOR WHO, these seemingly disparate happenings do, of course, connect. Revealing the Bernice to be a stepping stone to a far greater adventure which not only brings with it severe moral implications, but the dangerous truth that the ‘reality’ the Doctor and Jo are currently perceiving is very far removed from what’s actually happening around them...
It sounds disparaging to say "Carnival" 'is what it is,' but there's really no better way to describe this Robert Holmes scripted, Barry Letts directed installment.
Thin on macro concepts but thick with quick payoff gags and concise set pieces, "Carnival" is solidly entertaining, but frustratingly vacant - a pity given that Holmes would ultimately script “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” (T. Baker, Story # 91) and “The Sun Makers” (T. Baker, Story # 95) - two of the most substantive, significant, and socially observant DOCTOR WHO stories ever created.
But this isn’t to say “Carnival of Monsters” is wholly frivolous. Fueled by conceits which would later be explored by titles like THE MATRIX and TRON, “Carnival” does indeed nudge at resonant thematics from time to time...just not as clearly or effectively as the later Holmes stories cited above. When one penetrates the fluff of it all, “Carnival” speaks to the realities we create for ourselves...both accidentally and intentionally, as individuals and as a collective of living beings. It looks at how we perceive these realities, and how we react when our realities are challenged. In essence, many elements here are parables of the human condition - a tremendously vital conceit in good Science Fiction, and a long-standing tenet of DOCTOR WHO. Alas, in “Carnival” it’s all there, but such ‘meat’ is highly obscured...too obscured and unnecessarily obscured...reducing a potentially intriguing, existentially provocative piece to a comparatively milquetoasty, breezy little ditty.
The Inter Minorians’ incessant predilection for prissy, bitchy, manipulative minutiae is initially amusing - but as the clumsiness of their procedural dysfunction becomes increasingly evident, it's hard to believe this civilization managed to survive as long as it apparently has (perhaps a touch of Holmes allegory creeping in after all?). If the Inter Minorians spent less time niggling about, perhaps this guy would've better blended his skull cap....
The Doctor’s time tested “Venusian Akido” is here substituted for good, old fashioned boxing. In a brief but amusing sequence which finds Pertwee (not surprisingly) dispatching an opponent quickly and painfully. Later, when facing a significantly larger and nastier adversary against whom boxing would clearly be ineffective, the Doctor brandishes his Sonic Screwdriver as a weapon - producing a spectacular napalm effect.
The ‘Screwdriver as a weapon’ conceit is not uncommon in later WHO, but...in my sometimes non sequential journey through the show as a whole...this is the first time I can recall seeing the notion realized so flagrantly and spectacularly.
“Carnival” is more or less a standalone episode in terms of its influence on overall DOCTOR WHO mythology, although it does include several pointed references to past episodes: Daleks are mentioned, as are their Ogron subservients (from “Day of the Daleks” - Pertwee, Story # 60) and the planet Demos (from “The Daemons” - Pertwee, Story # 59). Intriguing glimpses of a ‘bigger picture’ within a show which exists very much in its own little universe...a tip of the hat also evoking the bottled predicament of many of the characters and creatures populating this tale.
Shirna (Ceheryl Hall) reacts to the ultimate magic trick - the TARDIS' dematerialization - in this final shot from "Carnival of Monsters." My favorite closing shot of a 'classic' DOCTOR WHO thus far.
The newly restored "Carnival of Monsters" two DVD set is now available HERE in the U.S. and HERE in the U.K.
Episode Two - Early Edit
The running time of this cut is 29:45, the actual transmitted running time is 24:18.
Behind the Scenes (1:45)
Amazing BTS footage of action in both the stage and “the gallery” (the control room from which many early WHO eps were orchestrated) and directed show crew in action with producer/director Barry Letts at the helm.
Visual Effects Models (8:43)
A reel of various effects shots from the story, some of which look like they were probably camera tests (or scantly used footage at best).
“Five Faces of DOCTOR WHO” Trailer (4:11)
A trailer promoting a BBC Two DOCTOR WHO retrospective, which included “Logopolis” (T. Baker, Story #115), “Carnival of Monsters,” “The Krotons” (Troughton, Story # 47), “An Unearthly Child” (Hartnell, Story #1), “The Three Doctors” (Pertwee, Story #65).
Director’s Amended Ending (1:19)
The story concludes with Vorg (Leslie Dwyer) ensnaring Pletrac (Peter Halliday) in a wager over a shell game. The transmitted version runs a bit longer than this particular cut of the scene. While a tad more open-ended than the transmitted version, Letts’ cut is certainly snappier and (perhaps more amusingly) conveys the spirit of these final moments.
CSO Demo (3:09)
A fantastically intriguing demonstration reel featuring Letts’ early experimentation with Color Separation Overlay (CSO) - think an early form of television blue screen or Chroma Key. In the piece, a staggeringly visionary Letts proposes embiggening the scale of DOCTOR WHO by inserting actors (shot against a blue screen) into model environments which would allow the team to photograph a far broader array of (photographically larger) angles more or less on-the-fly, as opposed to remaining constrained by “flats” which limited angles due to their lack of flexibility and dimension.
Barry Letts and "Margo" (sp?) demonstrating the promise of inserting actors into model-enhanced environments via CSO (Color Seperation Overlay). Their appearance here represents a prototype effort.
TARDIS Cam No. 2 (:46)
Visualizing what TARDIS' transition through time/space might look like in one continuous shot (i.e. the vessel's insertion into the Vortex, its transition to a new location, and its emergence from the Vortex). “3D Modelling & Animation” by Nick Sainton-Clark (Visual Effects, BBC Resources).
Radio Times Listings
Coming Soon (1:55)
A trailer for “Nightmare of Eden” (T. Baker, Story # )
Destroy all Monsters! (23:12)
The making of “The Carnival of Monsters,” featuring perspective and insight from...
-- Katy Manning (companion Jo Grant)
-- Terrance Dicks (Script Editor). Discusses changing the show’s title from “Peepshow” to avoid double entendres)...
-- Barry Letts (Producer/Director - 2006 interview). Discusses original plans to shoot this story entirely in a studio, and the realization that Holmes’ concept required extensive location work...
-- Karilyn Collier (Assistant Floor Manager)
-- Colin Mapson (Visual Effects Assistant)
-- Katy Maning demonstrates her well honed chicken noises
-- Peter Halliday (Pletrac)
Letts discusses Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson’s effort to record a new version of the DOCTOR WHO theme - the results were not well met and the team reverted to a previous recording of the theme. The unused theme does appear on the Episode Two - Early Edit Special Feature of this DVD, and was accidentally included on two of this story’s episodes when they were exported to Australia.
On Target with Ian Marter (16:10)
A touching look at the work and passing of actor/author Ian Marter, who played companion Harry Sullivan 1974-1975. Remembrance from...
-- Gary Russell (Script Editor BBC Wales)
-- Tom Baker
-- Terrance Dicks (Script Editor)
-- Elisabeth Sladen (companion Sarah Jane Smith)
-- Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart)
The A-Z of Gadgets & Gizmos (11:23)
A rather annoying retrospective of WHO technology. A nice idea, gratingly executed.
Mary Celeste (18:03)
Roger Luckhurst (Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature Birbeck, University of London), Ian Murphy (curator of Maritime History, Merseyside Maritime Museum), and John McAleer (Curator of 18th Century Imperial & Maritime History - National Maritime Museum) discuss great maritime mysteries (tying into the SS Bernice saga in this story).
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