Remembrance of the Daleks
The Happiness Patrol
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
Overvalued... by Joe Ford 24/12/03
Wey-hey! It's the anniversary year and its time to party! Break out the old classics... Daleks, Cybermen, Bertie Bassett... erm hold on a sec...
Remembrance of the Daleks: Like a slap in the face, the McCoy era is suddenly focussed and gripping, after the pantomime exploits of last year it is such a relief to be able to watch a story that is embarrassment-free but also one that holds up well in 2003. It's not perfect but it is as close to it as anything we have seen in the era so far.
It is wonderful to have the Doctor on Earth in a breezy, recognisable setting and to please the fans this magically takes place just days after Ian and Barbara leave with the first Doctor and Susan. It gave me a warm, nostalgic feeling seeing the Doctor and Ace walk around Coal Hill and Totters Lane and the little treats littered about ("I thought you said he was an old geezer with white hair", the BBC announcer, the French Revolution book) excite long-term fans but never get in the way of the story. Plus it is also a joy to see the Doctor working with the military again, Gilmore taking a very Brigadier-like role in the story.
Say what you will about John Nathan-Turner he certainly knew how to handle the Daleks. They have never looked sexier, the Gold and Cream Imperials gliding from their ship and dominating the streets of London, fighting with the more industrial looking Renegades and blowing each other up quite spectacularly. While this story re-introduces magic and menace back into Doctor Who after a year or two of lighter stories it also re-invents the Daleks as the supreme baddies of the show. They are thoroughly evil, enslaving little girls to machines, trundling out their special weapons Dalek, a giant, oily gun that takes out three Daleks at a time, killing a warehouse full of men... they even destroy school property... the bastards! A lot of effort has gone into making the Daleks super cool again, the cliff-hanger to episode one is an amazing moment, finally gliding up stairs and confirming everyone's fear that nowhere is safe anymore... but the attack on Ace as she beats at one with a baseball bat, dodges blasts, jumps through a window and is finally confronted with three of the buggers screaming in unison is the best end of episode in ages and ages.
The real shock here is McCoy and Aldred, so hammy and uneasy in Dragonfire, they make a great team here, a genuine friendship developing between them. Ace is already pushing away from the Mel/screaming violet image, some heartbreaking scenes where she is betrayed by the cute guy she has fallen for and taking on Daleks with a lot of balls! The Doctor is a shadow of his goofball self last year, he is allowed to have his own agenda now, manipulating those around him and treating people as pawns in his game against the Daleks. I seriously cannot imagine McCoy getting away with his "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" scene in season twenty-four. Is this realistic character development? No, it's sudden and jarring but it's a damn sight more exciting then his comedy act last year.
The guest performances are all excellent with no standouts because nobody is poor enough to make a comparison. Mike is a right cute arse, God I love bad boys! Rachel is Barbara and Liz rolled into one and manages to steal all the military based scenes. Allison is a little superfluous but Rachel needed someone to talk to and she does go psycho with the baseball bat and kill a Dalek so she does contribute something. The direction is taken seriously and the result is a story that looks great and with fresh new talent in the form of Ben Araronovicth the story never runs out of steam. The last episode is the best of the four, all the plots resolved with panache and exhilaration.
Two complaints: there is a hell of a lot of expositionary dialogue in episode three that drags, the plot stopping all together as the Doctor explains things to Ace (and through her to the viewer). And Keff is back doing the music, distracting from the action every now and again when he seems to want to make a statement (just take a listen to the fight between Mike and the Private in episode four, it's defeaning!).
The Last Word: Me, my best friend, her army hard nut boyfriend, their
daughter and my boyfriend all watched this together one afternoon and we
all enjoyed it immensely. This is a story that appeals to all ages for
very different reasons. Probably the last time Doctor Who can ever
The Happiness Patrol: This is a horrible reminder of season twenty-four and the end of season Graeme Williams stories when all the money had run out. On the surface this barely acknowledges everything Remembrance of the Daleks did to repair the image of Doctor Who and sets about sabotaging all that good work.
Let's see we have a regime where sadness is abolished, a sadistic law enforced by a bunch of women in multi-coloured wigs with huge toy guns. Then we have a bunch of backwards speaking 'Pipe People' who skulk around in the shadows and contribute nothing to the plot. Add to the mix a monster that is made out of sweets who kills his victims by smothering them in strawberry goo and throws temper tantrums as a matter of course. Set all this in an Earth colony which is represented by cardboard sets with amateurish paint blobs scattered about and a very shiny studio floor. And for fun use a kiddy's go-kart for much of the action, including a climatic getaway sequence where the heroes crawl along at about two miles per hour.
You get the idea... there is so much about this to cringe about. No wonder much of fandom want to see it banished to a parallel space-time continuum. To be fair the story does need to be gaudy and pantomimey to show just how corrupt and dire Helen A's regime is, but in revealing her lack of taste we are still forced to watch three episodes of awkward drama. There is nothing, NOTHING in season twenty-four that has as many 'hide behind the sofa and die of embarrassment' scenes as The Happiness Patrol ("I wouldn't give that pimple head a hundred to one against you Professor!", that awful scene with the huge scroll of dead people's names, Wences throwing his spear at Priscilla P, Ace falling down the 'doom pipe', the Kandyman stuck to floor, the laughter scene, "Yeah no more lift music!"... I could go on and on and on...).
All of this is a damn shame because there is some wonderful stuff here that is cherished and rightly so, but probably more so because its surrounded by so much crap. The very idea of the Doctor taking down a government in one night is appealing; the parallels to gay persecution are eye opening for a big woofter like myself and the Kandyman is indeed superbly realised even if he is a crushing embarrassment. The performances are mostly brilliant, the one shining beacon of hope in all the dreck,,, Sheila Hancock providing a memorable Helen A, Lesley Dunlop astonishingly sympathetic as Susan Q and McCoy gets some top dramatic scenes to counterpoint his astonishing awfulness elsewhere (you know which bits I mean in both cases). Plus the music is once again catchy, some lovely sombre harmonica work giving the story some real feeling.
But nothing can excuse the lack of subtlety, the story clearly pitched at Who versus Maggie Thatcher. The plot is rarely surprising, never gripping or ever really exciting. It rambles along harmlessly, the occasional powerful moment sweetening the pill. It's all so badly staged and obviously written, tripping over into pantomime far too often. Nothing will ever shift my opinion that this story belongs on the stage.
The Last Word: It has a good point to make but you have to wade through
so much rubbish to get to it.
Verdict: C plus
Silver Nemesis: One of the worst stories in the last ten years of Doctor Who's life, a three parter with so little to recommend I feel I should skip it before I start to sound like the Victor Meldrew of the Ratings Guide. The fact that this is the anniversary story says everything about how much Cartmel understood Doctor Who.
My biggest gripe is that it is all so flabby and by that I mean stuffed full of really crap padding. For a story that is already an episode shorter than the average length you would be forgiven for thinking this would be a tightly plotted, no shot could be lost, classic. All the rubbish at Windsor Castle running about from hammy security guards, a treble trip to Lady Peinforte's house before she even leaves for 1988, all that rubbish with the foul-mouthed skinheads and worst of all, THREE scenes in a limo with Peinforte and some American glamour queen that are all utterly superfluous to the plot. This amount of redundant material is clearly unacceptable and exposes just how little talent Kevin Clarke has, the story meanders through its major twists anyway, the Doctor and Ace walking about explaining so much of the plot to the audience. It's such a lazy story I get really bored every time I watch.
It reduces the Cybermen to heavies and features one of the least atmospheric battles they have ever had. There is zero reason for them to be involved in this dross and a thousand excuses why they shouldn't. In a era that is obsessed with sparks we see them blow up willy nilly all over the place, all it takes to bring them down is an arrow, a coin, some dust and a hearty shove! You can hardly hear a word they say and they make some stupid, stupid mistake throughout that always leaves me screaming at the telly (that rocket burst scene in episode three is the NADIR of all Cybermen scenes although when about ten of them chase Ace around the hangar and are all killed without hitting her once comes pretty close too). Plus their eventual plan revealed by the Cyberleader in episode three is so hackneyed and cliched it just further serves to frustrate the viewer.
It's just all over the place, too many plots juggling for attention and none of them getting anywhere thanks to all the unrequired fluff that eats up the time. Even if the horribly passe Nazi plot or the senseless Peinforte scenes been well written the direction would still have sunk them. Everything Chris Clough does here is so casual and undramatic you have to wonder why he bothered. The camera rarely moves, the actors rarely impress, the FX rarely convince... it's just one complaint after another.
I hate to say this but despite the warmth between them there is no spark at all to the Doctor and Ace here, only a quick scene where Ace reveals how scared she is of the Cybermen (Good God why?) shows any glimmer of potential interest in their otherwise bland relationship. Just as I'm sure you would all be bored watching me chat to my friend for an hour and ten minutes I feel my eyes drooping as pals McCoy and Aldred natter away from one scene to the next.
The Last Word: Seven stories into the McCoy era and there has only been
one classic and one good story. There have now been two serious stinkers
and three shockingly unbalanced stories. Not very good going is it? And Silver Nemesis is a perfect illustration of where it was
all going wrong.
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy: I once claimed this was the best story of the year, re-watching it it is clearly not that but it is still a huge improvement on the last two. This is like watching a glossy storybook come to life, each scene flowing into the next with ease, lots of vivid, grotesque and macabre images coming to life to haunt and terrify. Alan Wareing's direction is fresh and invigorating, every creative shot contributing to the overall effect, a surreal and wonderful experience. It is quite possibly the most attractive package the TV series ever managed to put together, the action is slick and fast and the locations are very pleasing on the eye.
After a departure into boredomville in Silver Nemesis the performances are back up to scratch with some memorably nasty characters coming to life. Who can fail to hate TP McKenna's despicably dull Captain Cook who would sell out his own mother for a couple more seconds of life? Or the sinister Chief Clown, a mostly silent character who drifts into scenes and despatches people, Ian Reddington a million miles away from his pantomime role in Eastenders. Or Jessica Martin's predatory Mags, both sympathetic and terrifying. Even Sophie Aldred raises the bar in her otherwise disappointing season as Ace, throwing herself into the action and revealing a few more shadings of her character as her fear of clowns creeps out.
This is all good stuff and we have to be thankful for that because the script is a bit crap really. Stephen Wyatt displays none of his excellent plot structuring from Paradise Towers, after the set up episode it is just one glorious looking set piece after another until we reach the Dark Circus at the end of episode four. Episodes two and three are really tedious plot wise, just a lot of aimless running about (which is none the less very atmospheric!) and threats.
Ten years before Buffy Doctor Who was becoming an extremely self-aware show and this take on the BBC executives and their threats of "So long as you entertain us you may live, when you no longer entertain us, you die!" lacks even basic delicacy. I used to find it cute that the show could actively critisize its worst enemy in secret but in retrospect it's a bit childish. The show lacks Buffy's wit and charm and is ultimately quite hollow, glitzy and gorgeous on the outside but lacking when you look beneath the surface for anything substantial.
Perhaps I am being unfair but the show doesn't really hold up to subsequent viewings, once you know the best bits by heart there is little intelligence or storytelling to keep your interest piqued. There are some excellent ghoulish ideas at work and some entertaining eccentrics to keep you amused but ultimately this is one long circus trick.
Still I find it a joy on a superficial level, lots of clever camera tricks and quick edits keeping the action hugely entertaining. In the end I enjoy watching the story, the performances and direction more than keep it afloat and the last episode is a psychedelic delight, fast paced and exciting.
The Last Word: A fair attempt at creating something really scary, it
certainly succeeds as one of the final stabs at horror Who.
What a strange year for Doctor Who, a real mixture of the superb and the terrible. For the anniversary year I have to say it's something of a disappointment, one turkey, one uneasy jumble, one all style and no substance and only one out and out classic. If Cartmel had some kind of master plan for showing just how good Doctor Who could be in its 25th year he failed. This year is a cocktail of everything the McCoy era does right and everything it does wrong, there is no real abundance of either, just an uneasy mixture of both.
One aspect of the show that had improved dramatically was the production values, ignoring The Happiness Patrol of course. Remembrance, Nemesis and Greatest Show are all treated to some fine locations, being gritty, lush and creepy respectively. The special FX team seem a lot more confident this year too with some spectacular explosions (Daleks in Waterloo! The Nemesis crashing to Earth! The Circus exploding behind the Doctor!), decent visual FX (the Dalek spaceship is astonishing, the Hand of Omega a CSO treat, the moons behind the Psychic Circus lend it a magical quality and the Nemesis itself is a shocking sight) and some bloody good monsters (the Kandyman looks as though he really were made out of giant liquorice allsorts, the special weapons Dalek is a triumph of super cool designs and the clowns in Greatest Show still manage to put the wind up me with their frozen smiles...).
Also McCoy, who was so amateurish last year, actually makes a much better impression here. As I have said elsewhere there is still the intrusion of the 'children's enetertainer' seventh Doctor but Remembrance and Happiness Patrol see him in some extremely dark places, playing with people's lives and not giving a damn. Still not a patch on Colin Baker's tenacious version, McCoy is a damn sight more watchable this year. If only we could erase that awful laughter scene...
And outwardly the show appears much more confident, with streetwise companion Ace and broodier Doctor, exciting adventures with Daleks, issue shows, nostalgia trips and a diversions into macabre horror, the show looks as if it is getting back on track. There is less to point at and die of embarrassment with unlike last year and with a really gloss lick of paint over most of the stories the general public are safe to start watching again.
Alas, it is the content that lets the side down and proves this is really an inferior year than season twenty-four. Doctor Who was never about being good looking television, its primary ambition has always been to tell intelligent, thought provoking stories laced with good humour and imagination. On these counts, year 25 fails miserably. Strip away the nostalgia from Remembrance and what do you get, some nice period detail and a shallow action adventure, Happiness Patrol buries its intelligent message under too much drivel, Silver Nemesis has the most haphazard plot I have ever come across and Greatest Show is an abject lesson in transparent insults. In each of the stories they are far more interested in doing 'cool' things than actually knuckling down and engaging us as intelligent viewers. Plus Remembrance and Nemesis have far too many scenes of the Doctor and Ace explaining away the plot instead of actually experiencing it, a lazy narrative device that exposes the weakness of the script editor.
And yet despite plot troubles there is some delightful dialogue scattered about. Each story has a few moments where the scripting really shines ("Do you doubt the non terrestrial nature of the Daleks? I mean examine this one! Or better yet ask your scientific advisor!", "Unlimited rice pudding!", "Happiness can only exist side by side with sadness", "Hello I'm the Doctor and I believe you want to kill me", "Captain Cook! You're not only a scoundrel and a meddling fool! You're also a crushing bore!"). These moments (and there are quite a few more) help to pass the time admirably but a couple of priceless flashes cannot substitute a decent plot.
Another casualty of the year is Sophie Aldred's Ace who never rises above mediocre despite claims to the contrary. There are a number of great scenes for Ace this year and Sophie Aldred never lets the side down but there is a definite sense that the writers haven't yet found the right niche for her. She is almost entirely faceless in Happiness Patrol and Nemesis, just around for a bit of audience identification and a few decent lines. It wasn't until next year that Ace really made her mark.
Despite the fact the opening story is far more watchable than anything last year I am inclined to give season twenty-five a place below twenty-four. Last year was full of silly mistakes but beefed up by some good stories, this year is full of stylish corrections but lacks that essential Who focus, good solid storytelling. A fairly average 5/10 then for season twenty-five.
"Sucker punch" by Thomas Cookson 9/10/17
McCoy's era is an incredibly divisive, marmite one. Some fans disavow it. Others regard it as the belated redemption of JNT's era.
Essentially, McCoy's run was a visible work in progress, digging itself out a hole, trying desperately, often clumsily to re-endear itself to audiences. Perhaps JNT successfully sold Season 25 as an anniversary season, hence why the BBC let it run.
Perhaps if Davison had gotten better scripts and chose to stay on, he'd have made Doctor Who look too respectable to justify the cancellation. A more compelling era might've seen Grade's malicious rescheduling still fail to dissuade viewers from wanting to see more. There's the frustrating sense that a chance catch of Remembrance of the Daleks might've turned viewers' heads.
The point is, the damage was done. Largely by how Davison and Colin's post-regenerative weakness frustratingly lasted throughout their eras, whilst we essentially waited for them to come right again, braving false dawns like Snakedance and The Five Doctors.
Season 24 tried to overcompensate. Building McCoy immediately as a confrontational force to be reckoned with, making opponents shake in their boots. But it came off silly, given the show's sanitized tone. Whilst Cornell insists the Doctor isn't our school bully avenger, it feels this is exactly what Cartmel was trying to make him.
But Remembrance of the Daleks finally gave McCoy something worthy to rally against, re-engaging with the show's chaotic universe of tyrannic injustice the Doctor once existed to right. This time, it did convince. McCoy here is playing with fire, with high stakes and wins.
Tat Wood described 80's Who as a long, humourless, visually illiterate, cumbersome continuity indulgence. Lacking any entertainment value or point for casual viewers who fondly remembered Tom Baker. Tat highlighted 1988 as the turning point, where the makers finally started cutting the fat, making efficient, dense, involving stories that forced our hero to become efficient too. As though it'd woken from an eight-year slumber, livelier than ever. You could become a fan anew on strength of Remembrance and skip from Logopolis to here.
Reminiscing on being 11, Doctor Who was a brutal show for kids and a masochistic viewing experience whereby we were witness to casual death and liberal cruelty. Remembrance begins with the Doctor arriving on a murder scene and ends with a prominent character's funeral. Many good people die, and the Daleks cause much destruction and heartache before their end. Even the ending reinforces certain undying harsh truths. The Jamaican cafe owner was conspicuously excluded from Mike's funeral.
That uncompromising grimness made it challenging television we were drawn to, showcasing morbid, terrible grim events I wished wouldn't happen. You entered a harsher world with this show. Every classic video I bought promised much death and bitter defeats before the Doctor won, if he even did. It was dangerous, confrontational viewing, yet part of me must've wanted that danger, because I kept going back for more. The thrill of not knowing what'd happen next or how events might turn out.
At 11, I lapped up Remembrance's oversugared Dalek action content, repeatedly rewatching its thrilling moments. The cliffhangers, the unveiling of 'The Abomination', the electric final confrontation with Davros, the Omega device's climactic sun dive. But I disliked the Daleks' new plasma bolts and bad aim. At 11, the Daleks terrified me, and part of me welcomed seeing them rendered less dangerous. Another strong part of me absolutely didn't. The old Dalek guns had a wide beam effect, killing everyone in the frame. You weren't supposed to survive by dodging slightly to the left. Why change this? How's this an improvement beyond showing off CGI effects?
I disliked how easily and gratuitously the Doctor killed the shuttle pilot. What happened to 'one Dalek is capable of exterminating all'? This indulgent attitude that more Daleks onscreen means you can treat them like disposable cannon fodder. But I'll address that point later. Even in the 90's, there was a sense Remembrance would decide the form and tone of any potential revival.
It's difficult to remember now that feminism's turned so sour, but companions like Sarah Jane and Ace really were refreshing. Ace got us away from the Saward era's creepy sexism. I say 'creepy' specifically because of the effect of seeing any character robbed of self-will, reduced to a submissive, dehumanized state. My mum hated Classic Who's chauvinism. But with Ace's toughness and attitude, Doctor Who briefly became a show she could see herself becoming a fan of. As though the Doctor Who we knew beforehand was a naff, cliche-ridden show that's rendered in-fiction the moment Ace walks out on the first 1963 episode (possibly her TV's picking up radio signals breaking through from our universe), in pursuit of the more exciting, real, Cartmel version.
Whether beating up Daleks with baseball bats or taking one out with a bazooka, Ace made this terrifying Whoniverse seem engageable with her resourceful courage, bats and bombs. Nevertheless, she's fallible. Even hitting a Dalek with her best blows, it still nearly kills her whilst firing blind. The cliffhanger shows Ace getting her arse handed to her, proving how foolish her rashness was. However, Ace's rebellious compulsion towards pyromania as part of her coping with the trauma of her arrest should actually be an upsetting glimpse at what heavy-handed authority can do to a teenage psyche. But it's played too cool. The horse put before the cart.
The big controversy concerns Skaro's destruction. A creative decision born of knowing the end's coming soon and needing to show the Daleks' 'final end'. Fans suddenly were second-guessing what the Doctor's capable of. Something refreshing after Davison's run had decided his incapability for us. Many complained this 'betrayed' Genesis' infamous "Do I have the right?" even though Tom's Doctor later changed his mind and returned to the incubator room to blow it up properly.
For budgetary reasons, Remembrance never actually showed us events on Skaro. Are the Daleks now a huge galactic empire preparing mighty invasion forces or mere surviving stragglers of the Movellan plague? Is McCoy finishing what the Movellans started or just delivering a pinprick to their empire? What's this supposed to achieve? If McCoy was destroying a Dalek planet on the cusp of attacking nearby systems, that'd be fair game, rather than one deep in their territory where its Dalek inhabitants aren't in any position to do anything but mind their own business, so why not leave them alone?
Obviously, we know the Doctor wouldn't destroy Skaro if it weren't absolutely necessary. Destiny made clear the Thals long left Skaro, otherwise the Daleks wouldn't be scouring the galaxy for slave labour. But many fans don't trust the makers here knew or cared. Perhaps fans hate how Skaro's annihilation marks an admission the show's coming to an end. For the first time since Logopolis, something monumental happens to lore. We don't like the idea the Doctor would do this, but Genesis of the Daleks never answered its open-ended question, whether the Time Lords' vision of a future where the Daleks eventually destroy all life in the universe might still happen. Which rather necessitates McCoy's action. Skaro's destruction, as far as Classic Who's concerned, represents the Daleks' final end. The Doctor tells the Dalek Supreme it's now the last of its kind with little ambiguity.
It's a relief Remembrance made that effort to resolve 80s Who's mess of internal continuity, accumulated loose ends and unfinished business. I now treasure Remembrance's existence. I've also come to understand Philip Sandifer's veneration of McCoy's era against fan orthodoxy.
Dragonfire's Aliens-style marines are the subject of mockery. In Remembrance, likewise the military's an inconvenience to the Doctor in regards saving the day, rather than the other way round. Saward could criticise the military too, but Cartmel didn't need to kill them all off to make his point. But the Saward era had an unhealthy fixation with power-worship. Having the Doctor placing his primary sympathies with mass murderer Lytton or the Silurian genocidal militia, despite them doing nothing to earn sympathy. Which leaves the only possible admiration for them being their alpha military prowess and ruthless capability.
There's the uncomfortable sense this fed the power-worship of an impotent, powerless, stigmatized fandom who wanted to see their camp, children's show be glorious at any cost. But children watching wouldn't get it. They're used to the Doctor being the hero against evil, having no interest in seeing him praise merciless, intolerant, authoritarian villains who'd sell us down the river. Nor in seeing him become an indecisive mess to Byrne and Roberts' far-left misanthropy, JNT's propensity for difficult, unco-operative, blinkered contrarianism, Saward's passive-aggressiveness and Levine's stubborn dissatisfaction and pettiness. Turning the show Lawrence Miles once described having sounder moral instincts than its viewership into one po-facedly trying to outdo itself to prove its virtuousness in seeming contempt for its past, and all other cinema.
Maybe fandom simply championed it as children's entertainment running counter to G.I. Joe's gun-heavy reactionary content, even if it went the other extreme. But that changed with Cartmel's era. The Happiness Patrol might've been many things, but it wasn't power glorifying. In fact, Remembrance of the Daleks was the perfect sucker-punch subversion of Saward's power-worship machismo. A sucker punch reminiscent of City of Death, which you couldn't do under the Davison era's obsessive pleasing of humourless continuity keeners. It couldn't do jokes, ergo it couldn't do expectation violation. Now it can.
The Daleks bring the same wow factor of destruction and big guns as Earthshock's Cybermen. But gradually it becomes clear the Daleks are playing into the Doctor's hands and ultimately destroying themselves with their own sought superweapon. The Doctor here is cleverer than he's been since City of Death. It effectively did the Sixth Doctor 'right'. Emphasising the Doctor's darker streak, and how lucky we are he's even on our side.
Trouble is, after defeating the Daleks' all-conquering empire for good, comparatively anything afterwards resembles first-world problems. The Season 24 throwback, The Happiness Patrol followed, alongside Silver Nemesis' rather overreaching, messy attempt to replicate Remembrance's success, in a derivative, formulaic craftless, out-of-control manner, belying the idea of Remembrance representing a proper renaissance. Demonstrating they'd got lucky once and lightning wouldn't strike twice.
Even as the season's weakest, it's leagues ahead of JNT's earlier nadirs. More coherent than Terminus and a hundred times more exhilarating than Warriors of the Deep. I get a real kick out of the sequence Ace takes out a Cybersquad with a slingshot and gold coins. The undercurrent spirit of accepting the show's ending soon so let's just have fun making it. Moments that aren't taking the zealous fanboy audience for granted (the opening hook where DeFlores nearly harpoons a rare bird).
Nonetheless for every sharp, energetic moment, there's a dozen moronically inept ones. It's a shallow story offering shallow, guilty pleasures but I've not quite exhausted its charms yet.
Perhaps were Greatest Show not made under heavy crisis conditions it'd just be a bland, incoherent pantomime. As it is, it's far more sharp, atmospheric, triumphant and transformative than that. It's almost transcendent, beautifully completing the season's grand farewell concert for the show.
Ace feels the most real part of the off the wall surrealness, grounding what could've been nonsensical pantomime into something genuinely frightening and compelling, primarily because of her out of her depth vulnerability. Her usual macho bluster disappears. It's Aldred's best performance. The writing playing to her strengths as a regular youth, rather than as Season 26's traumatised, unstable mess.
It would, however, look out of place on any top-ten list, seemingly belonging to another show entirely. Whilst change and evolution are part and parcel of Who, it feels now the show's outright mutating to find a form pleasing to its long-lost mainstream audience. I accept Doctor Who had to change. But there's no doubt, as a child raised on Letts/Hinchcliffe era reruns, the grim, science-based show I knew was now dead.
Which only left the conundrum. Now Doctor Who's dead, what should it do with the rest of its life?