‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

The Psychic Circus

‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’? More like ‘the weirdest show in the galaxy’!

This four-part story by Stephen Wyatt is the last story of Season 25 of the classic ‘Doctor Who’. It stars Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace. It was meant to be the second story of that season, but due to a troubled production in making the story it eventually became the finale.

In the story, the Doctor and Ace receive some ‘junk mail’ in the TARDIS that invites them to the Psychic Circus on the planet Segonax. Ace doesn’t like circuses or clowns, but the Doctor is keen to take her with him to the circus. They soon discover something sinister when they arrive at the circus.


I must admit I wasn’t really taken by ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’. I didn’t understand it at first, and it took me two more re-watches of the story to understand it better. It’s not a favourite of mine from the Sylvester McCoy era of ‘Doctor Who’, but I like the performances of the cast featured in it.

Also, ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ happens to be a circus called ‘The Psychic Circus’. I wouldn’t rate a circus as being the greatest show in the galaxy as I would have preferred something more high-tech and futuristic instead of this run-down circus with clowns; acrobats and a ringmaster in it.

Stephen Wyatt has written for ‘Doctor Who’ before when he wrote ‘Paradise Towers’ for Season 24. I enjoyed that story, even if other fans don’t. But with this one, I didn’t receive the same enjoyment as I didn’t quite follow what was going on and the story was do with playing on the minds and such.


But it was interesting as I re-watched it for the third time and I was getting a clear idea about who the real enemies were and what the Psychic Circus was for by the time the Gods of Ragnarok were revealed. The design and atmosphere of the circus and the tent was pretty good throughout in this.

I’ve met Dee Sadler who played Flowerchild in ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ at the ‘Time Warp’ convention in Weston-super-Mare, July 2014. I had a signed photograph from her as Flowerchild and told her how I felt about this story. She sympathised saying that she didn’t fully understand it either.

As I said before, this story suffered a troubled production. After finishing the location work on the story, the production team returned to find the BBC studios infected with asbestos (a harmful disease from building materials). This meant the story would be cancelled with no studio work done.


But producer John Nathan-Turner wouldn’t give up, as he decided that ‘the show must go on’. Fortunately with the story being set in a tent at a circus, the production team soon found a car park at BBC Elstree studio. The team finished the story by filming all of the interior scenes there in a tent.

Sylvester McCoy is great as the Doctor in this adventure. I enjoyed Sylvester’s performance and how he gets to be mysterious. He’s intrigued by what’s going on when he and Ace go to the Psychic Circus. He senses a strange evil when they’re making their way to the circus and is determined to find out.

I liked the connection that Sylvester’s Doctor makes with Mags in the story and how he works things out as to what’s going on with the Psychic Circus. I liked it when he confronts the Gods of Ragnarok at the end of the story. Sylvester gets to do his performing acts and comedic stand-ups in this story.


Sophie Aldred is amazing as Ace in this adventure. I agree with Ace about her not liking clowns. I don’t much care for them either, even if they do comedic acts with their acts. I like how Ace gets to confront her fears in this story when meeting clowns and how she gets to be resourceful in this tale.

Ace sometimes gets split up from the Doctor and finds things out for herself about what’s going on in this adventure. She acquires one of Flowerchild’s ear-rings during the course of this story and she gets to meet Bellboy and Deadbeat. She also fights with one bus conductor robot in this adventure.

T. P. McKenna guest stars as Captain Cook. The Captain was an interesting character in this story, although I don’t fully understand his motives. He starts being a comedic-like bore before revealing to be a malicious, selfish person as he seems to know more on what’s going on with the Psychic Circus.


Jessica Martin guest stars as Mags, a strange companion of Captain Cook’s. I like Jessica’s performance as Mags, as she seems a pleasant person at first who protests to the Captain’s villainy. But she hides a terrible secret, as by blue moonlight she becomes a terrible werewolf-like creature.

Ian Reddington guest stars as the Chief Clown. Ian would go on to appear in ‘Coronation Street’ after this. I liked Ian’s performance as a Clown. He has a cheery smile, but underneath he’s an evil person. I’m not sure what the Chief Clown’s motives are, but I liked the relish Ian puts into his performance.

The cast also includes Ricco Ross as the Ringmaster; Deborah Manship as Morgana; Daniel Peacock as Nord and Gian Sammarco as Whizz Kid. There’s also Christopher Guard as Bellboy; Chris Jury as Deadbeat and Dee Sadler as Flowerchild. There’s also Peggy Mount as the Stallslady who I enjoyed.


The audience for the Psychic Circus is very strange, as there are only three people. They are a father; mother and daughter trio. David Ashford plays the Dad; Janet Hargreaves as the Mum and Kathryn Ludlow as the Little Girl. It turns out that these three are really the Gods of Ragnarok in human form.

When the Doctor crosses into another dimension and ends up in the Dark Circus, he meets the Gods of Ragnarok there in their true form. These Gods of Ragnarok are made of stone and look very foreboding and menacing. They’re easily bored and force the Doctor to entertain them or he’ll die.


The DVD special features are as follows. There’s ‘The Show Must Go On’ making-of documentary; deleted and extended scenes; the ‘Lost in the Darkness’ missing model shots and ‘The Psychic Circus’ music video in two audio options: stereo and 5.1. I enjoyed the music video more than the story.

There’s a ”Remembrance’ Demo’, a selection of two scenes re-scored by Mark Ayres as a demo to work on the show and there’s ‘Tomorrow’s Times – The Seventh Doctor’, presented by Anneke Wills. There’s a ‘Victoria Wood Sketch’ that is a comedic-take on the show and a photo gallery of the story.

There’s a 5.1. audio option; a commentary with Sophie Aldred; Jessica Martin; Christopher Guard; writer Stephen Wyatt; script editor Andrew Cartmel and composer Mark Ayres, moderated by Toby Hadoke; an isolated music option by Mark Ayes and an info-text commentary option for the story.

There are two PDF Materials including a ‘Radio Times Listing’ PDF and ‘Visual Effects designs and storyboards’ PDF of the story. There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘Planet of Giants’ with William Hartnell. There’s an interesting Easter Egg extra to look out for on the special features of this DVD.

‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ is a strange and unusual ‘Doctor Who’ story from the Seventh Doctor era. It’s not one of my favourites, but having seen it for the third time I’ve been able to understand it more. I’m sure this is a favourite among the other ‘Doctor Who’ fans. But it’s not for me.

‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ rating – 5/10

The previous story

For the Seventh Doctor was

For Ace was

The next story

For the Seventh Doctor is

  • ‘1963: The Assassination Games’ (Audio)

For Ace is

  • ‘1963: The Assassination Games’ (Audio)
Return to The Seventh Doctor’s Timeline
Return to Ace’s Timeline

2 thoughts on “‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ (TV)

  1. I like this one although i can see were your coming from Tim, there was lot of behind the scenes dramas on this story which very nearly didn’t get made & it’s one of those storys which starts off slow but gets better as it goes on.

    Excellent review Tim, detailed & informative.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Timelord Simon.

    Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’.

    I couldn’t take to this story when I first saw it. But I’ve enjoyed watching it and found a little easier to understand after seeing it for the third time. I can appreciate this story had behind-the-scenes problems such as the asbestos things at Television Centre and filming in a tent inside a noisy car park. Poor Ian Reddington, when he got hit by a metal cage door on the head according to the making-of documentary. Ooh, that must have hurt!

    Yes the story did seem slow at first and that’s probably why I couldn’t take to it as I wanted to get into the story more and it seemed to lack pace at first in the first episode. But I’m glad JNT had the drive and determination to get this story completed and avoid cancellation.

    Thanks for your comments, Simon. Very pleased you enjoyed my review on this story.

    Tim. 🙂


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