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Carnival of Monsters

Production Code: PPP

First Transmitted

1 - 27/01/1973 17:50

2 - 03/02/1973 17:50

3 - 10/02/1973 17:50

4 - 17/02/1973 17:50


The Doctor and Jo take the TARDIS on a test flight. They arrive on a cargo ship, the SS Bernice, that appears to be crossing the Indian Ocean in 1926 but is in fact trapped inside a Miniscope - a banned peepshow of miniaturised life-forms - on the planet Inter Minor. They enter another section of the scope but find themselves confronted by ferocious Drashigs.

The Doctor eventually breaks out of the scope and returns to full size. The device is owned by a pair of Lurman entertainers, Vorg and Shirna, who hope to make a quick profit from Inter Minor's hitherto reclusive natives. They have run into trouble, however, as the bureaucratic Minorians are dissatisfied with their credentials.

The Doctor's efforts to rescue Jo from the scope, which is on the point of breaking down, are hampered by the schemes of two Minorians, Kalik and Orum, who plan to dupe their superior, Pletrac, and overthrow the planet's president, Zarb, by allowing the Drashigs to escape.

Vorg destroys the Drashigs with an eradicator weapon and the Doctor, by linking the scope to the TARDIS, manages to return all the exhibits to their points of origin. Jo materialises beside the wrecked device, and she and the Doctor then depart in the TARDIS.

Episode Endings

The Doctor and Jo manage to get back to the TARDIS but look on in horror as a huge hand descends from above to pick the police box up.

The Doctor and Jo, making their way through the internal workings of the scope, find a hatch. They go through it and emerge into a cave leading to what appears to be an area of swampland. Suddenly a Drashig rears up out of the swamp before them.

The Doctor emerges, still miniaturised, from the base of the scope and collapses to the ground.

The Doctor and Jo leave Inter Minor as Vorg, using a variation of the old 'three card trick' using three magum pods and a yarrow seed, sets about trying to earn enough credit bars for a trip off the planet.


J.B. Priestley, especially 'Time and the Conways'.

Round the Horne (palare).

A Passage to India.

Hard Times.

Reference to The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Dialogue Triumphs

Orum : [Speaking of the Minorian class known as Functionaries.] "They've no sense of responsibility. Give them a hygiene chamber and they store fossil fuel in it."

Pletrac : "The function of this tribunal is to keep this planet clean. This Tellurian creature comes from outside our solar system and is a possible carrier of contagion. Furthermore the creature may be hostile."

The Doctor : "Would you kindly stop referring to me as "the creature", sir. Or I may well become exceedingly hostile!"


We're introduced to three alien races, the bureaucratic Minorians from Inter Minor, the Lurmans (Vorg and Shirna), and the Drashigs, terrifying carnivores from a swampy satellite of Grundle. There is the first mention of Metebelis 3, 'the famous blue planet of the Acteon group' (see The Green Death, Planet of the Spiders: Acteon later becomes a galaxy).

Vorg's miniscope, which he won at the Great Wallarian Exhibition in a game of chance (involving three magum pods and a yarrow seed), is one of a few still in existence. The Doctor [whilst still on Gallifrey] ensured that the Time Lord High Council had the scopes banned.

The miniscope's shell is made of molecular bonded disillion, and it contains Ogrons (Vorg also mentions the Daleks), a Cyberman, Drashigs and Tellurians (the passengers aboard the SS Bernice.) [The name may be a galactic corruption of 'Terran', the normal alien name for humans. The term is also used by the Androgums (see The Two Doctors).]

The Bernice disappeared in a mystery as great as the Mary Celeste, in the Indian Ocean two days from Bombay on 4 June 1926. A freak tidal wave was the popular explanation. Which race took them from Earth and placed them in the miniscope is never revealed. Vorg states that the scope was built by Eternity Perpetual Company (the Doctor's dating the magnetic hatch as being 1000 years after Jo's birth would mean that the scope was built in the 1950s).

He worked many a Tellurian fairground and attempts carny palare with the Doctor whom he assumes to be a showman [it is possible, therefore, that the Lurmans themselves can time travel, and so have stocked the scope with specimens themselves]. The ship is locked in a cycle of time, in which a Plesiosaurus, extinct for 130 million years, is also trapped.

Vorg points out the similarity between Tellurians, Lurmans and Minorians which, he says refutes 'Voldek's theory that life in the universe is infinitely variable'. The Doctor orders a large scotch.

The Lurmans have National Service: Vorg says he served with the 14th Heavy Lasers where his Sergeant was a 'Crustacoid mercenary'. The sonic screwdriver is used to explode marsh gas. The story is said to take place '1000 years after the Great Space Plague' (see Death to the Daleks). This is the only Doctor Who story to mention Fred Astaire (despite being set seven years before Astaire became well known).


Changing Time


Inter Minor and the Miniscope.


The Doctor says he took boxing lessons from John Sullivan (American heavyweight champion, 1892).


A Cyberman makes a guest appearance as one of the specimens seen on the screen of Vorg's Miniscope.

Leslie Dwyer plays Vorg. Dwyer later appeared as the miserable child-hating Punch and Judy man Mr Partridge in the BBC comedy series Hi-de-Hi!.

Tenniel Evans plays Major Daly. Evans was one of Jon Pertwee's co-stars in The Navy Lark and, back in 1969, had prompted him to put his name forward to the Doctor Who office as a possible successor to Patrick Troughton; unknown to either of them, Pertwee's name had already been on the production team's short list.

Ian Marter plays John Andrews. Marter had earlier auditioned for the role of Captain Mike Yates and would later play the Doctor's companion Harry Sullivan.


The second episode as seen on the BBC video release of this story, which is about four minutes longer than the one originally transmitted and features the abandoned Delaware synthesiser arrangement of the theme music, is a specially extended version.

(It is a rough cut that was prepared during the original editing of the story and never intended for public consumption. It still exists only because BBC Enterprises inadvertently included it a package of episodes supplied to the Australian Broadcasting Company. The video release also erroneously includes a version of Episode Four prepared for a repeat transmission in 1981, which has a section missing from the closing scene.)


In episode one the sound of a pencil dropping and rolling across the studio floor can be heard.

Lots of wigs come unstuck.

The Doctor is told that Vorg is in charge of the scope in episode four, but later he asks whether Vorg is in charge.

The Drashigs are introduced twice in episode two.

Vorg claims he can't control the Drashigs (they're not intelligent) but he can control the plesiosaur.

The 1926 calendar is wrong (the date structure is that of 1925).

When questioned by Jo about the banning of the miniscopes, the Doctor suggests that this one was missed, completely forgetting that they could be in a time before the ban.

Fashion Victim

Jo's knee length denim shorts.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Jon Pertwee

Jo Grant - Katy Manning

Captain - Andrew Staines

Claire Daly - Jenny McCraken

John Andrews - Ian Marter

Kalik - Michael Wisher

Major Daly - Tenniel Evans

Orum - Terence Lodge

Pletrac - Peter Halliday

Shirna - Cheryl Hall

Vorg - Leslie Dwyer


Director - Barry Letts

Assistant Floor Manager - Karilyn Collier

Costumes - James Acheson

Designer - Roger Liminton

Film Cameraman - Peter Hamilton

Film Editor - Peter Evans

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Angela Seyfang

Producer - Barry Letts

Production Assistant - Chris D'Oyly-John

Script Editor - Terrance Dicks

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Studio Lighting - Clive Thomas

Studio Sound - Gordon Mackie

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - John Horton

Writer - Robert Holmes

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

TV naturalism crawls into a hole and dies in Robert Holmes' witty and knowing wink at his audience. Carnival of Monsters is a parody of television and its viewers: phrases such as 'Who's going to pay good credits to see a blob in a snowstorm?' and 'Our purpose is to amuse, simply to amuse... Nothing serious, nothing political' are pointers in this direction, as is Vorg's assertion that the Drashigs are 'great favourites with the children.' Carnival of Monsters retains the cheeky power of its initial broadcast.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Carnival of Monsters opens with the Doctor exercising his newly-reinstated freedom by attempting to take Jo on a trip to the 'famous blue planet' Metebelis 3. The failure of the TARDIS to reach its intended destination is no surprise, but the way in which the viewer is kept guessing as to where it has actually arrived - there is at first no apparent connection between the scenes set on the SS Bernice and those set on Inter Minor - helps to make this a very enjoyable adventure.

The guest characters in the story are fewer than usual, but writer Robert Holmes manages to make the most of them. The first signs of his penchant for creating memorable 'double acts' (something for which he would later become renowned amongst the series' fans) can be found here in the two Lurmans - the verbose Vorg and his cynical assistant Shirna - and the two principal Minorians - the duplicitous Kalik and his fawning supporter Orum. The interaction between these two sets of characters serves to crystallise the planet's political situation and drive forward the plot. The roles are all well acted, too, although special mention must go to Michael Wisher, who makes full use of his voice and expressions to bring Kalik to life.

On the downside, it has to be said that Vorg and Shirna have a whimsical, larger than life quality - a point that could in fact be made of the story as a whole - and this has tended to alienate some reviewers. As Ian K McLachlan commented in TARDIS Volume 6 Number 5, dated January 1982: 'Carnival of Monsters... could have been much improved with Vorg and Shirna very much toned down. Perhaps it was their costumes which were most at fault. They reminded me so much of a bad Lost in Space story.' Gary Russell, on the other hand, wrote in Oracle Volume 3 Number 11/12, dated Christmas 1981 that 'the costumes were rich and elegant, especially the two Lurmans.' Of the Minorians, Paul Scoones gave the following rather unenthusiastic assessment in TSV 44, dated June 1995:

'Kalik's plan to overthrow his brother, the unseen but much mentioned President Zarb, fails to engender any interest. This subplot seems to serve no other purpose... than to facilitate the escape of the Drashigs, and ultimately provide Vorg with an opportunity to earn the respect and acceptance of the Minorian government.'

The only really disappointing characters, however, are the Functionaries - Minorian workers who apparently have little to do except stand around and grunt. Their make-up suggests that they are not of the same race as Kalik, Orum and Pletrac, but there is no evidence of any other Minorians about - perhaps they are all confined to their homes. Given that the Functionaries are evidently oppressed, it is strange to note that the Doctor fails to take up their cause.

'At the outset it would appear that the moral wrong-doing that will be put right by the Doctor's intervention is the treatment of the Functionaries...,' observed Scoones, 'but this is not in fact the case. References are made to the Functionaries' unrest and refusal to work. At the beginning [one of them] dares to ascend to a higher level - perhaps metaphorically as well as literally - apparently protesting at his working conditions, but he is gunned down by Kalik without hesitation... It is odd that this aspect of the plot has no resolution, and that the Doctor does not even appear to be aware of the Functionaries' plight.'

The characters on board the SS Bernice are all well written and played. The repetition of lines and actions resulting from the fact that they are supposedly caught in a time loop does eventually become rather wearing but nevertheless allows for some nice pieces of plotting as the Doctor and Jo escape, get captured and escape once more while their captors are left none the wiser.

Julian Knott, writing in A Voyage Through 25 Years of Doctor Who, dated December 1988, thought these sequences impressive, liking the juxtaposition of the hi-tech scope with the pseudo-historical setting of the ship: 'Soon... viewers are taken through the initial SF wrappings of the story and enter the 1926 Holmes version of a Wodehouse BBC classic series adaptation. The script is excellent, the plot thickens, and interest is recaptured.'

The Drashigs are excellently realised monsters, and fulfil their admittedly limited role in the narrative very nicely. The plesiosaur that terrorises the SS Bernice is, on the other hand, rather less successful, owing both to the unconvincing nature of the model used and to the dodgy CSO by way of which it is inserted into the picture.

Carnival of Monsters is perhaps best viewed as a pleasant and light-hearted interlude between the self-congratulatory The Three Doctors and the more serious Frontier in Space.

< The Three DoctorsThird DoctorFrontier In Space >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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