Timestamp #66: Carnival of Monsters

Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters
(4 episodes, s10e05-e08, 1973)

Timestamp 066 Carnival of Monsters


There is a lot of filler in this lackluster serial.

This tale begins with a cargo ship that arrives on Inter Minor and deposits several parcels and two beings. The new arrivals, Vorg and Shirna, are traveling carnival workers, and they are accompanied by a strange looking machine. As they get settled, the indentured dock workers start to get agitated, but the violence is quelled by one of the planet’s bureaucratic officials.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS materializes on a more Earthly cargo ship, which the Doctor mistakes for Metebelis III until Jo finds a crate of chickens. While the Doctor – decked out in a fine green and brown version of his typical red, white, and black number – tries to figure out if these birds are the dominant intelligent life-form, Jo finds another crate marked “SINGAPORE”. The travelers discover that they’re still on Earth, in the year 1926, on the SS Bernice. The ship is soon attacked by a plesiosaurus, and the travelers are discovered and confined to a cabin as stowaways. Strangely, there is a plate in the deck that the ship’s officers cannot see, the clocks are running backward, and the time of day doesn’t correlate with the sun’s position.  The pair escape thanks to Jo’s convenient ring of skeleton keys since the sonic screwdriver only works on electronic locks (for now). They inspect the plate and return to the TARDIS for a magnetic core extractor, but find the passengers and crew repeating the previous moments in time. As they arrive at the TARDIS, a giant hand reaches down and pulls it away.

It turns out that they have materialized inside traveling carnival’s attraction machine, which is operated by Vorg and Shirna, and contains Ogrons, Cybermen, Tellurians (humans), and the fearsome Drashigs. The Inter Minor customs officials are xenophobes and demand a demonstration of the machine’s benignity, so the keepers amplify the hostility of the Earth habitat. After a brief chase around the Bernice, the travelers are captured before the keepers turn down the hostility settings to prevent the captives from harming each other. The ship’s crew and passengers restart their cycle, and Jo and the Doctor enter the metal plate to find the internal workings of the machine.

The carnival keepers have an expired license, so the customs officials stage a tribunal and decide to eradicate the aliens within the machine. The eradication device only damages the machine, and the paranoid officials believe that it is armored to protect a transmitter that is signaling an invasion force. They extract what they believe to be a transmitter, which expands to normal size outside of the miniaturization field as the TARDIS.

As those shenanigans continue, Jo and the Doctor explore the machine and enter the habitat of the Drashig. It sets off on their trail, hunting them by cutting off their escape route, and the Doctor distracts the beast by igniting the swamp gas with his sonic screwdriver. Vorg reaches in and holds back the Drashigs so the travelers can escape. All of this leads the Doctor to reason that the machine is a miniscope, something that he helped to ban and destroy in his earlier life. Jo, rightfully so, is offended by the concept of being on display.

The Drashigs follow the scent into the machine’s interior and wreak havoc, which plays into the hand of the planet’s lead controller, who desperately wants to overthrow the planetary president. As the Drashig rages on, the travelers retrieve a rope from the Bernice and use it to traverse the machine’s extraction shaft, however only the Doctor escapes. The Doctor confronts the tribunal about the ethics of the miniscope while Vorg and Shirna reason that he is a showman like them based on clothing and manner.

The Doctor returns into the machine to rescue Jo as the miniscope starts to fail based on the damage, which will kill all of the inhabitants. The scheming tribunal members help the Drashigs escape, and Vorg fixes the eradicator to fend off the beasts, but not before they eat the scheming tribunal members. The Doctor sends all of the inhabitants back to their original temporal coordinates just before the miniscope melts down.

Everyone gets a happy resolution as Vorg receives kudos for saving the day and starts ripping off the remaining tribunal member with a shell game. The Doctor and Jo sneak away on the TARDIS, and Shirna smiles as they dematerialize.

It was a quick story, but very shallow, and barely earns a mid-range grade. I really liked Shirna, and I think she would have been a good companion for a little while.


Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Frontier in Space


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.




11 thoughts on “Timestamp #66: Carnival of Monsters

  1. I’ll tell you this, teenage me really liked Shirna.

    But yeah, I’ve never understood why Who fandom holds this one in such high regard, but the next story…that’s my fave.

  2. […] The TARDIS arrives at the collision site. The Doctor, Romana, and K9 make their way to the Empress‘s bridge where the two captains are arguing about their losses. The Doctor believes that he can separate the ships, and he and K9 accompany Secker to the power unit. Secker sneaks away and the Doctor follows, discovering that the crewman is under the influence of vraxoin, a deadly drug. While the Doctor worries about that development, Romana and the commander of the Hectate, Captain Dymond, meet with Tryst and Della, two zoologists on an expedition who have a crude matter transference device called the CET. Inside the device are several miniature habitats, similar to the device last seen by the Third Doctor and Jo in Carnival of Monsters. […]

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