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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters
Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // April 10, 2012
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted April 20, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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 The Show:
The BBC released Carnival of Monsters on DVD for the first time in the US back in 2003.  Now they've revisited the serial for a second time and put it out in Special Edition format with more bonus features and a tweaked image courtesy the Restoration Team.  This Jon Pertwee adventure is a fun romp with some nice twists and turns, a few horrible monsters, and an over-the-top conman who really makes the show.  The new extra features are a nice touch too.

At the end of the previous serial, the Time Lords released The Doctor from his exile on Earth, giving him a new dematerialization circuit and returning all of his knowledge of time travel.  Naturally he wants to take the TARDIS for a spin, so he whisks Jo off to the Blue Planet, Metebelis Three.  Or that's where he thought he was going.  When they materialize they're in the hull of a freighter ship, the SS Bernice, which is traveling through the Indian Ocean to Bombay in 1923.  The Doctor can't believe they're on Earth.  It's just not possible, yet that's where they appear to be.
But appearances can be deceiving and in this case they are.  The Doctor and Jo have materialized inside of a Miniscope, an outlawed device that shrinks several species, keeps each in a separate, natural, environment, and then displays they're behavior on a screen for the amusement of on-lookers.  This Miniscope is owned by a traveling showman/conman named Vorg (Leslie Dwyer) and has his attractive assistant Shirma (Cheryl Hall).  They are the very first aliens to be allowed to land on the paranoid planet Inter Minor since an interplanetary war years and years ago.  Vorg is greeted by a tribunal whose three members think he might be a spy, especially once they learn that he's brought alien monsters with him inside of the Miniscope.  At first the tribunal is thinking of just killing Vorg and everything in the Miniscope, but then one of the members, the brother of the ruling president, sees how he can use the situation to his advantage and take over.

Meanwhile The Doctor has figured out that something is amiss and manages to escape from the SS Bernice and into the interior of the Miniscope.  He and Jo wander around until they discover what might be an exit.  Unfortunately it turns out to be an entrance to another environment, one that houses Drashigs, a vicious carnivore that will track anything that it scents until it has captured it.  The Doctor and Jo do manage to escape back in to the Miniscope, but so do the Drashigs.
I really enjoyed this adventure.  It's not deep or important to The Doctor's continuity, but it's light and fun.  We get to see The Doctor running around a giant circuit board and running from monster slug puppets.  What's not to like?  The Miniscope was a neat idea and they used it well.  At one point Vorg is showing the various creatures he has encased in the machine and he shows images of a Cyberman and an Ogron, which is a nice touch.

Leslie Dwyer who played the carny Vorg was great and really added a lot to the show.  Dressed in a loud outfit and a transparent hat, he threw himself into the role with a hammy verve that's funny and entertaining.  Every time he's on the screen the show is interesting.
It's only too bad that this is a four-parter.  They could have easily made it into six episodes by adding another world or two for The Doctor and Jo to explore, which might have been fun.
The DVD:

This release is a two-disc affair. The five-episode story is on disc one while the second one is reserved for the bulk of the special features.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show just fine.  The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the dialog is generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss, distortion or dropouts.  There are optional subtitles in English.

I was pleased with the full frame color image.  The Restoration Team did their usual top-notch job, though it's not significantly better than the original release back from 2003.  I have seen that one, though I didn't have it on hand to do a side-by-side comparison, and I don't recall there being too much difference in image quality.  This disc looks nice with solid colors, tight lines, and nice detail. 
This two-disc SE has the extras from the original release and adds a few nifty new ones too.  First there are two commentary tracks.  The first, from the 2003 release, features Katy Manning and Barry Letts and the second has a group of the actors featured in this adventure, Peter Halliday, Cheryl Hall, Jenny McCracken as well as special sound effects creator Brian Hodgson.  There's also an unrestored, alternate edit of the second episode that was accidently sent to Australia.  It's slightly longer and features a new version of the Doctor Who theme song that was nixed by the BBC execs but somehow ended up on this installment anyway.  Next is a making-of featurette that runs 23 minutes.  They do the usually top-notch job tracking down people who worked on this show both in front of and behind the cameras and discuss the genesis and filming of the story.
The late Ian Marter, who played Harry Sullivan in the early Tom Baker episodes, has a smaller supporting role in this serial and there's a nice tribute to him and his work on Doctor Who:  On Target with Ian Marter.  Several of his friends and colleges, including tom Baker and the recently deceased Elisabeth Sladen reminisce about the actor and scribe of several Doctor Who novelizations.  It's a nice, touching, piece.
The A-Z of Gadets and Gizmos is an 11-minute look at the tech items used in the series, and it's alright, while Mary Celeste, an 18-minute discussion of ships lost at sea is a bit of a waste.  It is only tangentially related to the show and I didn't find it very interesting. 
The extras from the older release include some raw behind-the-scenes filming of the show that runs 2-minutes and is very interesting, 8-minutes worth of model tests (they get boring after a while but I'm glad they included them), a trailer to a Doctor Who marathon on the BBC, a special effects demo reel, and a very slightly altered ending. 
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option which is very informative as always.   It does give some dry statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are also some interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background information on the supporting characters.  The extras are rounded off with storyboard comparison, a trailer for the story, a photo gallery, and the listing from the Radio Times in .pdf format.

Final Thoughts:
A fun Jon Pertwee story, Carnival of Monsters has a lot of what I enjoy about the classic Doctor Who: interesting ideas for a children's show, some enjoyable bad guys, a supporting actor who steals several scenes, and a last-minute rescue.  On top of that, this new Special Edition has a nice selection of new bonus items.  It's a good time and well worth watching.  Recommended.
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