‘Our purpose is to amuse… simply to amuse. Nothing serious, nothing political…’
Carnival of Monsters (1973) is a story of two halves. Two apparently unlinked stories unfold in a pair of quite different worlds. The crew of a steamship en route to Bombay in 1926 are menaced by a terror from the deep that should be extinct, while on an intensely socially stratified world, nervous officials prepare to make first contact with alien beings after thousands of years in isolation. Somehow, the Doctor and Jo Grant will find themselves stepping between these worlds in one of the most bizarre Doctor Who stories of its era.
Simultaneously a light comedy with satirical undercurrents and a thrilling children’s adventure featuring ferocious alien beasts, Carnival of Monsters brings together a producer-director keen to push the boundaries of the electronic studio and a writer who delights in conjuring worlds from tiny off-stage details. The result is a remarkable piece of television with its own unique flavour that works on a number of levels for a variety of audiences.
Written with access to surviving scripts, storylines and production files this Black Archive volume explores the roots of Carnival of Monsters as a story, its thematic resonances and linguistic quirks and its occasionally troubled production. Roll up and see the monster show, and take a peek behind the curtain.
Ian Potter has written documentaries, comedy and drama for BBC radio, audio dramas for Big Finish Productions, and plays performed at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, Contact Theatre, Manchester, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds and Theatre at the Mill, Bradford. He’s worked as a sound designer, archive researcher in television and been a curator at the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television. His previous factual writing includes The Rise and Rise of the Independents, a history of UK television’s indie production sector. He’s not terribly interesting, but he means well.