Monday, September 21, 2009

PPP1 - Carnival of Monsters 1

Carnival of Monsters marks the birth of the prototypical Robert Holmes story - full of witty, biting satire, "Holmesian double acts", great dialogue, and the ability to portray the society and culture of a planet with just a few well placed throwaway lines. In the opening scene, thanks to Holmes's brilliant writing, it is immediately apparent that there is a ruling class and a working class, the workers are upset but not educated enough to know what to do about it, while the upper class number much smaller, and are needlessly paranoid.

The double act to which I referred is that of the scheming Kalik and the subservient Orum, but, when the authoritarian Pletrac enters, any combination of these characters form an amusing pair. The dialogue sparkles throughout, with the three characters often referring to themselves in the third person as "one" in the reflexive form, causing any conversation between the three to be both garbled and hilarious at the same time.

This episode is also the first Holmes story to feature another level of satire that would have went above the heads of the younger viewers, but would have had the adult audience guffawing. Perhaps in response to Holmes's experiences with the controversy of some scenes in his earlier story, Terror of the Autons, this story (and certainly this first episode) can be seen as an allegory of the upper levels of the BBC (Pletrac, Kalik, and Orum) and their reactions to Doctor Who (Vorg and Shirna, playing the parts of The Doctor and the companion, respectively). The appearance of Vorg and Shirna is akin to that of clowns or showmen and women because that is how the BBC big wigs who don't "get" Doctor Who most likely viewed the show. Pletrac is immediately suspicious of Vorg and his machine, the Miniscope (the latter of which is a decent cross between a TV screen that shows The Doctor's adventures and the TARDIS console itself), thinking that Vorg's presence is dangerous, to which Vorg tellingly retorts, "Our purpose is to amuse. Simply amuse. Nothing serious, nothing political."

The real brilliance to this episode, however, is how the two story threads bear no relation to each other, nor is it ever made explicit during this episode how they will eventually connect. Add to that a staggering cliffhanger, and it's become quite apparent that this will be like no Doctor Who story seen before...


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