Friday, 19 July 2013

Carnival of Monsters

Terence Lodge as Orum almost steals the show.
Given his freedom, the third Doctor and Jo set off in the TARDIS in search of Metebelis Three, the magical blue planet. However, instead of getting there, they end up inside a ‘mini-scope’, a machine that houses creatures from across the Universe in miniature, with a screen to show what’s going on. It’s kind of like a portable zoo I guess. ‘Carnival of Monsters’ is quite a different story, full of comedy and some of the scariest monsters in Doctor Who history – the Drashings. These beasts are so well done (in most instances) that you wonder why other monsters are so disappointing. For instance, the  dinosaur in ‘The Silurians’. Or, simply, the Silurians themselves.
A Drashing.
The key are the brilliant models, combined with the fact that the creatures are generally ‘wet’. This adds a lot in terms of realism. They are used very effectively in the swamp-land setting, not quite as well in the city where the CSO is far more apparent.
In other areas, the production budget is stretched that little bit too far again. We have some great stuff set on a boat, and the sets for that are great as is the fact they were able to shoot on a real boat. There is good and bad use of CSO throughout the story. The good – episode four there is a wonderfully lined up shot through the gash in the ship into the inner workings of the scope with the Doctor calling to Jo. The bad – well it’s over used in the alien city. The budget and space ran out after sets for the ship and the inside of the scope it seems, as we only see two areas in the whole city. We learn next to nothing about the planet which is disappointing. The novelisation is very good and fills in a few gaps explaining the way the society functions, but as far as the viewers are concerned the planet might be a room, a corridor and a loading bay.
Kalik, Pletrac and Orum. Great acting, bad make up.
As good as the Drashings were, the look of the aliens was bad. The functionaries’ masks look very cheaply thrown together, clearly a lot of space between the face of the actor and the mask. Pletrac, Orum and Kalik had very poor make up jobs, maybe their eyes were sensitive but there is a white line around all the eyes. The hair and eyebrows appear to be any old fluff chucked on for good measure too!
What is not poor in ‘Carnival of Monsters’ is the amazing cast and their brilliant performances. Michael Wisher as the evil Kalik, Peter Halliday as Pletrac and Terence Lodge as Orum steal the show with their bickering and their banter. The
Vorg and Shirna
Lermans, Vorg and Shirna, are wonderfully portrayed by Leslie Dwyer and Cheryl Hall, and on the ship stuck in the scope Ian Marter is perfect casting as John Andrews. Tenniel Evans as Major Daly and Jenny McCracken as Claire Daly pretty much complete an excellent cast who keep it all together brilliantly.
It’s a very different tone from previous tales, especially for the writer Robert Holmes who hadn’t put much comedy into his past stories. There are weird and strange costumes for the Lermans, and wonderfully interplay between the chief three aliens. Barry Letts directed as well as produced this one, and I think he got great performances out of his entire cast, but relied too heavily on CSO. Katy Manning deserves special credit, Jo is a thoroughly likeable companion who becomes more resourceful by each episode. Jon Pertwee, as always, is very strong with some nice moments.
Over all it’s a pretty good story, let down by the need to develop the scenarios further and overuse of CSO. However, the Drashings and the cast make up for much of that to make it a very watchable and enjoyable story.


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