It's been a few months since the last Doctor Who adventure was released on DVD, and the wait has been worth it. The effort put into this release is obvious, in both the quality of the transfer and in the range and number of extras included. 1972's Doctor Who - Carnival of Monsters continues the high standards set by previous releases and is another must have for Doctor Who lovers.
Fresh from having his freedom reinstated by the Time Lords, the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo Grant (Katy Manning), on another of the Doctor's TARDIS test flights, arrive on the cargo ship SS Bernice, which is just two days out from arriving in Bombay. The Doctor remembers this ship as a kind of Marie Celeste, and that it disappeared without trace on June 3, 1926. Accused of being stowaways, they are locked in a cabin but soon escape, and are stumped as the crew not only no longer recognise them, but keep on repeating their actions and conversations a la Groundhog Day. Even the large plesiosaur that rises from the sea to attack the ship seems happy to play out the same drama over and over.
Being a clever-clogs, the Doctor deduces that they are trapped in an intergalactic peepshow relic called a miniscope. The "Scope" is the property of two Lurmans, Vorg (Leslie Dwyer) and his assistant, the bubbly Shirna (Cheryl Hall), a pair of carnival types who travel the galaxies 'entertaining' the masses with their Scope. Vorg and Shirna are on the planet Inter Minor, trying their hardest to gain entry as they have spent their last credit bars on the passage there. The officials are not sure what to make of them or the Scope.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Jo have managed to break out of the SS Bernice compartment of the Scope and straight into the 'cage' that holds the Drashigs, huge omnivorous creatures that eat anything, especially meat. They never give up on a scent, and they have smelled the Doctor and Jo.
The Doctor manages to escape from the machine and right into a political coup, with the protagonists hoping to use the Scope as their weapon. They plan to let the Drashigs escape; proving the reigning leader has lost control. The Doctor is going to have a very tough time to keep everyone happy, whilst saving the lives of the occupants trapped in the Scope, including Jo.
It is very easy to dismiss Doctor Who - Carnival of Monsters as another cheaply made, poor excuse for science fiction kids show - and you'd be half right. It is cheaply made, and even blind Freddy could see that the Minorians are wearing rubber swimming caps, the Drashigs are simply hand puppets, and the CSO (Colour Separation Overlay) special effects are, well they're crap. Do yourself a favour though and look past this, even if it is half the charm of Doctor Who. The story is another gem from writer Robert Holmes, producer Barry Letts and their team. The acting is good, especially that of Pertwee who was into his fourth season, and his strong off-screen friendship with Manning translates well on-screen.
The story has been well cast, and the costumes are great fun, especially the carnival-like Lurmans, Vorg and Shirna.
Everything is here to make this DVD a worthy addition to any Doctor Who fan's library, right down to the packaging and menus which are consistent with all previous releases. This is great fun, a great DVD and great value.
Doctor Who - Carnival of Monsters is presented in a full frame aspect ratio and therefore is not 16x9 enhanced. This is another great job from the BBC's Doctor Who Restoration Team. The overall image is very sharp and clear, and colours are solid, bright and even. There is no colour bleeding or cross-colouration, nor chroma noise. There are not many areas of black in this brightly-lit adventure, and shadow detail is good.
There are no artefacts such as dirt and dust, and no evidence of other glitches, Film artefacts are almost non-existent and film to video artefacts such as alaising are all but missing. The only let down is the cheap and early '70s special effects, but these are not a result of the transfer and something fans have come to love.
There is no layer change, as it's most likely positioned between episodes. The Doctor Who releases are getting quite a reputation as quality transfers and this is no exception.
As with most Doctor Who DVDs, this is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, and as such there is nothing overly special to report. Dialogue is clear and in synch and there are no drop outs. The incidental music is provided by main music man Dudley Simpson and is a great mix of electronica and weird sound effects. There is a very slight background hiss that is just noticeable in the silent passages.
The commentary is in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and is loud and clear. There is no action for anything other than the front speakers, but the general lack of sound effects means that this is not particularly missed.