‘Doctor Who’: ‘The Greatest Show In The Galaxy’ audiobook review

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The title was apparently the idea of producer John Nathan-Turner, who infamously became the story’s saviour; with the BBC studios closed due to an asbestos problem, he refused to suffer another ‘Shada’ and erected a marquee in BBC Elstree’s car park to compete the show.

Goaded by a promotional satellite, which plays on Ace’s obvious discomfort, the time travellers arrive on the planet of Segonax. They are not alone, as the interstellar attraction has lured a motley crew of visitors including a space faring Hell’s Angel, a nerdy fan and a pompous explorer with his exotic travelling companion.. All seek to try their luck in the ring but what they find is a circus corrupted, with murderous robotic clowns and the big top turned into a gladiatorial arena where the audience demand entertainment and exact a chilling price for failure.

Wyatt reinstates a fair amount of cut material from his script, ramping up spectacle where he can. One notable return is the pleading voice of the buried robot. He also addresses a slight continuity issue arising from a swap in transmission order, with Ace now searching for her Nitro-9 explosives rather than her rucksack (last seen exploding a Cyber Ship in ‘Silver Nemesis’).

Nothing however can explain away the appearance of Flowerchild’s earring on her jacket before Ace gets to Segonax, and thankfully, he does not try!  In any case, the earring gets a makeover into jagged design rather than the simplistic swirl seen onscreen, which makes more sense when she uses it to cut with

Sophie Aldred narrates, employing a memorable band of voices and rolling McCoy’s R’s expertly, with her WizzKid even more irritating than ever. One slight wrinkle is that the Irish she uses for Captain Cook is not miles away from her unsubtle Scottish Doctor, making interchanges between them occasionally difficult to follow. It is an odd choice too, because T.P. McKenna performed the Captain in a generic RP, far more suited to the character.

From a sound design point of view, whip cracks and snatches of demented circus music build to support the narration with the Ringmaster’s rhyming introductions rendered throughout much as they were onscreen. The final Ragnarok confrontation sounds appropriately climactic, pairing with a vivid brilliant description of the circus’ final demise.

With robotic clowns and a rapping Ringmaster, this is definitely a Marmite story. It does however make for an intriguing mystery with a varied band of characters. The contestants’ motivation for entering the ring remains ill defined though and the story runs a little short on explanation, preferring to dwell on generalisations about dark forces. Perhaps not the ‘Greatest Show’, what could live up to that billing, but an entertaining one nonetheless.

Released on Thursday 1 August 2013 by AudioGO.

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