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You may be looking for the reference book of the same name.

Carnival of Monsters was the second serial of season 10 of Doctor Who. It was the first story to see the Third Doctor free from his exile. The serial was also the first to see a performance by Ian Marter, who later became a recurring face of the show as Harry Sullivan. In addition, this was the only televised Third Doctor-era story to feature a real appearance of a Cyberman, though not in a threatening manner. The Third Doctor would not truly be pitted against the Cybermen onscreen until The Five Doctors, after Jon Pertwee had left the role and then came back for the twentieth anniversary special.

Barry Letts chose to direct the story himself, as his contract permitted him to do so with one story per year — something he had previously done with Terror of the Autons. Originally titled Peepshow, Dicks took Vorg's line Carnival of Monsters to be a better name, despite Holmes's preference; there was concern that the name Peepshow might convey the wrong impression.

Much editing was done to Carnival of Monsters in order to thin it down to a workable running time. This resulted in the cliffhanger for part three being changed altogether. Originally intended to show the Doctor plummeting, apparently to his death, this sequence was cut and replaced with him leaving the miniscope.

Robert Holmes was interested in the Victorian period through to the 1920s and liked the idea of putting a fossilised social group in a fossilised situation.


The Doctor and Jo arrive on the SS Bernice, a cargo ship crossing the Indian Ocean. Things are not what they seem. A monster appears in the sea, events repeat themselves and a giant hand steals the TARDIS. Investigation reveals they are inside a miniscope, an alien peepshow sporting numerous miniaturised environments, which showman Vorg and his assistant Shirna have brought to amuse the populace of the planet Inter Minor.


Episode one[]

At a spaceport on the planet Inter Minor, travelling aliens Vorg and Shirna arrive and set up their show. Although Vorg's intentions aren't hostile, the representatives of the ruling class of Inter Minor display a cultural dislike of things that they view as alien or unnecessary, and their tribunal — Kalik, Orum, and their superior Pletrac — are suspicious and deny them an entrance visa.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS materialises on the planet Metebelis III — so the Doctor says. Yet when he and Jo Grant explore, they find they are aboard the cargo ship SS Bernice as it sails across the Indian Ocean in 1926.

The Doctor is sure that they are not on Earth and it seems something is afoot when a plesiosaurus rises from the sea. The Doctor and Jo meet Major Daly and his daughter, Claire Daly, passengers terrified by the plesiosaurus but who then forget about it. When the pair are caught by officer John Andrews, they are imprisoned, accused of being stowaways. Confined to a cabin, Jo notices a discrepancy: a clock in the room has gone back more than an hour in a few minutes. After escaping, they notice that Andrews, Daly and his daughter are repeating things they said and did when they met them before. They have forgotten about the meeting. The Doctor becomes interested in a mysterious hatch made of an alien alloy. He goes to fetch a magnetic core extractor from the TARDIS. As they reach the TARDIS, the Doctor and Jo are stunned as a giant hand swoops down out of nowhere and grabs the police box.

Episode two[]

Vorg pulls the "bit of bric-a-brac" (the TARDIS) out of his miniscope machine but sticks it back in. Later, Vorg shows the tribunal some of the creatures inside the scope, including Ogrons, Cybermen, Tellurians and Drashigs, huge deadly carnivores. Vorg explains how inside the miniscope the miniaturised creatures live in miniature versions of their natural habitats, and are completely unaware of the truth. As the tribunal members watch the events within the human environment, Vorg shows them the machine's capabilities by adjusting a dial which amplifies the specimens' hostility.

Inside, the Doctor and Jo are captured, but Andrews chooses to fight the Doctor rather than imprison him. Using skills he learned from John L. Sullivan, the Doctor overpowers Andrews, allowing him and Jo to escape. They are chased across the deck but make it to the hatch and find themselves in a place the Doctor describes as like being "inside a wristwatch".

The tribunal on Inter Minor chooses to eradicate the illegal specimens inside the scope, but the eradicator only damages the machine. The locals are disturbed that their great weapon was unable to destroy the scope, and they suppose that it's actually a plot by their enemies. Suspicious that the scope contains an illegal transmitter, Orum searches the machine and pulls out the mini-TARDIS. Soon it expands to its normal size, horrifying the tribunal.

The Doctor and Jo find another hatch inside and open it, finding themselves in another environment, an expanse of marshes, not what the Doctor was expecting. They turn to leave, but a Drashig rises from the marshes, ready for the kill.

Episode three[]

The Doctor attacks the Drashigs using the sonic screwdriver, igniting marsh gas. Vorg is able to slow down the Drashigs with his hand, enabling the Doctor and Jo to reach the inner circuitry again. The Doctor realises they are in a miniscope, explaining that earlier in his life he convinced the Time Lords to ban the use of miniscopes. Jo is horrified that anyone would use such a device. They are troubled to find out that the Drashigs haven't given up their pursuit and have broken into the circuitry as well. The pair find a deep shaft which leads to the bottom of the circuitry and the way out, so they return to the Bernice circuit to fetch a rope. Jo is caught by Andrews again, who has once again forgotten they have previously met.

There is trouble outside the scope too. The tribunal are trying to have Vorg and Shirna deported, while the operators themselves have noticed the Drashigs have escaped from their circuit. When Kalik and Orum hear about this, they hatch a plan to let the Drashigs escape the machine and cause havoc, forcing the President to resign. Kalik believes the Functionaries need a purpose; rebellion will satisfy them. The Drashigs have now broken into the SS Bernice environment but are shot at and repelled by the crew. With a rope, the Doctor climbs down to the bottom of the shaft and exits the machine but collapses.

Episode four[]

There is commotion on Inter Minor as the Doctor grows to his normal size. The Doctor confronts the tribunal about their allowing the scope on their planet and is horrified that Vorg and Shirna are more concerned with claiming insurance on the loss of livestock than saving the lives inside the scope. The Doctor ventures back inside the machine, while Kalik and Orum sabotage the eradicator to leave the city defenceless against the Drashigs, who finally escape and grow to formidable size. Vorg repairs the eradicator and turns it on the Drashigs, but not before they eat Kalik and Orum.

The Doctor escapes.

Inside, Jo escapes yet another capture by the crew of the Bernice and is reunited with the Doctor, but the scope is overheating, and they are overcome by the heat. They are brought back by Vorg, who activates the device the Doctor left for him, which also returns the life-forms inside the scope to their rightful places in space and time.

With the scope inoperable, Vorg tries to earn enough credit bars to get home by entertaining Pletrac with the old shell trick, while the Doctor and Jo return to the TARDIS, ready for their next adventure.


Uncredited cast[]


Uncredited crew[]


Foods and beverages[]

Cultural references from the real world[]



  • Wallarians are known for their gambling.
  • Jo argues that humans in the miniscope are smarter than whelks.
  • Valdek was a scientist who believed that life in the universe was infinitely variable.
  • Vorg's miniscope contains Cybermen.
  • Vorg's fomer commander was a Crustacoid mercenary.


  • The Doctor mentions Metebelis III, "the famous blue planet of the Acteon group".
  • Vorg and Shirna previously visited the planet Demos.
  • Drashigs are from a satellite of Grundle.

Story notes[]

  • Working titles for this story were The Labyrinth and Peepshow.
  • Ian Marter (John Andrews) is credited as "Andrews" in Radio Times.
  • Stuart Fell (Functionary) is uncredited on-screen for episode one, but credited in Radio Times.
  • This story carries no on-screen producer credit for Barry Letts, as the BBC would only allow him to be credited as either producer or director.
  • Vorg's parlare in episode four is translated as:
"Parlae the Carny?" (Do you talk the Carnival language?)
"Varda the Bona Palone." (Look at the good (looking) Young Girl.)
"Niente dinari here, y'jills." (No money to be made here, you know.)
  • The title is the same as a Ray Bradbury short story Carnival of Monsters published in the 1940s. In it, a millionaire on Mars lures several health officials into his house. They meet a variety of gruesome fates inspired by different horror writers. However, the title of this episode may be unrelated.
  • This is the first story to feature the term Tellurian to mean human being. This term appeared in other stories written by Robert Holmes, such as The Two Doctors.
  • The Drashigs were named so by Holmes as an anagram of "dish rag". Accordingly, a white dish rag would be hung from a pole during filming so the actors had a position to look at while delivering their lines so it appeared they were looking at the Drashigs, even though the Drashigs were only added in post-production, according to Katy Manning in the documentary DOC: Destroy All Monsters.
  • The Ogron and the Cyberman, seen on the Miniscope's screen in episode two, were played by Rick Lester and Terence Denville respectively, who remained uncredited both on-screen and in Radio Times. These were not flashbacks to past stories, but were specially recorded.
  • The story was repeated on BBC2 on consecutive evenings from Monday 16 to Thursday 19 November 1981 as part of the repeat season The Five Faces of Doctor Who, as this was a fine example of a story from Jon Pertwee's era, and one which existed entirely in colour. Although episode four exists in its complete form in the BBC Archives, a new version of the episode (forty-four seconds shorter than the original) was made on 625 line PAL colour videotape for the repeat screening, which was slightly edited at the request of Barry Letts to remove certain shots in the closing scene where close-ups of Pletrac had revealed that Peter Halliday's bald headpiece was starting to come loose.
  • Katy Manning provided the noises of the chickens seen in episode one herself.
  • The Diary of River Song story Peepshow is set concurrent to this adventure.
  • Both Cheryl Hall and Jenny McCracken were earlier considered for Jo Grant. According to the DVD Commentary for the Special Edition of the story, they were on the final shortlist of six actresses seen for the role. Barry Letts promised both actresses he'd use them in the future after Katy Manning was cast.
  • Barry Letts named this as his favourite of Robert Holmes' contributions for the show. He particularly felt that the Drashigs were one of the best monsters in the series.
  • Jon Pertwee recommended his friend and The Navy Lark co-star Tenniel Evans for the role of Major Daly. It was Evans who had originally encouraged Pertwee to consider playing the Doctor, and the leading man now repaid the favour.
  • The RFA Robert Dundas doubled for the SS Bernice. The ship spent part of the first day travelling along the River Medway to Sheerness, Kent, but was otherwise docked during production. At one point, the shoot was interrupted when it was discovered that an old brass ship's compass had disappeared. The culprit turned out to be none other than Jon Pertwee, who had mistakenly believed that the compass was to be scrapped along with the Robert Dundas, and therefore wouldn't be missed. In fact, it was to be auctioned off along with other ship artefacts and, after learning of his error, an embarrassed Pertwee duly returned it.
  • Filming was interrupted by a bomb scare, although it transpired that this had been incited by the ticking of an alarm clock, stowed in a bag belonging to one of the effects assistants.
  • The actors playing the Inter Minor officials were originally supposed to have their faces hidden behind masks. However, Barry Letts decided to dispense with them, since he thought the performances would benefit from a full range of facial expression.
  • Robert Holmes added the subplot about the attempted overthrow of President Zarb after Terrance Dicks was concerned that, as the story was originally structured, the only real threat facing Vorg and Shirna was the penalty for breaking import regulations.
  • Inter Minor was named Odron for a time, and it was thought that the planet might host a convention of showmen.
  • Pletrac was originally called Pletrac 4, while Orum, Kalik and the unseen Zarb were named Grig 07, X10 and X8, respectively.
  • For a long time, the Miniscope was known as the Strobe.
  • Robert Holmes scripted authentic Polari for Leslie Dwyer to utter as Vorg in episode four, and both Pertwee and Dwyer delighted in showing off their extensive knowledge of the carny lingo.


  • Episode one - 9.5 million viewers
  • Episode two - 9.0 million viewers
  • Episode three - 9.0 million viewers
  • Episode four - 9.2 million viewers


  • Episode two, as seen on the BBC video release of this story and as an extra on the Special Edition DVD release, which is about four minutes longer than the one originally transmitted and features the abandoned Delaware synthesiser arrangement of the theme music, is a specially extended version. (It is a rough cut that was prepared during the original editing of the story and never intended for public consumption. It still exists only because BBC Enterprises inadvertently included it in a package of episodes supplied to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The video release also erroneously includes a version of episode four prepared for a repeat transmission in 1981, which has a section missing from the closing scene.)

Filming locations[]

  • Tillingham Marshes, Howe Farm, Tillingham, Essex
  • RFA Robert Dundas (as the SS Bernice)
  • Carwoods Quarry (now known as Asheldham Nature Reserve), Asheldham, Essex
  • BBC Television Centre (Studio 4 & 6), Shepherd's Bush, London

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • In episode one, the wire lowering the cargo vessel during the opening shot is clearly visible
  • In episode one, the sound of a pencil dropping and rolling across the studio floor can be heard.
  • When Shirna does her little dance, the wire leading to the miniscope is visible.
  • The TARDIS doors are open when the Doctor steps out, but instantly close when the giant hand reaches for it.
  • The back of the Cyberman's head is loose.
  • After entering the miniscope, the Doctor helps Jo over a piece of equipment. As they walk off, the shadow of the boom mike moves over a white piece of the set in the upper right part of the screen.
  • Jo sinks waist-deep in the swamp, but by the time she reaches the cave, her trousers and both their sets of boots are dry and clean.
  • In the final scene, Pletrac's bald headpiece has detached from the actor's scalp. Barry Letts fixed this for a BBC2 repeat in the '80s by removing some of the shots and thus several lines of dialogue. Letts's amended ending appears as an extra on the DVD release.
  • As Jo and the Doctor investigate the chickens in the cargo hold, the camera pans to the right and we can glimpse the edge of the set and the supports behind it.
  • In the opening sequence, because of the unique way CSO was used in this story, the Inter Minorians' legs flicker, and become incredibly thin.
  • The grass inside the miniscope differs in colour and texture between model shots and location filming.
  • In the scenes inside the miniscope circuits, the studio floor reflects light from different directions, even though there isn't actually a place to reflect. The lights are actually from studio lights.


Home video and audio releases[]

DVD releases[]

This story was released as Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters.


Special Features:

  • Commentary by Katy Manning and Barry Letts
  • Extended and Deleted Scenes
  • Behind the Scenes Footage
  • Model Sequences - The Original 16mm Visual Effects Tests
  • Using CSO - Demonstrated by Barry Letts
  • Alternative Theme Music
  • Trailer - The Five Faces of Doctor Who
  • Alternative Episode Four Ending
  • Photo Gallery & Production Subtitles
  • TARDISCam Sequence


Special Edition release[]

This story was released as Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters: Special Edition.


Special Features:


Doctor Who DVD Files[]

It was released as issue 60 of Doctor Who DVD Files.

Digital releases[]

This story is available:

  • in non-continental iTunes stores (Australia, Canada, UK and US) as a stand-alone season of Doctor Who: The Classic Series;
  • on Amazon Video (UK) as Season 66 of Doctor Who (Classic) series;
  • on Amazon Video (US) as part of Season 10 of Doctor Who: The 50th Anniversary Collection, which additionally includes the story The Three Doctors;
  • for streaming through BritBox (US) as part of Season 10 of Classic Doctor Who.

VHS releases[]

This story was released as Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters.



External links[]