The Psychic Circus was the two hundred and sixty first story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Stephen Wyatt and featured Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, and James Dreyfus as the Master. It was the second in a trilogy of stories pitting the Seventh Doctor against another rogue Time Lord.
The Doctor's past and Kingpin's future are entangled by malevolent forces. The Psychic Circus is just beginning: it may lack clowns, but it already has a Master...
As the Seventh Doctor is juggling alone in the TARDIS, a Junkmail Robot materializes in the TARDIS, asking if he is the owner of the ship. The Doctor initially dismisses him, but then he relents and confirms he is indeed the "owner" of the TARDIS. The robot then displays an advertisement for the Psychic Circus, which makes the Doctor suspicious.
On Zamyatin two street artists, Kingpin and Juniper Berry, are arrested for being "useless". Their numbers and antics are judged frivolous and unnecessary in a planet where everyhing is rigidly ordained and disposed to be productive. The two of them are damned to a reducational course, and forced to sit and watch four hours of a documentary extolling Zamyatin's system. As they do, they hear a voice, encouraging them to resist against the induction.
The Doctor, still not trusting the robot, refuses to go the Circus; the robot then proposes he go to Zamyatin instead. The Doctor initially refuses, but when the robot taunts him, suggesting he is scared, the Doctor accepts. As they are about to reach Zamyatin, something attacks the TARDIS, and also makes the robot scream in agony, which the Doctor once again finds suspicious.
On Zamyatin, Kingpin and Juniper are ordered to build a wall by fabricating the bricks themselves, unguarded because nobody thinks they can escape. But as soon as they are left alone, they hear the voice again. Follow its instructions, they escape from the courtyard where they are through the sewers, until they reach a colony of rebels, led by Panpipe, waiting for them. He tells Kingpin he is supposed to lead a revolution, as the voice told.
The Doctor reaches Zamyatin, and he is also arrested for juggling. As he is interrogated by the Minister, and argues withher notions of good and evil, the robot suggests him to start juggling once again. The Doctor obeys, and this act of his generates a psychic storm, a wave of psychic energy capable of having everyone on the planet revolting, thus beginning the revolution.
The Doctor finds himself and the robot back in the TARDIS. He wonders whether the experience was real or just a projection. The robot activates and, after repeating his invitation to the Circus, proposes the Doctor they instead visit the Paradise Towers. The Doctor finally understands this is his past returning, and accepts the invitation.
On Zamyatin, people celebrate their newfound freedom, and many of them congratulate with Kingpin, which they take as the leader of the revolution. Amongst them, there is a fortune teller, Morgana, who sees the future in her crystal ball. Inspired by the voice, Kingpin has the idea of gathering a group of artists and start travelling together throughout the galaxy, exhibiting themselves for the fun of everyone. Some, like Penpipe, refuse the invitation, but most of them, including Morgana, agree to Kingpin's proposal, and start travelling in a bus.
At Paradise Towers, the Doctor is taken by the robot on a tour of the giant buildings, not yet finished and still inhabited. At one juncture, they come across a poster for the Psychic Circus, and are addressed by a man, excited and weird, expressing his desire to be a clown. He takes the poster and run away to join the Circus, to the Doctor's wonder and worry.
Due to a fault, the bus has stopped on the planet Segonax; Kingpin takes advantage of the forced stay to hold audition for new acts, including a clown. He keeps hearing the voice, telling him to stay on Segonax and never leave. The man at the Paradise Towers presents himself at the audition and becomes part of the Circus as a clown. When the bus is finally ready to leave, Kingpin decides they should stay, going against Juniper's will, and in a subsequient meeting he and the clown manage to convince the others. Looking in her ball, Morgana gets a glimpse of an eye in the mist.
At Paradise Towers, the Doctor enters a lift with the robot, and pushes the button to go up. The lift instead starts going down, and the Doctor realizes too late it is a trap. He turns to the robot, insisting he tells him why he's really here, why he was in pain before and who sent him.
On Segonax, that night, Kingpin musters the courage to ask the voice who it really is. It replies he may call him "the Master".
Inside the lift at Paradise Towers, the Doctor manages to get the robot's attention with his juggling long enough for it to finally relate to the Doctor his original message: it's a call for help from Kingpin, begging the Doctor to "save the soul of the Psychic Circus". The robot turns off immediately after, before the Doctor can discover what's the source of the interference stopping the robot from talking to him; however, the lift opens immediately after, and the Master reveals himself to the Doctor.
On Segonax, the Circus enjoys great popularity and fortune, but this doesn't appeal to Juniper Berry, who keeps sensing there's something wrong. Their worry only increases when, during a meeting of the artists, the Chief Clown convinces everyone to start selling merchandise and other souvernirs, transforming the Circus into an economic enterprise. Kingpin does not agree with this neither, but he is powerless to stop it. He confides Juniper Berry the voice doesn't talk to him anymore, but instead it seems to talk to the Chief Clown. Meanwhile, as the Chief Clown controls the bus and sees it's still working, the Master talks to him and, taking advantage of his desire to be "the greatest clown", makes him reprogram the robot acting as bus conductor, so that he kills everyone who tries to leave. At the same time, Morgana receives visions of the Doctor in her crystal ball as "the man who will destroy the Circus".
At Paradise Towers, the Master tells the Doctor he put the Circus together after the psychic storm on Zamyatin, and he's exploiting it as a source of psychic energy. He can do this thanks to a pendant given to him by the Gods of Ragnarok, allowing him to harness and redirect that energy. When the robot was sent to the Doctor, he interfered and threw the Doctor off course, leading him in both cases to a trap. The Master then takes off, leaving the Doctor on a psychic plane to perform in front of the Gods. The Doctor does so long enough for him to learn to manipulate the rules of the psychic plane and summon the TARDIS to him, thus managing to escape; then, he immediately takes off for the Circus, to stop the Master.
On Segonax, Juniper Berry gets angry once again when the Chief Clown, during a show, announces the Circus is holding a talent contest. The decision has been taken behind her back, by only a few people. Tired and disillusioned, she decides to leave the Circus once and for all. She asks Kingpin to come with her, but he refuses. Juniper reaches the bus and tries to leave, but she is stopped and strangled by the bus conductor. Not much later, Morgana sees the Doctor arrive on Segonax in her crystal ball.
The Doctor comes across the bus and a dying Juniper. With her last breath, she warns him about the robot bus controller. The Doctor is immediately attacked by it, but manages to resist and defeat it. He then resumes his travel towards the Circus, accompanied by a fan of the Circus, who came here to join in the talent contest. They see some kites in the sky, and the Doctor recognises them as the instruments which were used to check and/or kill the refugees when he came to the Circus. He tries to warn his companion, but she goes on to greet them and is killed in return.
The Doctor reaches the Circus, and is immediately snatched away by the Master on a psychic plane. The Master, who is wearing a pendant with an eye on his neck, gloats about his success into harnessing and exploiting the psychic energy generated by the artists of the Circus, and using it to feed both himself and the Gods of Ragnarok. The Doctor's reply to his boast is to start juggling again, and in doing so, he throws a ball in the air - and it does not come down. The Doctor then proves the Master is not really in control of the plane: not only the Gods are the real masters here, but the people in the Circus are able to control their own energy and can take it away.
The Doctor contacts first Morgana and then the Chief Clown, leading them to recognise the unhappiness and the loneliness leading them to pursue a life as artists. Both times, the Master is unable to stop him. Finally, the Doctor reaches Kingpin, the one who sent to him the junkyard robot to ask for help after Morgana told him about the Doctor being the one to destroy the Circus. The Doctor helps Kingpin to realise he is unhappy with what happened to the Circus, and also tells him about Juniper being dead. This proves to be the last straw for him. The Doctor gives him the pendant he snatched away from the Master while juggling, and Kingpin runs away to the heart of the Circus, where he found an eye at the bottom of a precipice. Kingpin breaks the pendant and in doing so breaks the Masyer's connection to the Circus.
The Doctor comes out from the psychic plane, leaving the Master in the Gods' grasp, and approaches Kingpin. The shock made him lose his sanity: now Kingpin is mentally impaired, a "deadbeat". The Doctor leaves him like that, while the rest of the Circus' artists wakes up as from a dream, their memories wiped out. The Doctor leaves, knowing that the situation will be solved once and for all when, in his past but in the Circus' future, he shall come back.
- The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy
- Kingpin / Robot - Chris Jury
- Juniper / Ragnarok God 2 - Anna Leong Brophy
- Morgana / Minister - Sioned Jones
- Chief Clown - Ian Reddington
- The Master - James Dreyfus
- Panpipe / Police / Bus conductor / Whydini / Ragnarok God 1 - Andrew Spooner
to be added
- The Planet Zamyatin is named for the author Yevgeny Zamyatin who wrote the Novel 'We' which inspired dystopian novels such as 1984 and Brave New World
- This story acts both as a prequel and a sequel to TV: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, as the Doctor has already been through the events of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, but all characters from the Psychic Circus haven't.
- When announced, this story's cover credited James Dreyfus for his role as the Master, but this credit was removed before its release, due to controversy.
- This story was recorded on 5 and 6 March 2019 at The Soundhouse.
- The Seventh Doctor previously visited Segonax in TV: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.
- Paradise Towers was previously the setting for TV: Paradise Towers.
- Upon seeing the Master, the Doctor remarks these are "early days" for him. This incarnation presented himself as the one who fled from Gallifrey in a stolen TARDIS. (AUDIO: The Destination Wars)
- The Doctor gathers that the Master is trying to get out of some "dark, little place", suggesting that he is still stranded on Destination. (AUDIO: The Destination Wars)