7J. The Greatest Show In The Galaxy

Season Twenty Five - 1988

Script Editor: Andrew Cartmel
Produced by: John Nathan-Turner
Writer: Stephen Wyatt
Director: Alan Wareing
Designer: David Laskey
Incidental Music: Mark Ayres
Magic Consultant: Geoffrey Durham (4)


Inside the TARDIS a strange robot materialises inside the control room and plugs itself into the console. On the main screen an advertisement runs advertising festival time at the Psychic Circus, the Greatest Show In The Galaxy. Ace turns off the advertisement, saying she finds circuses naff and boring. Apart from the clowns, which she finds creepy. The Doctor is tempted to join the talent contest himself to show off his spoon playing.

The robots plugs itself back into the console and taunts Ace, asking if she is scared. She tells it she is not scared of anything.

On the dusty planet Segonax two people are running from the Psychic Circus - Bellboy and Flowerchild. On the road the are being watched by the Chief Clown who has control over two kites in the sky. Bellboy and Flowerchild see the kites and know they are being tracked. They split up, and Flowerchild hands Bellboy one of her earrings for him to remember her. Bellboy tries to get the kites to follow him to let Flowerchild escape.

The TARDIS materialises besides the road, and not in a landing bay that people not fortunate enough to possess a TARDIS would use. Up ahead is a small fruit and vegetable stall, and the Doctor visits the stall holder to ask directions. The stall holder they meet is not as friendly as the Doctor had been led to believe. In order to win her over he and Ace purchase some of her fruit, and start to eat it - even though it is not to Ace's liking. As the Doctor asks the stall holder for information a loud three-wheel motorcycle appears, complete with biker in leathers and a winged helmet. Ace is interested in the bike, but the biker, Nord, tells her to get lost.

Nord is another act going to the circus. The Doctor asks Nord for lift, but he tells refuses, telling the Doctor he would do something unpleasant to his face, leaving the Doctor and Ace to walk to the circus.

As Bellboy is leading the kites away Flowerchild finds her way to an old bus stuck in the sand. Inside the finds a money box. She tries to get into it, and doesn't notice the bus conductor come up behind her.

As the Doctor and Ace walk down the road Ace is almost run over by the black hearse of the Chief Clown which does not stop. Ace goes up a banking and sees two more figures - Captain Cook and a girl - Mags. The Doctor and Ace introduce themselves. Captain Cook and Mags are also entering the talent show. Cook and Mags have been excavating a robot in the sand, and when Ace helps it re-activates and attacks, until Ace hits it over the head with a baseball bat.

Bellboy, exhausted, finds his way to the stall where he collapses. The hearse draws alongside and the Chief Clown asks about Flowerchild, before taking Bellboy back to the circus.

The Doctor, Ace, Cook and Mags, on the way to the circus, come across the bus. The bus is deserted, and the Doctor's instincts tell him something is wrong. Inside they find the robot bus conductor asking for fares. The Doctor confuses the conductor by asking for an elaborate ticket, and whilst the conductor pauses to calculate the ticket the Doctor uses the ticket machine to disable it.

Cook and Mags leave the Doctor and Ace and travel to the circus in their land rover. In the sand Ace finds a earring, and pins it to her jacket with the other badges she has collected.

At the stall another competitor for the circus, a boy, asks an exasperated stall holder for directions.

Inside the circus Bellboy is reintroduced to the ring. The audience is in darkness, and the spotlight is on Bellboy as lights start to strobe. This has an affect on Mags who starts to scream. Outside the Doctor can hear cheering, but Ace can also hear screaming.

Morgana welcomes the Doctor and Ace to the Psychic Circus. The Doctor notices the box office area has many kites featuring an eye motif. All around are posters showing past planets they have visited, but the circus has settled on Segonax. Ace is reluctant to go into the circus. Morgana attempts to warn the Doctor, but is interrupted by the Chief Clown, who beckons the Doctor inside.

The circus is dark, and the Doctor and Ace fumble around trying to find a seat. In the audience is a little girl asking her dad for an ice cream. But apart from the girl and her parents there is no-one else in the audience. When the performance starts the Doctor can see the ring properly - and the memorial stones around it. The Doctor is shocked when the Ringmaster announces he is the next act.

As the Doctor is taken to the dressing room Ace is stopped by the Chief Clown who is interested in where she got the earring from. Ace pushes past him and the Chief Clown orders other to follow her. Ace eventually finds Bellboy, tied up in one of the tents. Ace hides as the Chief Clown enters and tells Bellboy he is needed to repair the conductor.

In the dressing room the Doctor finds Captain Cook and Mags having tea with Nord. As soon as he enters a grill slams down, and drapes are removed revealing the Doctor, Cook, Mags and Nord are trapped in a cage. As the Doctor learns more from Cook about the circus more clowns arrive and take Nord off to be the next act.

The fourth contestant, the Whizz Kid boy, meets Morgana at the box office and announces himself as an entrant, and the Psychic Circus's greatest fan.

In the ring Nord, as a strong man does well, scoring all nines from the mother, father and little girl. But Nord is not prepared when the Ringmaster asks him for a joke, and he scores zeroes. From outside the ring, in the cage, the Doctor and Mags watch as a white strobing light appears. Inside the ring all that is left of Nord is a piece of is jacket. Using some clubs the Doctor had been juggling with he and Mags stage an argument, and when two clowns open the door to investigate the Doctor and Mags escape. Cook decides to stay behind.

In the corridors Ace is captured by the Chief Clown and locked inside a room that is full of robot clowns, making her uneasy. Especially when they begin to move. Just as they are about to close in a signal stops them, and Bellboy appears. He had been sleeping after repairing the conductor and not noticed the clowns attacking Ace. When Bellboy notices Flowerchild's earring on Ace's jacket he realises that she has been killed by one his robots. He gives Ace a robot control unit that controls the robot they found buried earlier.

Running through the tent corridors the Doctor and Mags come across some stone corridors with carvings similar to the stones in the ring. Mags becomes unsettled when she sees a blue crescent over the top of them, but the Doctor goes inside, and Mags reluctantly follows. They come across what appears to be a well, with a blue glow coming from the bottom. The Doctor tests it by dropping in one of the juggling clubs, and an eye appears in the blue glow. He is interrupted by Cook appearing with more clowns, saying the Doctor is next on in the ring. As they are led away Mags starts to growl when she notices the blue moons over the door, and the Doctor siezes the moment to escape.

The Doctor makes his way back to the box office, and sees the kites with the eye motif. Looking into Morgana's crystal ball he sees the same eye. He ducks down when another person, Deadbeat, comes into the box office and looks into the eye. He has a mirrored medallion around his neck containing an eye but no pupil. The Doctor follows him from the box office and catches up to him. Deadbeat just stands there vacantly before leading the Doctor to the room holding Bellboy and Ace.

Back in the box office the crystal ball shows the Doctor to the Chief Clown. He sends more clowns after him as the ringmaster prepares for the next act. It is due to be Cook, but he lets the boy go first. Unfortunately the boy is overwhelmed to be in the ring and is not entertaining to the audience.

In the room Deadbeat, who has gone out of his mind since arriving on Segonax, is muttering about not looking into the well. The Doctor realises he knows something about the well, and takes him and Ace back there. They have gone by the time the Chief Clown arrives. Bellboy tells the clown he will not tell him where they have gone, and instead activates the clowns who surround him as the Chief Clown leaves.

At the well Deadbeat tries to use the medallion, but nothing happens. Ace realises the missing pupil was on the bus. She and Deadbeat go back to find it as the Doctor returns to the ring. The Doctor proposes that he, the Captain and Mags should go into the ring together as one act. Captain Cook asks the lighting manager for the Devil Moon effect, and Mags is terrified of what is going to happen. As the lights dim and a blue light is shone on Mags she begins to growl and snarl as fangs emerge and she starts to head for the Doctor. This scores all nines from the audience. After a chase she turns on Cook.

Ace and Deadbeat make it to the bus, and Ace begins to look for the eye pupil, unaware that the deactivated conductor has been repaired. She finds the box and takes it outside, but as she tries to open it she is attacked. As she struggles she steps on the box, crushing it. Inside is the pupil, and once Deadbeat puts this to the medallion his mind is restored, and he back to Kingpin. He also remembers how to deactivate the conductor.

After the Doctor and Mags leave the ring there are no more acts to entertain the audience, except the ringmaster and Morgana. After they fail there are no more, and the audience calls for the Doctor. He tells Mags to find Ace and Kingpin whilst he returns to the ring as the Psychic Circus starts to become unstable.

The Doctor uses the crystal ball to open a pathway to the Dark Circus, home of the Gods of Ragnarok. The Gods tell the Doctor to entertain them... or die. The Doctor tries some basic magic tricks, but the Gods are not impressed at his playing for time.

On Seganox Mags finds Ace and Kingpin, but she is being pursued by the Chief Clown. Ace leads them back to Deadbeat's buried robot, and using the control Ace is able to destroy the robot clowns. Using the Chief Clown's car they drive back to well. After an altercation with the reanimated corpse of Captain Cook the medallion is dropped into the well, and the Doctor receives it in the Dark Circus.

The Gods had become bored with the Doctor, and started to fire at him. The Doctor is able to use the mirrored medallion to reflect the rays from the Gods of Ragnarok back at them, killing all three of them, and the Dark Circus starts to fall apart. As the Doctor leaves the Psychic Circus the circus explodes.

Regular Cast

  • Ace: Sophie Aldred

Guest Cast

  • Captain Cook: T P McKenna
  • Mags: Jessica Martin
  • Ringmaster: Ricco Ross
  • Chief Clown: Ian Reddington
  • Morgana: Deborah Manship
  • Whizz Kid: Gian Sammarco (1-3)
  • Bellboy: Christopher Guard (1-3)
  • Bus Conductor: Dean Hollingsworth (1,3-4)
  • Nord: Daniel Peacock (1-2)
  • Stallslady: Peggy Mount (1,4)
  • Flowerchild: Dee Sadler (1)
  • Dad: David Ashford (2-4)
  • Mum: Janet Hargreaves (2-4)
  • Young Girl: Kathryn Ludlow (2-4)
  • Deadbeat/Kingpin: Chris Jury (2-4)
  • Advertisement/Robot Junk Mail Voice: Dean Hollingsworth (1)
  • Clown Driver: Alan Rudolph (1)
  • Robot Operator: Jim Lancaster (1,4)
  • Clowns: John Alexander, Jeff Davies, Nicky Dewhurst, Raymond Dunstan, Earth G, Karl Magee, Paul Miller, Dave Pumfrett, Hugh Spight
  • Double for the Doctor: Tip Tipping (4)
  • Dad God: David Ashford (4)
  • Mum God: Janet Hargreaves (4)
  • Young Girl God: Lorna McCulloch (4)
  • Young Girl God Voice: Alan Wareing (4)

Original broadcast on the BBC

Channel Title Date Viewers Rating
BBC 1 678. Part One Wednesday, December 14, 1988 7:35 PM - 8:00 PM 5.0M 68%
BBC 1 679. Part Two Wednesday, December 21, 1988 7:35 PM - 8:00 PM 5.7M 66%
BBC 1 680. Part Three Wednesday, December 28, 1988 7:35 PM - 8:00 PM 4.8M 69%
BBC 1 681. Part Four Wednesday, January 4, 1989 7:35 PM - 8:00 PM 6.6M 64%

Outside Locations

  • BBC Elstree, Herts
  • Warmwell, Dorset


Part 1: At the climax of this episode, Bellboy's bottom makes a cameo appearance. When he's been thrown to the floor of the ring by the clowns you can just see that he's let his trousers fall down a little bit too far.