Recap: The Doctor and Ace are invited to the Psychic Circus, the Greatest Show in the Galaxy, but some very weird and evil things are going on. The Doctor is being forced to audition for the circus… but what’s the purpose behind it all and the disappearances/deaths of those who try out?

spoiler warning

Episode 3:

Mags asks why Cook brought them there, and he says survival of the fittest. The Doctor says they’re on the verge of discovering the secret behind the Psychic Circus, but Cook says he’s not interested. He says all that matters is the fact that, “Anyone dumb enough to get into the ring gets killed.”

The robots approach Ace, who tries to insist she’s not frightened. She tries the door, but it’s locked. She pulls the arm off one and they all freeze up. She knocks one down and the clatter wakens Bellboy who has been sleeping in there.

Leaving the tunnel, Mags looks up; the moon carving has gone from half to full moon. Mags begins reacting savagely, while Cook tries to talk her down. The Doctor runs off while the clown robots are distracted by her.

The little girl in the crowd says she’s bored, but her daddy says something has to happen soon.

The clowns escort Cook and Mags back, him prattling on about some story or another. Mags seems to be rather calm now.

In the entrance to the circus, The Doctor gazes into Morgana’s crystal ball, seeing the eye reflected. He says “Things are beginning to get out of control quicker than I expected.”

Hearing the simpleton approaching, he hides. The simpleton enters, pulls out an amulet with the eye on it, and begins murmuring, “No, no,” before running off. The Doctor slips off, too.

Bellboy sees Flowerchild’s earring on Ace’s jacket and says that one of his robots killed her. She asks how he could be sure, he says that every robot on the planet he made and maintains. He explains that everyone in the circus has one circus skilled they learned, his was making the robots. He gives her a control unit, which is apparently the one used to control the robot Ace and Mags were digging up in the first episode.

He talks about how things used to be, how they were happy, how they communicated and worked together.

The Doctor follows the simpleton, who is Deadbeat, though how The Doctor knows his name, I’m not sure. He postulates that Deadbeat wasn’t always simple, and wonders if he was punished for finding out something.

The Doctor talks some more, saying at least Deadbeat won’t turn him in to the others. Deadbeat smiles and agrees and tells him to follow.

Captain Cook and Mags are returned to the cage; the nerd recognises him but the clown tells him to shut up. Cook explains that it was Mags’ fault that The Doctor got away and suggests that she be next to the ring, but the clown says Cook will be next instead.

The Ringmaster finds Morgana, seemingly in a daze/funk/trance, staring into her crystal ball. She tells him that that which they found is here, will always be here. They both get frantic, but the Ringmaster says he’s only worried about the empty circus tent.

The clown arrives to tell them that The Doctor escaped and Cook failed them. The two men start arguing, both wanting to take charge. Morgana interrupts them to show them The Doctor and Deadbeat in the crystal ball.

Ace promises Bellboy she’s going to get him out, but he says there’s no point in leaving, the freedom of being what you want to be, the fun is gone. She gets up, saying she has to find The Doctor.

Bellboy says they took all that was bright and beautiful about the circus and buried it. Ace asks who ‘they’ are. “The ones who run the circus,” he answers, then continues, “the ones you met. But there wasn’t just them… there was…” He has difficulty expressing, but pins the earring back on Ace’s jacket, saying, “There was Flowerchild and Peacepipe and Juniper Berry and Deadbeat… no, he wasn’t Deadbeat then… he was.. he was…” but he can’t recall.

Someone rattles the door and they get afraid, but it’s Deadbeat and The Doctor. Bellboy remembers that Deadbeat was called Kingpin.

In the cage, Cook gets friendly with the nerd, asking about his interest in the Psychic Circus. The Ringmaster gives Cook the two minutes warning. Cook starts buttering up the nerd, obviously trying to get him to take his place.

Mags argues for him to not listen, but the nerd tells her that Cook is one of his heroes. Cook offers the boy his spot in the circus, saying “It is a sacrifice I am prepared to make.”

Bellboy and Deadbeat chant something in unison, something about sifting dreams and the mind divided. Bellboy tells Ace and The Doctor that Kingpin was the one who persuaded the circus to come here, that there was something he wanted.

Once they got there, something evil there changed the circus. The Doctor asks Bellboy about the well, but he doesn’t seem to recall. Deadbeat chants about looking in the well, “the eye gives you promises of heaven or hell”.

The Doctor says that Deadbeat knows what happened, he has the answers.

The circus starts up, the clowns come out, then the Ringmaster raps, introducing the circus’ greatest fan, the nerd. He comes out, saying this is a dream come true.

In the cage, Mags accuses Cook of sending him to his death. But he gets zeroes and is killed. Cook reminds her of his motto – “survival of the fittest”.

All that’s left of the nerd is his glasses.

The Doctor asks if they take Deadbeat to the well, will he show them the purpose. Bellboy says he’ll stay there, saying he could delay the Chief Clown. Ace protests, but he says there’s no point for him to go on, doing work he hates.

Morgana talks to the crystal ball, promising the eye that they’ll stay away from the bus, there will be more acts and they are all it’s servant. It communicates with her, but we don’t hear it, only her side. She says she never wanted to resist, pleading.

The Chief Clown arrives and Bellboy says he doesn’t know where they went. He says the clown was wonderful, funny, inventive once. The clown hits him and Bellboy activates al the robots, demanding they deal with him as they did Flowerchild. The chief clown leaves.

As they near the well, Deadbeat/Kingpin says he can’t do it. He tries to run but The Doctor and Ace stop him. He shows them what he did, holding up his medallion and he collapses. The Doctor says the medallion must have been used to summon the power in the well.

Ace laments not having any Nitro-9. They realise that something must be in the bus that the power doesn’t want them to find. Apparently they saw a bit of mirror there that matches Kingpin’s medallion, and they posit that’s what Flowerchild was after when she was killed at the bus.

Cook reminds Mags that he saved her on Vulpana, where she’d been shot with a silver bullet. She says she is well aware, but he didn’t save her for her sake, but because he wants something. She asks what he wants now, but he says all in good time.

A sinister edge to the seemingly ridiculous Cook. Interesting.

Studying the well, The Doctor says they’re so close and yet so far from understanding what’s going on. Kingpin gets up and backs away from the well. The Doctor tells Ace to take Kingpin to the bus to find the other piece of mirror, while he goes back to the ring.

She asks, “Are you off your head,” but he explains the circus needs acts. She says she thinks he’s crazy, not Deadbeat, and he replies, almost vehemently, “Anybody remotely interesting is mad… in some way or another.”

The family in the crowd complains about the acts never being any good or getting better.

The Doctor surrenders himself and is escorted back to the cage. He tells Mags that he didn’t waste his freedom and has an idea. He proposes they go into the ring together. Mags likes the idea and says Cook is in for it as well, getting assertive when he begins to argue.

Ace and Kingpin escape slipping out from the tent.

The Ringmaster introduces not one act but three. The Doctor, Mags and Cook enter, but Cook has a request, “A special lighting effect.” Mags pleads, “No,” but Cook goes on, requesting “that old Devil Moon effect.” Mags cries out at the lighting is queued and collapses to the ground, growling and snarling.

Cook explains what is already all so obvious – that’s she’s a lycanthrope. We get a transformation done via cut scenes until Mags’ teeth are all canines and her eyes lupine, her fingers end in claws. She roars and threatens everyone around her… and the credits roll.

Again, just lacking in the punch that should have had. Sigh. And Mags is the best part of this serial.

Episode 4:

Mags transformation goes a little further, fur on her limbs. The Ringmaster throws a whip to Cook, who uses it to keep Mags in line, while he pontificates how The Doctor is going to die at Mags’ hands and that the circus is only half of what’s going on here. He says they didn’t come here for fun… then corrects himself by saying, some of them did, but they’re all dead.

Clown robots unload the ticket taker and return him to the bus. It walks in.

Cook goes on about there are powers there that are ripe for plucking by those capable, like himself. The Doctor argues, saying he’s meddling in things he doesn’t understand.

Morgana and the head clown watch as Deadbeat and Ace go to the bus via Morgana’s crystal.

Cook begins relating another story, but The Doctor interrupts and calls him a bore. He sets Mags on The Doctor, who climbs the rigging to escape her.

At the bus, Kingpin sits outside, chanting about searching for the truth, while Ace finds a case. She calls out to Kingpin that she found it, while the ticket-taker robot watches her from behind a curtain.

Mags throttles The Doctor, who begs with her to overcome her urges. He escapes her by swinging to the far side of the audience, where the family of three seem to mentally attack him, their eyes glowing. The Doctor falls back into the ring, where Mags attacks him.

She backs off after a moment and ends up attacking Cook instead.

Ace brings the box out to Kingpin/Deadbeat, saying she can’t open it. He sits and rocks, only stopping to laugh when the ticket-taker comes up behind Ace and grabs her.

The case is dropped and stepped upon by the ticket-taker. It opens up and he takes out a piece of mirror, a small eye, placing it in his medallion. The medallion glows and he jumps up, saying he remembers, it’s beneath the robot’s cap.

The ticket-taker knocks Kingpin to the ground and continues to struggle with Ace. She knocks the cap off, revealing a button. Kingpin tells her to press it, which causes the robot to self-destruct.

Kingpin says he’s his old self, but nobody is safe until he gets the medallion back to The Doctor.

Mags has reverted and The Doctor helps her up as Cook’s body is carried off on a stretcher. The Time Lord and lycanthrope run off as the family father says in a booming voice, “WE WANT MORE.”

The Doctor and Mags leap through one of the holes that Ace had cut during her time running about and hide.

The little girl in the family talks with the same booming voice, telling the Ringmaster they want another act now. All three talk in the voice, but Ringmaster and Morgana plead with them for patience, saying they’ve done all they could.

The family says they have nothing more to give but their selves. The Chief Clown sidles away as his clowns grab them and put them in a basket, doing a disappearing act.

The Doctor sends Mags to find Ace and Deadbeat as he is called back to the ring by the booming voice. The Doctor heads back to the ring.

Mags escapes the circus, the clowns stopping as she runs off.

The Doctor enters the circus ring, but en route, there’s some weird effects like he’s stepping through dimensions, something we’ve never seen before, so I’m not sure the meaning or significance. He ends up in a sandy pit surrounded by stone.

And here we all are, at last,” he says, looking about. We see three stone figures seated up high and he addresses them, saying he’s surprised they brought him there. He remarks how difficult it must be, existing in two concurrent time spaces.

He notes the memorial stones, saying no wonder they look familiar and takes off his hat to acknowledge “the Gods of Ragnarok”.

Mags runs. The black car chases. The fruit-seller is moving her cart, which blocks the car. She chastises the clown.

The Doctor asks how many people they destroyed before Kingping came down. They tell him that he’s said enough, but he says he’s only begun, that he’s fought them throughout space and time. They say he’s in their realm now and must entertain them or die.

He says they “ain’t seen nothing yet”, and begins some physical comedy.

Mags encounters Ace and Kingpin, but the clown car is just behind her. Mags says Kingpin’s amulet is what they’re after. Ace has an idea and runs off, the other two following.

The Doctor talks about the beginning of life, wondering if it was the chicken. Then he starts coughing up an egg and does a magic trick. The Gods of Ragnarok are not amused.

Ace and friends hide behind the giant robot. When the clowns get there, they get out and the Chief Clown muses on “Bellboy’s greatest faiilure”. The Chief Clown calls out to them, saying Deadbeat won’t use the eye, he isn’t strong enough.

Ace uses the control Bellboy gave her to set the big robot against the clowns. It blasts them all, including the Chief Clown. Kingpin laments, “He used to be a great clown,” but Ace replies, “I never liked clowns.”

The Doctor does a dance and plays with rope, doing rope tricks. The Gods seem to be content to watch his shenanigans, aware he’s playing for time.

Ace and company get in the clown car.

The Doctor does more magic tricks. The Gods make it rain and he turns a snake into his umbrella which he uses to protect himself.

Ace, Kingpin and Mags enter the circus, passing the body of Cook, still laid out on a stretcher.

The Doctor performs an escape from a straight-jacket while hanging upside down. The Gods says he is trifling with them and they want something bigger. This seems to delight him to no end as he asks, “Do you?”

Kingpin leads the girls into the ring, but there’s nobody there. Kingpin says The Doctor “must be in the Dark Circus with the Gods. If so, there’s only one way we can reach him.”

Mags says the stone chamber is the way in, but Kingpin says they must be careful as they can sense the medallion’s presence.

The Doctor asks if he has the Gods’ full attention, noticing something is on their mind.

Kingpin warns the girls that the Gods will try anything to stop them. As they head towards their destination, Cook rises up and puts on his pith helmet.

The Doctor says for his finale, he will be using the powerful force of imagination. He holds up a piece of metal, saying it begins with this, which once was part of a sword, which belonged to a gladiator. He tosses the metal up and it transforms into a sword.

He catches the sword, saying that gladiator died in this ring to entertain them.

As they approach the pit, Cook steals the medallion from Kingpin. Mags says she thought he was dead and he says that he is.

The Doctor says he has fed them enough and they have found it indigestible. “So, I have taken myself off the menu.” He says it is over.

They command him saying he cannot stop. He says he already has. They threaten him with death, and he replies it’s just a matter of time, pointing the sword down at the sand.

Ace and Mags make a move for the medallion, but when Mags kicks it, it flies into the pit, landing before The Doctor’s sword. He picks it up and shields himself from the eye-blasts from the Gods.

Cook approaches the three, but stumbles into the pit.

The Gods continue to blast, The Doctor using the medallion to shield.

The circus above begins to shake and tremble. Ace and company rush to the exit.

The Dark Circus begins to fall apart. The Doctor strolls out calmly, the Gods seemingly unable to do anything but collapse with their surroundings.

The Doctor exits the circus topside, just before a huge explosion occurs.

The fruit-seller sees the explosion and remarks how there’s no consideration for those who already live there.

A pink tornado of energy/smoke destroys the circus.

Mags asks if Cook is done for, and The Doctor says yes, “But you’re just about to start.” Kingpin says he’s been thinking and The Doctor replies, “What better way for a circus to start than with a wonderful new thought?”

Mags says she’s afraid of being able to control herself, but The Doctor says she already has. Kingpin invites The Doctor and Ace to join their new traveling circus, but he says they have other galaxies to explore.

Besides, I find circuses a little… sinister,” he adds… and the final credits roll.

All in all, meh. Could’ve been a lot more fun, but wasn’t horrid. Still weak, one of the weakest of the McCoy era.

One more season!!!!!