The Greatest Show In The Galaxy


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The Greatest Show In The Galaxy

Serial Code


First Transmitted

14 December 1988

Final Ratings







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Regular Cast

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace)

Guest Cast

David Ashford (Dad), Christopher Guard (Bellboy), Janet Hargreaves (Mum), Chris Jury (Deadbeat), Deborah Manship (Morgana), Jessica Martin (Mags), TP McKenna (Captain Cook), Ian Reddington (Chief Clown), Ricco Ross (Ringmaster), Gian Sammarco (Whizzkid).


Written by Stephen Wyatt
Directed by Alan Wareing
Produced by John Nathan Turner


The TARDIS takes The Doctor and Ace to the planet Segonax, the latest home of the famous Psychic Circus.

But Ace finds the clowns a bit creepy and would much rather stay out in the sun, which may be just as well…

This is no ordinary circus and people come from planets far and wide to audition for the opportunity to take part. But there’s a darker side to the show – who are the three members of the audience upon whose whims the performers’ lives depend?

And why is the Chief Clown driving a hearse and trying to capture the local youths?


1 “Part One” 24:23 14 December 1988 5.0m
2 “Part Two” 24:20 21 December 1988 5.3m
3 “Part Three” 24:30 28 December 1988 4.9m
4 “Part Four” 24:24 4 January 1989 6.6m


  • An asbestos scare at the BBC studios prompted the idea of a story that could be shot outside the studios, inside a large tent and outdoors.
  • Ace tries on the Fourth Doctor’s scarf and Mel’s blue and white polka dot jacket.
  • This story was originally a three-parter but was expanded, at the request of the producers, to four.
  • Ben Aaronovitch suggested the character that became Captain Cook.
  • Whizz Kid, the fan character, was a deliberate parody of Doctor Who fans.
  • Sylvester McCoy was coached in magic by Geoffrey Durham, otherwise known as the Great Soprendo, for the sleight-of-hand and other magic trick scenes. This was the first time a magic consultant had been involved in the production of a Doctor Who story since The Talons of Weng Chiang in 1977.
  • The rap song heard during the serial was the first original song commissioned for Doctor Who since “The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon” in The Gunfighters.
  • The next original song for the series would be “Song for Ten” in The Christmas Invasion.
  • Ian Reddington (Chief Clown) would later play Nobody No-One in A Death in the Family.
  • Part Three was originally to have featured a short scene where two of the robot clowns unload the newly-repaired Bus Conductor from the hearse near the bus, and the
  • Bus Conductor then walks back to the vehicle. However, because Part Three was overrunning, this sequence had to be ed out of the finished programme and was moved forward to Part Four, which was running slightly under-length. Because of the last-minute nature of this, Dean Hollingsworth (Bus Conductor) was still credited on-screen for Part Three, even though he did not appear.

    Order Greatest Show in The Galaxy BBC DVD Page
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