Just released on DVD this week is a Special Edition of the classic Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters. The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo (Katy Manning) are on their way to a distant planet when they accidentally land the TARDIS on a cargo ship in the Indian Ocean circa 1923. Escaping the crew, who seem to have no short-term memories, they find themselves sloshing through a marsh.
A marsh on a cargo vessel? Yes. They are actually inside of a machine that miniaturizes things, providing shrunken habits for shrunken animals. This marsh is a dangerous place, teeming with carnivores, and the pair seek to escape. The Doctor manages to get out, after being separated from Jo, and finds himself in an unexpected place.
You see, the machine is a Miniscope, and it belongs to a traveling showman whose name is Vorg (Leslie Dwyer, Hi-de-Hi!). Vorg is bickering with the members of a tribunal council who won't let him show his machine on their planet. This fight threatens the Doctor as he goes back into the machine to rescue Jo.
Vorg is a petty criminal, in the (proud?) tradition of such tricksters as Harry Mudd and Harold Hill. He isn't malicious, but he is selfish and greedy. He will do the right thing only when forced to. This is evident in the story throughout, and gets some ice icing on the cake when Vorg is forced to use the old 'three magum pods and a yarrow seed' trick just to try to buy his way home. For those not familiar with the contest, think of the classic shell game one might see on the street corner. It's a nice touch that viewers can relate to right away.
Interestingly, in Doctor Who's universe, the Time Lords have banned machines such as the Miniscope. One wonders why. Yes, it is inhumane to keep intelligent beings trapped in there, but is it any worse than a zoo for the animals? In fact, it might be better than a zoo, because their natural habitat is fully recreated, rather than being behind literal bars. Unless the Time Lords think all zoos are cruel. Carnival of Monsters doesn't go into this deeply, but it's something worth thinking about.
Carnival of Monsters was originally slated as a serial for season nine, but was pushed to season ten to make it easier for legendary Who producer Barry Letts to direct that adventure. Apparently, timing is important to someone so intricately involved in the show.