Once Upon a Festival

This week Whovian Leap sets the coordinates for festivals past.

This November the Doctor Who Festival will allow Whovians of all ages to share their passion for Doctor Who and find out how the show is made. But where and when in the Whoniverse have we seen festivals in the show before? 

In the First Doctor adventure “The Chase” the Tardis lands inside a haunted house, part of a fairground attraction for the 1996 “Festival of Ghana”, which has been cancelled by Peking according to the ticket booth. Here the Doctor meets android versions of Dracula and Frankenstein. 

Two very early Second Doctor stories feature festivals. The adventures “The Underwater Menace” and “The Macra Terror” partially and wholly belong to that infamous category of “missing episodes”. In the former, the Doctor is ominously informed he will play a very important part in the “Festival of the Vernal Equinox”. Outside the Whoniverse we also know it as the March or Spring Equinox (vernal meaning fresh or new). Equinox means ‘equal night’ as the length of day and night is almost the same the world over. 

The latter story opens with a drum majorette and a band who are rehearsing for a festival performance at a colony living in a seemingly idyllic holiday camp. At the end of the tale the Doctor and his companions receive heart-felt thanks for saving the colony. Its leader proclaims that every year a dance festival will be held in their memory and winners will be awarded the “Strangers’ Trophy”. Sadly the scene of the Doctor and his companions dancing the ‘highland fling’ back towards the Tardis remains missing to this day. 
Curiously spelt Third Doctor adventure “The Daemons” sees a certain Professor Horner cause consternation at the quaint little village of Devil’s End. He is excavating at the local ‘Devil’s Hump’ in the hope of finding the tomb of a warrior cheftain. Controversially, he plans to open the hump as the clock strikes midnight on April 30, the day preceding the festival of Beltane (the anglicised name of the Gaelic May Day festival). 

The Seventh Doctor is happily juggling cricket balls in “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” when an odd little robot with two solar panels and an antenna on its head turns up. Cheekily flinging a lead onto the Tardis console, it starts up an ad on the ship’s scanner – “Yes, it’s festival time at Psychic Circus, the Greatest Show in the Galaxy. Why not come along and have the time of your life with the non-stop action of the glittering circus ring?” How could the Doctor and Ace possibly refuse?

In Nu-Who the Tenth Doctor, Rose and Mickey visit a certain capital city in “Rise of the Cybermen”, but it is not quite as we know it. Mickey observes, “Ok, so it’s London with a big international Zeppelin festival!”, but in fact the Tardis crew have travelled into an alternative dimension and it is not before long that the Cybus Cybermen stomp into action.

The Eleventh Doctor takes Clara to the “Festival of Offerings” in that marmite quasi-musical more commonly known as “The Rings of Akhaten”. He tells her that the festival takes place approximately every one thousand years. “It’s quite a big thing actually, like Pancake Tuesday” he reveals.

Undoubtedly the Doctor Who Festival will prove even more successful than Pancake Tuesday. But my pesky Metebelis Three spider-sense is tingling. Why call it a “festival”? Is it something to do with a potential discovery of certain festival-related missing episodes? I dare to ask this without the slightest shred of evidence, but for fans it would be like Christmas come early and make them feel very “festive” indeed!

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