Doctor Who #112: The Celestial Toyroom

"Whatever you do, neither of you must look at that screen. It's a trap."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 1 of The Celestial Toymaker, a story whose first 3 episodes are missing from the archives. Though I own and have listened to the at times painful audio CD narrated by Peter Purves, I'm using a reconstruction for purposes of these reviews (Part 1, Part 2). First aired Apr.2 1966.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS is drawn to the Toymaker's domain where the Doctor and his companions are forced to play games. The Doctor as a disembodied hand, and Steven and Dodo against a pair of clowns.

REVIEW: If you thought John Wiles tried to push Hartnell (and the Doctor) out of the series in The Massacre, that's nothing compared to new producer Innes Lloyd's turning the Doctor invisible in this serial in the hopes of turning him into a different actor when he came back around! Didn't work out, but if regeneration hadn't come along when it eventually did, SOMEthing like it was going to happen sooner or later. The opportunity comes at the hands of a surreal "sideways" episode with doll house sets and giant board games and toys. Anything can happen thanks to the Toymaker's magic tricks, so it might as well. Not that there's any logic to it. The Doctor is punished for trying to contact his friends, but there's no real disadvantage to being a disembodied hand and voice in this situation. But then I'm asking for logic from a god-like character who takes the likeness of a white man, yet dresses in a mandarin costume. Why? NO REASON.

It's interesting to note that the Doctor knows all about the Toymaker (played by Michael Gough) already. They've met before, though the earlier encounter was apparently brief (see Theories). This marks a paradigm shift for the series, no doubt introduced by Lloyd's regime, as the Doctor moves from explorer to know-it-all (a characterization that is still with us today). From now on, it won't be unusual for the Doctor to know as much of the future and other worlds as he does Earth and the past. It's a shift that comes without a proper period of "untold adventures", though we of course know he did some traveling with Susan before the series started. There IS the promise of using the Toymaker as a way to learn more about the Doctor's background - and Dodo's too, when she sees herself grieving for her mother in the robot's belly screen - but don't hold your breath.

Forcing our heroes to play games in order to regain their TARDIS is a premise that has potential, certainly, but there's a huge problem with the games themselves. The Doctor's trilogic game is particularly dull, a mathematical puzzle that will go on for four episode. And what is the purpose of the Toymaker advancing time to later moves? Isn't he just getting the Doctor closer to his goal? Steven and Dodo playing Blind Man's Bluff is only slightly better, but it's more about catching their opponents cheating (which they brazenly do) than winning, since the TARDIS they get to access is not the real one. I suppose the obstacle course would be more interesting if we had the visuals, but I somehow doubt it. Simple stunts like the maneuvers around the course played in real time like this are notoriously slow and boring. As audio, what we get is clownish music and lots of honks. Annoying. Just as the female clown Clara's high-pitched voice is. Nigh incomprehensible even. Maybe the sight of the clowns getting their strings cut when they lose and turning into twisted dolls would have been properly creepy. Maybe.

THEORIES: What IS the Toymaker? While commissioning story editor Donald Tosh meant him to be is another rogue Time Lord like the Monk (or at the time, another of "the Doctor's people"). Might explain the outfit, sure, but not necessarily the abilities . Extracanonical sources have it differently, turning him into the Crystal Guardian (in Craig Hinton's The Quantum Archangel), a Guardian of illusions and games. In Gary Russell's Divided Loyalties (a huge piece of fanwank), the two theories are brought together in the character of Rallon, a schoolmate of the Doctor's who is possessed by the Crystal Guardian. Russell uses this idea to explain why the Toymaker isn't actually ALL-powerful in this story despite being a Guardian (Rallon fighting him). If the Doctor recognizes an old friend here, it's played like his first meeting with the Monk, elusively. From the dialog, all we actually learn is that the Doctor was almost ensnared once, but escaped, and that the Toymaker enjoys a certain notoriety (on Gallifrey? in wider circles?).

VERSIONS: Peter Cushing once said in an interview that he believed his two Doctor Who films to be part of canon, thanks to the Toymaker. He liked to think that a future incarnation of the Doctor had his memory wiped by the Toymaker and was then forced to relive some of his earlier adventures in the Celestial Toyroom. (I wonder if he thinks that Doctor was brainwashed again and again and forced to play games in which vampires or Jedis played a role).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - There's the promise of something relevant and of a meaty role for Michael Gough, but it is not fulfilled here. Clowns and honks and invisible Doctors are what we get instead.


snell said...

I've always thought the Toymaker was one of the Eternals (eg Enlightenment). No real evidence, but he does fit the profile: immortal being, vast powers, attracted to eccentric entertainments, but needing mortals to shanghai and interact with...

Move along home!!

Siskoid said...

I don't know why they went with Guardian instead, frankly.


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