Doctor Who #114: The Dancing Floor

"Hunt the key to fit the door that leads out on the dancing floor; then escape the rhythmic beat, or you'll forever tap your feet."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 3 of The Celestial Toymaker. I supplemented this missing episode with a reconstruction (Part 1, Part 2). First aired Apr.16 1966.

IN THIS ONE... Steven and Dodo play a game of "Find the Key" in a play kitchen, then face dancing dolls standing guard on another fake TARDIS.

REVIEW: This episode starts just like the previous one. Steven and Dodo read a riddle, the Toymaster chooses a game and opponents (played by the same actors) for them, while the Doctor's disembodied hand works on a puzzle. Is there any reason to believe it won't end exactly like the previous one did? There isn't, and once again, Steven and Dodo go through the paces, get to a fake TARDIS, and receive yet another riddle. Sum zero. This time, however, I would actually believe it if you told me the visuals might actually enhance the episode. There seems to be comic business, like Steven having to lift the sleeping kitchen boy while searching for the key, and the dancing dolls, of course. On audio, we're left with a lot of music, and the shouty bits between the Soldier and Cook.

For this serial to really work, it would have had to make kids want to play the Toymaker's games as soon as the show ended. Or at the very lease, connect with them with games they recognize as their own. It doesn't do any of that. It's all cheating, boring death traps, and in this case, breaking plates and ransacking a kitchen. I bet the mums were real pleased with Doctor Who that week. In the absence of fun playable games, all the kids have to relate to is marital strife. Let's hope they didn't recognize ANYTHING from their lives then.

One might find a saving grace in the companions. While we still don't know much about Dodo - she's basically a dark-haired, less charismatic version of Vicki - she does get to be resourceful and empathetic in this episode. She's the one who figures out the game, and that the Toymaker's creatures are real people. Her apology to the Cook about rushing out and destroying her kitchen may finally be a defining moment for the character. Steven refusing to acknowledge her insight is both a mirror of his first adventure with Vicki in the Middle Ages, and a less than laudable ethical stance from a companion. It's not the first time Steven has put survival above the welfare of guest characters, and he might even be further traumatized by the loss of three traveling companions recently. I'm not surprised he would ignore inconvenient truths. He no doubt deserves the loss of dignity brought about by his forced dance. But we're only keeping time until the Doctor returns, aren't we?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Not as annoying as the previous episode, but annoying nonetheless. You can tell I'm starving for entertainment because I'm grabbing onto the least little bits of characterization.



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