Doctor Who #115: The Final Test

"Lady Luck will show the way, win the game or here you'll stay."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 4 of The Celestial Toymaker, the sole surviving episode from this story and available in the Lost in Time DVD set. First aired Apr.23 1966.

IN THIS ONE... Steven and Dodo play TARDIS hopscotch and the Doctor finally wins the trilogic game, destroying the Toymaker's world.

REVIEW: While you can give a missing episode the benefit of the doubt, it's harder to do when there's a surviving piece of the same story and it's this bad. There's almost nothing I don't find annoying in The Final Test (of my Patience). Steven and Dodo are once again forced to play a stupid game, and TARDIS hopscotch is a tedious, sluggish exercise in jumping from one platform to another, counting their hops even when counting wouldn't matter (it's always "Go back to 9" and never "Go back 3", for example). Their adversary is the snarky grown-up schoolboy Cyril, who's always revealing new rules that hamper the players, or else playing pranks on them that screw their strategy. Steven - or maybe I should say Peter Purves - looks mighty annoyed throughout, and Dodo lets herself be tricked through her native empathy. There's a quick moment when Cyril fries on the electrified floor that approaches a moment of body horror, but otherwise, this whole section looks shoddy and moves at a snail's pace.

If time is moving slowly in the hopscotch set, it seems to stand still over at the trilogic game table. Though we may be comforted that the Doctor finally reappears, the dialog between him and the Toymaker is just atrocious. Brian Hayles (or whoever rewrote the dialog) is making them say science-fictionny things and adventure-serially things, but none of it sounds natural. Never mind Steven and Dodo's debate about whether the TARDIS they reach is real, or the Doctor explaining the plot no less than twice. Just as Cyril seemed to invent new rules to his game as a way to keep the damn thing going (and going and going and going), the Doctor reveals the rules of the Toymaker's universe late in the game for the same reason. If you lose, you become a doll (that we know, and they at least went to the effort of making little doll chairs for the companions). If you win, the world is destroyed and so are you. What?! That comes out of nowhere, and means the Toymaker's other victims were destroyed at the end of the episode, no one giving them a second thought. The way the Doctor gets out of it, by imitating the Toymaker's voice - an ability never seen before or since - is as cheap as Cyril slipping and falling just as he won the game. Shouldn't the deus ex machina in this story actual help the "deus"? Well, if we're going to have manufactured dilemmas, we might as well have manufactured solutions. Cue gurning from Michael Gough.

And quite the cliffhanger! The Doctor gets a toothache! Oooh! Of course, it's made to look like Cyril's sweets were dangerous or poisonous, so I'm being a little bit facetious. But I do have to entertain myself somehow.

VERSIONS: There's a novelization of this, and from what's I've read, it both adds detail to the story and downplays the already slim ethical dilemma. No thanks.

REWATCHABILITY: Low - Slow, limp and annoying. I'm getting a toothache of my own just thinking about it.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Low - An attempt at surrealism and creating a recurring villains fails abominably thanks to tedious repetition, boring games, and the Doctor's absence for most of it. The Toymaker might have been a contender, but I can't exactly feel sorry his 6th Doctor match-up never materialized. An annoying bore.

4 comments:

Toby'c said...

"The Toymaker might have been a contender, but I can't exactly feel sorry his 6th Doctor match-up never materialized"

Have you heard the Big Finish version of The Nightmare Fair?

Siskoid said...

Not yet, nor have I read the Target novel. I HAVE seen the Toymaker in other stories, however, and he's fine in a Mxyzptlk kind of way, but the way the Doctor seems to presage his return, you'd think he'd have been a recurring enemy. That he wasn't is really not a problem for me.

The Mind Robber is the same kind of story, but much better IMO.

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up, this story was spoken of as a lost classic. Interesting how many balloons the recons have punctured.

The Master used to imitate voices during the Pertwee era, didn't he? Maybe it's a Time Lord thing.

Siskoid said...

I don't blame the recons, I blame the discovery of this last episode. We can safely assume the 3 others were of similar quality.

 

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