THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

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The Celestial Toymaker

Episodes 4 'We shall amuse ourselves for all eternity!'
Story No# 24
Production Code Y
Season 3
Dates Apr. 2, 1966 -
Apr. 23. 1966

With William Hartnell, Peter Purves, Jackie Lane.
Written by Brian Hayles. Script-edited by Gerry Davis.
Directed by Bill Sellars. Produced by Innes Lloyd.

Synopsis: The Doctor, Steven, and Dodo are trapped by the Toymaker in his world of deadly games. Only if the three win their assigned games will they be allowed leave. And the Toymaker refuses to lose...

Note: Episode 4 is available on The Hartnell Years. Audio recordings of episodes 1-3 are available at Missing Doctor Who Reconstructions & Audios.


Reviews

"A last present from the Toymaker..." by Nick Waghorn 30/6/98

The Celestial Toymaker is usually quite highly regarded by fans but even then I think it is undervalued. This is especially evident when considering that Gerry Davis dashed off an episode a day during desperate rewriting, and yet it still shines.

Additional problems came from the fact that, of the regulars, Hartnell was ill, Jackie Lane was still establishing herself and Peter Purves was... well, Peter Purves. It was therefore left to the supporting cast to carry the majority of the story--an unenviable task.

But what a good job they did. Faced with the problems of dashed off dialogue and having to play no less than three different parts each, Carmen Silvera, Peter Stephens and Campbell Singer still manage to make every character three dimensional and human (as opposed to faceless opponents). Especially of note are Sergeant Rugg and Mrs. Wiggs: this is proof not only of their acting skills, but also of Gerry Davis' ability to do convincing last minute scripts.

The only problems I have with the supporting cast are Peter Stephens' inexcusable amount of fluffs in "The Final Test" (his appalling shout of Yaaaaa!), and the slightly bombastic clown, Clara. However Peter Stephens also demonstrates a peculiar ability to play a malevolent schoolboy believably. My favourite excerpt is his description of floor being electric.

Michael Gough's performance as the eponymous villain of the story has often been praised, and I have to agree. He lends an enigmatic and sinister air to the Toymaker, making him as surreal and lethally charming as his world.

As for the technical side, what few effects are used are used well, particularly the Toymaker's friction drive desk. Cyril the schoolboy's charred doll corpse is bravely horrific for the time it was made and heightens the feeling that under the jolly veneer of the Celestial Toyroom lies nastiness. On a more amusing note is the 'hopping' trilogic game piece at the end. Admittedly the music isn't great, but it does its job well enough. The direction is careful, and uses close-ups well, especially in the dolls' various demises.

Finally, the ending is well done, showing genuine ingenuity on the Doctor's part, something that would sadly fade out towards the end of the Pertwee era. The Toymaker's smug laugh at the Doctor's first failure at escape is effectively placed.

Overall, I would say that this story, although already highly regarded should be given more credit (it only came 64th in a recent poll), partially due to its overcoming of production problems. The plot, although simplistic, is weird and enjoyable enough to avoid tedium. If you don't have the remaining episode on The Hartnell Years, I can recommend it for a nice, whimsical spot of Who. 8/10


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 12/6/99

What The Celestial Toymaker does and does well is trick the viewer into believing it is one thing, when it is something else all the time. This is one of the story`s greatest strengths, in that the viewer doesn't know what will happen next. There are some clever ideas here including the concept of the Toymaker himself, and the idea of having to play games to ensure your survival.

Despite being highly regarded by the fans, it was beset by problems including rewrites, yet still manages to prove to be a good example of science-fantasy as opposed to science-fiction and a good example of the Hartnell era.

Visually The Celestial Toymaker is a great triumph drawing on the imagery of seemingly innocent childrens toys,and using it to great effect. Of particular note, are the deaths of the characters, especially Cyril`s which is both shocking and effective. The acting is of a high standard with Michael Gough stealing the plaudits here, posing a greater threat than normal, because of his cool demeanour, and the situation the TARDIS crew are in. William Hartnell isn`t present long enough to make his presence felt, Jackie Lane was still finding her feet as Dodo, Peter Purves as Steven is no more or less than average and Peter Stephens is (like Carmen Silvera and Campbell Singer as Clara and Joey the clowns) annoying; although this is obviously intentional if Steven`s reaction to them is anything to go by. Peter Stephens does succeed,perhaps more so than Silvera and Singer, in making Cyril a schoolboy malevolant and menacing. As much of this tale relied on visual action rather than spoken dialogue, the music should`ve been something special and more memorable than what the end result was, as it seems light and lacking any sense of danger.

Overall The Celestial Toymaker then isn`t everything the fans would have you believe,it is certainly memorable as it branches out into uncharted territory for Doctor Who, but it isn`t an all time classic either.


Singer, Silvera and Sinister by Tim Roll-Pickering 1/11/01

Based on the Loose Cannon reconstruction.

This is another experimental story in a season that contains some of the most diverse stories in the entire history of the series. The Celestial Toymaker at first looks like a whimsical piece of light entertainment but it rapidly becomes clear that there is so much more going on, making for a much more sinister adventure than initially expected.

As with the earlier The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve, the Doctor is for the most part absent from the action in this story, playing the Trilogic Game. This helps to add to the sense of urgency as Steven and Dodo have to finish all their games before the Doctor does, but the Toymaker is determined this will not happen and routinely speeds things up a bit. One thing that doesn't come off well is the whole reason for the Doctor to be invisible since the Toymaker is shown as being powerful enough to deal with Steven.

The guest cast are good, with Campbell Singer and Carmen Silvera both taking on no less than three separate roles, each distinct from the others. Of the three the best is the King and Queen of Hearts in The Hall of Dolls, concealing their menace as they try to trick the Jester into testing one of the deadly chairs and eventually forcing each other to sit down in one together.

Michael Gough excels as the Toymaker, dominating every single scene he's in, even when his appearance is on a monitor or over the phone! The ever present menace of the Toymaker gives depth to the simple games played and the accompanying music manages to strike the right balance between childishness and death traps. The story is successful in turning likeable images such as clowns, playing cards, dolls and naughty schoolboys into things of menace.

The plot is a little simplistic and could easily allow for episodes to be cut, but it allows for each one to spring a whole set of new surprises This is very much a character and set piece and it comes off nicely. 9/10

This reconstruction uses a lot of photographs and screen grabs but because of the highly visual nature of the episode it is very hard to reproduce completely some of the scenes such as obstacle course in The Celestial Toyroom or the The Dancing Floor itself. However most scenes are easy to follow and the text captions make up for any deficiencies on the picture side. The Final Test has also had a 'Next Episode' caption inserted (on the existing copy, the caption has been noticeably cut) which is a nice touch and there's an introduction and conclusion by Peter Purves. This is highly recommended. 9/10


Best first Doctor story by Mike Jenkins 26/11/01

Sometimes wacky fantastical scripts aren't carried off very well and drag considerably (The Massacre), others work very well (The Space Museum) and this story is one of the latter. The acting has the right air of over the top so that one is fully convinced that this is indeed a fantasy world. This is easily Peter Purves best performance in the show. His male airhead quality play well of this out of this world Piccadily Circus in space. Jackie Lane was never really impressive and this probably has to do with why she wasn't on the programme very long. She said it herself twenty years later in a DWM interview "It's difficult reacting to monsters because well they're not real". It was for her. She was nicely characterised but poorly acted. I think the best aspect of her character was her piano playing in The Gunfighters but unfortunately thas was a below par story. Fortunately, her acting doesn't interfere with what is easily a 10/10 story with wackiness which fitted well with the senile interpretation by William Hartnell. The goofy voices of the incidentals are very comical and will have you in stiches within seconds. What it's all about.


A Review by Michael Hickerson 21/4/03

Outside of a complete copy of The Tenth Planet, I think the one Harntell-era story I'd most like to see return to the BBC Archives would be the third season's The Celestial Toymaker. I'd even go as far as to trade all the complete episodes of The Ark and The Gunfighters for the missing three episodes of this one. I wouldn't even bat an eye as I did so.

There's just something about The Celestial Toymaker that I like. Yes, it's a fairly standard Harntell story -- the crew is separate from the TARDIS and must fight their way back to the ship and safety. But it's a more surreal threat than we see in many of the Hartnell stories -- it's not a rampaging group of Daleks or the forces of history that our heroes contend with. Instead, they are forced into a series of seemingly innocent, but possibly deadly games, in which the very prize is not only the TARDIS but their freedom as well. That dicotomy of simple games played for high stakes is surreal and interesting and its enough to keep me interested for the entire course of the story. Added to that is the extra little bit of suspense -- the Doctor cannot finish his game before Stephen and Dodo finish there. This little tid-bit drives the story forward and keeps the suspense boiling just under the surface in a rather effective manner.

In a lot of ways, The Celestial Toymaker reminds me a lot of two other very surreal Who stories -- Greatest Show in the Galaxy and Warriors' Gate. Like Greatest Show, Toymaker features innocent childhood images such as clowns, games of Chutes and Ladders, etc. but which have turned deadly in the harsh reality of the Doctor Who universe. And like Warriors' Gate, the sets are relatively minamalist, featuring large expanses of white, which make the Toymaker's realm seem both eery and un-Earthlike. (It's also probably quite a cost cutting measure for the BBC).

The story also features some nice performances. Michael Gogh as the Toymaker is a delight as are the toys, who all seem to play multiple parts. Ceril is just the right amount of over the top threat and the two clowns are remarkably effective for 60s Doctor Who. The regular cast is also in good form -- most notably Jackie Lane who isn't quite as annoying as Dodo in this story as she was in The Ark. (That's probably damning by faint praise). And even in his limited role, Hartnell shines as the Doctor. His duel with the Toyamker is nicely done in episodes one and four and I honestly wish we'd seen more of this. Or that we'd seen the Toymaker crop again on screen (he was scheduled to appear in the original season 23 and he has been the focus of several enjoyable Who novels).

Alas, we only have one complete episode of this one and the audios and pictures from it. It's a shame really because I think if the whole thing were still available to a wide audience it might not only be one of the greats of the Hartnell years but all of Doctor Who. So if anyone's got those first three episodes, I've got eight complete episodes from The Ark and The Gunfighters that I'd be more than happy to trade.


A Review by Joe Ford 19/3/04

I think black and white Doctor Who has a huge advantage over the colour output and that is the ability to hide gaudy design, shoddy effects and cheap looking sets... just turn down the lights and you are transported into a black/white house of horror. Little money is needed here to create good tension.

However when a story is written to be deliberately vibrant, with childish design work and up chuckingly bright colours sprayed across the screen it comes at a slight DISadvantage that the story is broadcast in black and white. Where there should be laughs there is menace, surrealism takes on an altogether more sinister tone no matter how gigglesome the scripts are.

In what is clearly the oddest story in Doctor Who's canon to this point (in an era far before the word 'oddball' was created) this happens to work in its favour presenting a horror story for kiddies that will really make an impact on them. Basically it's just one long kids party, with lots of fun games like 'choose the TARDIS', hunt the key and musical chairs but with one small difference... these games are deadly and one wrong move and you are deader than an Alzarian monkey causing the extinction of the dinosaurs. What better way to drag the children into this world than forcing them to watch dolls get sliced in half, Billy Bunter getting electrocuted and clowns cheating their way through an obstacle course. It is outlandishly childish and sinister at the same time, not an easy effect to achieve.

I can fully understand why viewers at the time refused to fall under the story's spell, for four weeks in 1966 the Doctor and co play party games with the King and Queen of Hearts and such... I mean it's hardly The Dalek Invasion of Earth is it? But therein lies the genius of the story and the bravery of the production team of the time, to get behind and create something this deliberately perverse and different only goes to expose the creativity that was driving the show at the time. In the show's first six years this was easily the most imaginative story to be produced, full of witty lines, fun characters and truly bizarre ideas and it wouldn't be until Pat Troughton's The Mind Robber that anything close to being this weird would be attempted.

Season three is so underrepresented I am (at times) tempted to attend law school, getting my honours degree and then take fan opinion to the courtroom to argue its strengths. This was one year where you could never predict where Doctor Who was going, from moral story to historical comedy, from Dalek epic to intimate drama, from SF invasion to surrealist nightmare... with more ingredients than you would dare to use in, say, a Hinchcliffe or a Williams season, the change in production team brought about a wonderful gift of the impossible... the next story could be ANYTHING... hell they could even try a Western if it suited them! And The Celestial Toymaker is slap bang in the middle of all these switching genres, proud, bold and undeniably wonderful.

Can I just get something off my chest? I think that Dodo (Steve Lyons invented a wonderful reason for her choosing this name but it still sucks) is by far the least effective companion the Doctor ever travelled with. Partly because of Jackie Lane and her ever changing repertoire of accents and partly because the Doctor and Steven are such thoughtful characters they pretty much erase poor Dorethea from existence. Dodo was around in some of my favourite Hartnell stories (The Gunfighters, The Massacre) but the terrific plots and guest characters always overshadowed her. In truth she was merely and amalgamation of Susan (groan) and Vicki (yippe!) with nothing to define her other than her upper/middle class/northern/southern accents. However...

...for some completely bizarre reason she squeezes into The Celestial Toymaker really well. The only reason I can think of is because the story is so idea orientated and does not require a companion to have any sort of personality at all, all she has to do is play the games and stick her tongue out at the baddies and cheer when they win. These Dodo does with great aplomb but its hardly rocket science is it? Hell maybe even Adric could have excelled here. Besides Dodo's costume is so radioactively awful (or wonderful) it far outshines her personality and even suggests she has some kind of individuality. Hah! Yeah right.

The greatest innovation yet to the Doctor Who universe, the Toymaker, this lonely, bored solitary figure who wants desperately for somebody to share his time with. He is such a twisted, perverse character, expertly played by Michael Gough you cannot help but like him despite all the trouble he puts the crew through. He pretty much sums up the Doctor Who formula with his 'rules of conduct', play the games with skill, defeat the evil mind and you can get back to the TARDIS and escape. But he has more fun with them than that, tugging at Steven and Dodo's minds and yanking out disturbing versions of games they recognise. If only all villains could be this thoughtful, to allow the Doctor and co to have some fun whilst putting their lives in jeopardy...

Carmen Silvera is an actress I have long admired and her triple turn in this story, Brian Hayles brilliantly writing a large cast of characters that can be played by the same actors, is extraordinary. I love her Queen of Hearts the most, such an upper class, prissy and nefarious bitch! The guest actors all throw themselves into the strange roles they are asked to play but Silvera outshines the others, a brilliant foreshadowing of her unforgettable turn as Edith in 'Allo 'Allo!

The music is sympathetic to the story, deliciously odd throughout with lots of xylonophonic (huh?) cues and drum crashes to implicate how much fun this is supposed to be (for those of you who haven't figured it out already!). It does leave the soundtrack fairly vague though; much of this story relies on its deliriously visual impact and with Peter Purves breathlessly trying to describe all the goofy action. It leaves the audience on a limb, desperate to see what is happening and frustrated that they can't. A shame because the delightful fourth episode proves in monochromic glory just what a laugh everybody is having.

Hartnell's sudden disappearance is hardly a shock at this point in his tenure. I should imagine regular viewers were estimating when he would vanish throughout a story at this point and shocked when he actually managed to make it in for the full four. This story falls on Steven and Dodo's shoulders really and Hartnell really doesn't make much of an impact for good or ill except his rather brilliant toothache acting in the last scene. Hysterical!

The Celestial Toymaker has been rather underrated after its recent release on audio, many Doctor Who stories were written densely because the producers knew it would be the ideas rather than the realisation of them that would succeed. However here was The Celestial Toymaker breaking all the rules, deliberately aiming to thrill its audience with its wacky sets and murderously crazy ideas. It is easy to dismiss the soundtrack but go and look at the pictures, read the novelisation... this is a superb piece of weirdness from a season that knew how to push your buttons.


A Review by Finn Clark 16/4/06

I used to think everyone loved The Celestial Toymaker. It has one of the show's most surreal and attention-grabbing concepts, as weird as The Mind Robber but more iconic and with a funkier title to boot. The Doctor Who Appreciation Society newsletter was called the Celestial Toyroom. The Toymaker returned in comic strips, unmade stories from Colin Baker's missing season and hilariously awful PDAs by Gary Russell.

Then I saw the surviving episode and I amended my rule to "everyone loves The Celestial Toymaker unless they've actually seen the bloody thing".

I've since rewatched it and my opinion has improved a little. It's still much less successful than The Mind Robber, being a random assortment of arbitrary and not necessarily memorable set-pieces in which the Doctor's so sidelined that William Hartnell took a holiday during the show. The surviving episode's problem is the fact that hopscotch is boring. Peter Stephens is parodying Billy Bunter, the fat owl of Greyfriars, but that won't mean much to viewers today. I'm no great fan of parody at the best of times, which often seems to think that taking sideswipes at more famous material is an excuse for not creating any real drama or jokes of your own. However the death knell is unfamiliarity with the parodied source material.

However what's good about this story is the characters and the acting. The Toymaker's victims are fun, but best of all is the Toymaker himself. Played by Michael Gough, one of the stalwarts of British horror and cinema in general in a distinguished sixty-year career, he's great value even if he's not quite up there with Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee. I love his final confrontation with William Hartnell, in which two heavyweights go head to head. The story may overall be less sinister than I'd like, but Michael Gough occasionally gave me the creeps. He's not dead yet, by the way, and you can hear him in Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride despite his being ninety next year.

Apparently the production team were considering having the Doctor altered by his Toymaker-induced invisibility, as a way of replacing the show's cantankerous lead. The idea was overruled, but after this in the end Hartnell only stayed for five more stories. I was also surprised to see that in episode four Steven can pre-set the TARDIS controls for dematerialisation!

This story marks the first appearance of one of Doctor Who's minor motifs: the idea that bored immortals end up playing arbitrary and lethal games with the lives of lesser beings. This idea would return in Enlightenment, The Five Doctors and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, not to mention novels like Terrance Dicks's Players trilogy, although I'm not suggesting for a moment that any of those writers were aware of the Whoish precedents.

I'd also like to praise the visuals, in an odd Blue Peter kind of way. I believe that black-and-white Doctor Who stories could achieve things that would never have worked in colour. The Web Planet is one example (though not everyone agrees) and The Celestial Toymaker is arguably another. Black-and-white lets the show sidestep naturalism and create a more abstract visual experience with charms all its own. As was shown by Endgame (DWM 244-247), the Celestial Toymaker works best in a high-concept world of strangeness and bold visual design... television can't match the comic strips there, but things like casting the same actors three times over in different sets of roles show that the production team weren't afraid to push a few boundaries.

The Celestial Toymaker may not be a completely successful experiment, but I admire it anyway. Season Three pushed the boundaries of what could be done in the show's format and was arguably the last time Doctor Who wasn't working to a formula until the JNT era. The Celestial Toymaker was the bravest experiment of a year not otherwise lacking in courage and is still a high water mark of how weird Doctor Who can be when it really puts its mind to it. The novelisation stinks, though.