The Celestial Toymaker
Target's Missing Season 23
The Nightmare Fair
|ISBN||0 426 20334 8|
|First Edition Cover||Alister Pearson & Graeme Wey|
|Synopsis: While holidaying in Blackpool, the Doctor discovers the Celestial Toymaker constructing deadly video games.|
A Review by Stephen Mills 22/4/01
The Nightmare Fair was to be the start of season 23. The setting was Blackpool Pleasure Beach it had an erratic Doctor that was starting to mellow and we had Peri who was also starting to get use to the role. This season had some promise, so how good is it.
There is a re-appearance of one of the Doctor's strangest nemeses ever. The Celestial Toymaker. The best part of the writing is reserved for him. The dialogue given proves he is enigmatic, very clever and cunning. It would have been interesting if Michael Gough had of returned as the Toymaker. The rest of the characters are awful. The Doctor knew what he was doing but there was no-one ever explaining it to us. It appeared that Peri and Kevin were an absolute joke. Peri was never adding anything to the plot and Kevin's only involvement is trying to find his brother. Also what's the point of having the Doctor landing in Blackpool and go to the pleasure beach if it has no relevance to the story. After the Doctor meets the Celestial Toymaker the setting has no relevance to Blackpool.
Also why would he want to develop computer games that killed people? Wouldn't it be better if he used the rides at the Pleasure Beach as traps which would at least have something similar with the original story in? It's a really badly written story that would have been an absoloute disaster as the opener to a season. It's complicated and confusing and with characters that have no purpose it's just really silly. It's also interesting that stories in the latter Tom Baker era had similar plot holes to the plot holes in this. The link is Graham Williams, who produced the latter Tom Baker era who wrote this story.
It can easily confuse the reader and in short it's awful and avoid it at all costs. 4/10.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 24/6/02
When the 23rd Season was cancelled, due to the apparent violent nature of Season 22, we missed out on a few stories with the Doctor and Peri. 3 stories have been released as TARGET paperbacks which were due to be shown as part of this season:- Nightmare Fair, Ultimate Evil and Mission to Magnus. The best story by far of this Missing Season is this one - The Nightmare Fair.
The Doctor takes Peri to Blackpool, which he was about to promise to do at the end of Revelation of the Daleks. Being from just outside Manchester, Blackpool was the source of many day trips and long weekends when I was a kid. Even a move over to the other side - Yorkshire - hasn't stopped me visiting there regularly. I was disappointed more than most when we didn't get to see Doctor Who filmed in one of my favourite places.
As tacky as Blackpool is, there is something remarkably alluring about all the bright lights, toffee apples, kiss-me-quick hats and penny arcades. You enter a world completely different from reality. One where thrills and spills are everyday occurences. One where you really can let your hair down, and have a truly wonderful time. A place totally devoted to the Entertainment of the Masses. The Pleasure Beach is the place to go for most of these thrills, and that is where this story is mostly set.
The wonderful thing is that I can really see the places and people of this story. It is not like some other Missing Adventures, I know these settings and these characters. Blackpool has a character all of its own, and I have sampled it many times. The 6th Dr and Peri were brought to life wonderfully on screen, and you can really see the multicoloured Doctor with his gorgeous Assistant (outfit out of Mysterious Planet was how I pictured her) marching past the Arabian Derby and Ice Cream Stalls. There is also the villain of this story - the Celestial Toymaker - also known to us thanks to Michael Gough's excellent portrayal in his own story. This is a story that I can picture with ease - and my enjoyment was all the keener for that.
Graham Williams is the scribe, and for someone who believes the story-telling is everything, he gives us a good one. The emphasis on Computer Games doesn't really interest me that much, but I have to acknowledge they were the most popular games of the mid 80s. Setting the story in Blackpool is a great idea, it perfectly fits the Toymaker's motives - giving a memorable backdrop to the action. Lurking in his lair the Toymaker is the central cog in the machine, and rarely has a Villain's lair been so brilliant. As the Toymaker's motives become clear as the story progresses, so we actually become sympathetic to his immortal plight. This is a great Villain, and he is backed up well by unfortunate souls such as Shardlow and Stefan. His is a lonely existence, which he desperately tries to alleviate with games, and players for those games.
Whenever I went on the indoor rides (Haunted House, Old Goldmine) in Blackpool, I always wondered what lurked in the dark places I wasn't allowed to go. Like the London Underground (which Web of Fear used to perfection) there is plenty of these unknown places at the Pleasure Beach. I used to imagine what it must be like for the workers, after hours. There must be a maze of passages that they use, that the public just can't see. Seeing as the Doctor, Peri and supporting character Kevin spend lots of time in these "unknown" passages - this book becomes something of a wish-fulfillment for me. Doctor Who is again going to the places that the mind can only dream of going to - but there is still that reality just a few yards away.
The story is highly representative too of the era it was due to be set in - mid 1980s. The arcade game market was booming, and the ultimate game the Doctor plays is indeed a Computer Game. The Toymaker recruits humans for the games, to make it more realistic. This is the only aspect though that makes me glad it is a book rather than a TV story. Computer games seem to date faster than most things, and combined with DW effects (that monster that emerges from the machine, for example) this would have meant massive spoilage to an otherwise great story.
Reading these Missing Books I found myself trying to understand the rational behind why it was never filmed. Why on earth we got Trial of a Time Lord instead of this is an astoundingly bad decision. This would have been Colin Baker's best TV story, probably (they could have spoilt it with the FX and production values, so I have to qualify it with a maybe!). You find yourself imagining where the Cliffhangers are, imagining this really as a TV story, just one that had been lost like may Black and White stories. Out of all the Missing Adventures out there, and there are a massive number these days, this is the one that really felt the most authentic. It must be the size of the book - matching perfectly the Target Novelizations of TV stories. It also has promoted an excitement within me for the shorter book, so many MAs outlive their stay. Seeing as the Novella is now a part of the Merchandise Market, I think they could really turn into real winners (just need the price to reflect the page count, there should be paperbacks of them really).
Nightmare Fair has all the great ingredients for a brilliant Doctor Who story. It has on display a marvelous Doctor, a wonderful Companion, a completely interesting yet unusual villain. Combine this with a memorable setting and a good story, this is great Doctor Who. 9/10