Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: The Celestial Toyroom
Review by: Michael Hickerson
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.
Last Updated: 10/25/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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