Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Bill Sellars
Steven and Dodo continue to make their way through The Toymaker’s games. Really. That’s it. Nothing more to see here.
When you look at the basic plot of The Celestial Toymaker, it seems brilliant in an extremely macabre way. The Doctor must match wits against a god-like entity while his companions play a series of increasingly murderous games. Even the opponents of the companions are trapped in this game and both sides are playing for freedom. This is actually a rather chilling concept. This is how some people see the concept of God and Satan, two entities playing games against each other with humans as the pieces, winner take all, winner deciding the fate of the pieces. If this idea were to be pursued in the current incarnation of the show, The Doctor would arrive in the midst of the pieces and help them to throw off the shackles of the players, shaming the God and Satan figure in the process. And while this would be a perfectly entertaining story in its own right, how much more interesting is the concept that the Satan figure challenges The Doctor to a game, thus making The Doctor a God-figure. It truly is no wonder that the New Adventures line pitted The Doctor against celestial gods. It is an idea that recurs in the classic series time and time again.
This is essentially what we have in The Celestial Toymaker, and yet the execution is extremely underwhelming and rather uninteresting. Michael Gough is great as the Toymaker, make no mistake, but the games lack any real feel of menace, and the opponents (to this point) don’t feel very dangerous, with the possible exception of the clowns, but that’s just because clowns are inherently creepy. Granted, Doctor Who was still seen as family fare and it needed to hold some lines so as not to frighten the youngsters (lines that Philip Hinchcliffe would later move and ignore outright), but I rather think this story demands much more. The Toymaker is a villain the Steven Moffatt could sink his horror-loving teeth into, and he wouldn’t need to include any of the time travel elements he loves so much. (Unless, that is, the silence and second TARDIS are a part of The Toymaker’s revenge against The Doctor. But I think it somewhat unlikely since, apart from the occasional appearance of Hartnell’s face, Moffatt has show little influence from the Hartnell era. No, it was RTD who drew from the Hartnell era. But I digress).
So, having completed three episodes thus far, I can honestly say that what The Celestial Toymaker is trying to do is interesting, but what it is actually doing is a bit dull. Thankfully, there is only one episode left, and it is not a reconstruction or audio version. I can watch it and at least see the performances and settings and be under-whelmed visually as well as aurally.