Saturday, 7 May 2011

24: The Celestial Toymaker - A Growingly Absent Doctor & Certainly "Nothing Is Just For Fun."

Written by: Brian Hayles & Donald Tosh.
Companions: The Doctor, Steven Taylor, Dodo Chaplet.

Monsters/Villains: The Celestial Toymaker.

Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS lands in the domain of the malevolent Celestial Toymaker.
Rating: 4/10.

Right, so this story is basically the same episode 4 times. The TARDIS materialises in the centre of an empty octagonal room. In the room is a man dressed in the robes of a chinese mandarin. The features of the room are both ultra modern and ornate. In the room are a large desk with a control panel and an elegant triangular gaming table. This is the Celestial Toymaker and we are in his domain. The Doctor describes it saying "this place is a hidden menace, nothing is just for fun." Oh, Doctor you couldn't be more right!

The Toymaker needs to play games constantly, he describes himself and his intentions for the Doctor thus: "I'm bored. I love to play games but there's no-one to play against. The beings who call here have no minds, and so they become my toys. But you will become my perpetual opponent. We shall play endless games together, your brain against mine."
The Doctor and the Toymaker.
We left off at the end of The Ark with the Doctor vanishing. This seemed to be an exciting cliffhanger, but once we learn the true reason for this conceit it is painfully dull. Hartnell barely appears in this story at all. The Doctor "misbehaves" so the Toymaker dematerialises the Doctor's physical being except for his hand. He then makes the Doctor 'dumb,' taking away his power of speech until he finishes the penultimate move in his game. Hartnell was absent from the second and third episodes and at one point someone else actually voices the Doctor, with a pretty terrible William Hartnell impression. I couldn't believe it! 

We also learn that the Doctor has met the Toymaker before. Although, sadly, we don't really find out any more about his origins; apart from the Toymakers rather ambiguous line "I've been waiting for you a long time." He could be a god, or another time lord? He's got the same kind of title.

The Toymaker then takes away the TARDIS and separates the Doctor from Steven and Dodo. For the rest of the story the Doctor will be playing the Tri-Logic game. He will have 1023 moves to recreate a pyramid pattern from point A to point C moving only one piece at a time and a large piece cannot go on top of a small piece.
The Tri-Logic game.
Right! So, little introduction out of the way lets do the first episode. The Toymaker selects a pair of clowns from a victorian dolls house, one happy and one sad, grows them to human size and brings them to life. He plops Joey the sad clown (Campbell Singer) and Clara the happy clown (Carmen Silvera) into the room with Dodo and Steven. Singer and Silvera give somewhat inconsistent performances in their many guises. The clowns mock the companions as Joey gives Steven a handshake and the clown's fake hand comes away in Steven's. Then Clara gives Dodo some flowers and squirts her in the face. The Toymaker explains that the pair of companions must win all their games before the Doctor does. After each game, if they win, they will find a TARDIS, which may or may not be the real one. If they loose they stay here forever as his 'guests.' So Dodo Steven set off on: The Hunt for the TARDIS.

First Game

Game: Blind Man's Buff. 
Parts/Board: A sort of snakes and ladders like obstacle course. 
Objective: To cross the obstacles, blindfolded and without falling down. If a player gets 'home' they win.
Roles: One player from each team will direct the other using a series of beeps as commands. The other must traverse the obstacle course. 
Additional Rules: If both teams make it 'home' they play again until one team looses.

Joey completes the obstacle course by using a fake blindfold that he can see through. Steven completes the course with a real blindfold and even with Joey trying to distract him. When Steven learns the clowns have cheated he makes Joey play again with a real blindfold and this time he falls over. A TARDIS reappears, but it's a fake. There is a riddle on the door.

Riddle One: "Four legs, no feet; Of arms no lack; It carries no burden on its back; Six deadly sisters, seven for choice; Call the servants without voice." 

The Toymaker forces the Doctors game onward by ordering it to skip to a later move. Steven and Dodo discover an exit through a door in the back of the fake TARDIS and just before they pass through it they turn back to see the two clowns have turned back into small wooden dolls.

In the second story we have an almost identical set up but with a different game and a different group of opponents played by the same actors. This time Dodo and Steven face off against The King (Singer), Queen (Silvera), and Nave (Jack) of Hearts (Peter Stevens).

Second Game
Game: Musical Chairs.
Parts: Seven Numbered Thrones.
Objective: One of the thrones is safe, the other six are deadly. Find the safe chair.
Roles: Each team takes turns placing a doll on a chair until the safe chair is found.

The unsafe chairs grab and shake to pieces, electrocute, saw in half, vanish, freeze, eject their occupants. Dodo sits in the wrong chair and gets frozen. Steven manages to free her. The Hearts sit in a chair together and fall though it. And just when Dodo and Steven think they've won the TARDIS back, it's another fake. They find another riddle.

Riddle Two: 'Hunt the key, to fit the door; That leads out on the dancing floor. Then escape the rhythmic beat; Or you'll forever tap your feet.'

Again the Toymaker order's the Doctor's moves to skip ahead and also again Dodo and Steven exit through a door in the fake TARDIS but not before glancing back to see that all that remains of the Hearts are a couple of playing cards.

And here we go again in the third story. New game and "opponents:" Sgt. Rugg and Mrs. Wiggs (Singer and Silvera again).

Third Game
Game: Hunt The Key. 
Parts/Board: A Key and a Kitchen.
Objective: Find the Key.

Regardless of the distraction of their opponents, Dodo and Steven find the key in one of Mrs. Wiggs pies and go though into a room with a dance floor. They discover that if you step on to the dance floor, music plays and one cannot help but dance. 

Steven steps on to the dance floor and can't stop dancing. Dodo does the same. Somehow, I'm not actually sure how, they manage to escape the beat, jump off and get to the TARDIS. And it's the real one.... Oh no wait it's another fake! And oh look another riddle! What a surprise...

Riddle Three: 'Lady luck will show the way; Win the game, or here you'll stay.'
The dance floor.
Once more the Toymaker speeds up the Doctor's game, by ordering to skip to an even later move and we go on to game number four. This time Steven and Dodo will take on the Toymakers most deadly toy, the fearfully terrible, the chillingly evil, the fat jolly Schoolboy: Cyril? 

Cyril (Peter Stevens again) who is known to his friends as Billy (obviously implying the children's TV character Billy Bunter) gives Steven a shock with a hand buzzer and gives Dodo some sweets, which she pockets for later.

Fourth Game
Game: TARDIS Hopscotch.
Parts/Board: A number of raised Triangles. A Die for each player.
Objective: Roll your die to get to the TARDIS. 
Dangers: If you fall off your triangle you will be electrocuted by the floor.
Additional Rules: If you land on the same triangle as another player, that player must return to the start.

Jackie Lane as Dodo gives a really odd and obviously unsure delivery of the line: "I think I'm going to enjoy this game," as if she's not sure. Cyril tries to cheat by putting slippery powder on one of the triangles to get Dodo to fall but forgets and slips on it himself. Falling and getting electrocuted to death. Steven and Dodo finish the game and finally get to the real TARDIS.

And the endless cycle of regurgitation is finally over. The Doctor is made visible again with only one move left to make but leaves to meet Dodo and Steven at the TARDIS. The Doctor knows that if he wins and makes his last move, the place and everyone there would vanish, including himself. The only place the Doctor and his companions are safe is inside the TARDIS. The Toymaker is immortal, when he loses, his world ceases to be but he goes on forever. Steven bravely offers to make the final move for him, but the Doctor won't let him. Then Steven says "We can't just sit here and talk our way out if this." Which gives the Doctor his "ingenious"idea of how to defeat the Toymaker and survive. "That's exactly what we'll do."

"Masterfully" (please sense the ironic tone) the Doctor perfectly impersonates the Toymakers voice saying "skip to move 1023." The Final move is made from within the TARDIS but before the world disappears the doors are closed and the TARDIS dematerialises. Well wasn't that clever?

The Doctor promises, "Their will be other battles." And there was actually a plan to bring back the Toymaker during Colin Bakers tenure as the Doctor but it got cancelled (it was however, successfully made into a Big Finish Audio called The Nightmare Fair). The story ends back in the TARDIS with Dodo offering the Doctor one of Cyril's sweets and when he takes a bite of the 'joke' sweet he screams in agony.
Michael Gough as the Celestial Toymaker.
The only real saving grace of this story is Michael Gough as the Toymaker. He is fantastically mysterious and whole-heartedly beguiling. He also manges to do very well with a poor script and a bum story. The way his character jumps around, appearing and disappearing, suddenly showing up so quietly and subtly is very creepy. I must also concede that the story also succeeds in making an ordinary thing scary. This is such a staple Doctor Who meme. The Auton's being made of plastic, the Vashta Nerada as being afraid of the Dark, etc. I'll never be able to look at a doll or a playing card in the same way again.

After an almost entirely un-Hartnell-ed story due to his absence or vacation time, we get the unintentionally funniest moment in the whole piece right at the very end of the last episode as we glance the title for the next episode:

"A Holiday for the Doctor."

Join me next time for a much maligned story, The Gunfighters.

1 comment:

Ian Bateman said...

There was a Radio Times tie-in for the last episode of this story. They printed a cut-out-and-keep version of the Pyramids game, which was essentially a version of Towers of Hanoi. It was very fiddly to make as you had to stick the page to a piece of cardboard, cut out the pieces, then glue them into the 3D shapes.