Doctor, Steven and Dodo find themselves in the realm of the
Celestial Toymaker, a powerful alien entity who delights in
forcing innocent victims to play his apparently childish -
but entirely lethal - games...
unusual story has long been cherished by fans as a classic,
largely due to the surreal central concept that sets it apart
from every other Hartnell serial. (Curiously, however, similarly
"oddball" stories made during Sylvester McCoy's tenure would
not be so warmly received.) Certainly there is an interesting
mismatch of tones going on here, as comical characters such
as the King and Queen of Hearts (Campbell Singer and Carmen
Silvera) and Sergeant Rugg and Mrs Wiggs (Singer and Silvera
again) prove a nuisance to the TARDIS travellers in the midst
of deadly situations. The mysterious Toymaker, underplayed
with casual menace by Michael Gough, also provides some intrigue
as he and the Doctor speak of a previous encounter that was
never seen on TV (but which was ultimately realised in Gary
Russell's excellent novel, Divided Loyalties).
and unfortunately, much of the appeal of this story, of which
only the final episode exists on video (released as part of
the Hartnell Years tape), is visual. Gimmicks such
as an invisible Doctor, miming clowns (Singer and Silvera
yet again) and people-sized puzzle games are all but lost
on audio. Only the Fort Boyard-style intrigue of the
games' cryptic clues is adequately conveyed. We are even denied
banter between the Doctor and the Toymaker during two whole
episodes as the former is rendered mute to allow Hartnell
to take a holiday.
the focus of the story is turned upon companions Steven (Peter
Purves) and Dodo (Jackie Lane), as they engage in a repetitive
series of contests against the Toymaker's playthings. The
story structure follows a formulaic pattern of one game being
played against a different set of characters in each of the
four episodes. Little is made of the sad fates of the Toymaker's
pawns, even though they are his unwilling victims every bit
as much as Steven or Dodo. There is some pathos in the "pact"
ultimately chosen by the King and Queen, and Dodo shows some
sympathy for the playthings, but her views are continually
disparaged by a particularly pig-headed Steven. One wonders
how Purves, who also narrates this double CD, felt about hearing
his performance again.
this stage in the programme's history, individual serials
were usually bridged by cliffhanger endings. This audio presentation
opens with an extended recap from the previous adventure,
The Ark, which is extremely helpful to listeners who
haven't watched that particular story recently. This device,
which is also used on this month's other double CD, The
Moonbase, creates an effective pre-credits teaser, and
is something that would certainly have benefited some of the
BBC's video releases of 1960s stories.
all its failings, The Celestial Toymaker makes interesting
listening, especially for those who have seen the fourth episode
and wondered, "what happened first?..."