…an extravagantly dressed older gentleman forces a couple of youngsters to play with him, it’s…

The Celestial Toymaker

In which Dodo becomes the first companion to wear a miniskirt, no doubt forcing fathers across the land to place a strategic cushion in their collective laps so’s to avoid any awkward questions about what daddy has in his trouser pocket from little Timmy…

- Initial Impressions: Celestial Toyroom: The Doctor Who Appreciation Society’s monthly fanzine, packed full of shite fan art and badly photocopied pictures; The Hall of Dolls: Steven and Dodo have another riddle to solve - ‘There was a young man from Venus / Who was blessed with a 14 inch…’ erm; The Dancing Floor: ‘I’ve got the moves like Jagger / I’ve got the moo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooves like Jagger’ - Steven, however, hasn’t; The Final Test: So the Toymaker can just build a new world! Maybe he should use Lego or Stickle-Bricks next time.

- okay, so Vicki’s signature costume, worn in both The Rescue and The Web Planet was much shorter than Dodo’s skirt…but so shapeless and unflattering, and accessorised (as previously mentioned) with the thickest pair of tights in the entire multiverse, that even the most virile of those watching would’ve found themselves remaining resolutely untroubled in the ‘downstairs’ department. And a good job too considering her young age! Mind you, poor Dodo isn’t all that much older, so it feels ever so slightly pervy she’s been shoehorned into something that should’ve remained firmly under lock and key in the costume department ‘til Polly sashayed her way into the series in a couple of story’s time. Apart from anything else it doesn’t really suit her. I’m not saying Ms Lane has a face like a bag of spanners…far from it. It’s just that she’s in danger of coming across like one of those kids whose parents allow them to dress in bras, hot-pants and full make-up as soon as they’re able to crawl out of their pram. She’s even wearing fishnets! That’s it! She’s nothing but a shameless whore!

- the Doctor’s vanished! Into a big black wardrobe by the looks of it (either that or one of those Time Scoop collection obelisk thingies from The Five Doctors is after him)! It’s the way the ‘disappearing’ effect has been achieved of course - the same thing happened when the travel dials were operated and the TARDIS crew were zapped to their next location in The Keys of Marinus. What’s that I hear you cry? How primitive? Indeed it is. So much so you can almost hear it go ‘Ug’. As a consequence only William Hartnell’s voice is heard in the opening few moments of the story, and by the sounds of it he’s decided to spend the extra few minutes off-screen in his dressing room finishing off his half of lager and lime and read of The Daily Mail before deigning to grace everyone with his presence, leaving the door slightly ajar so he can bellow his lines into the studio at the appropriate moment. It really does sound as if he’s miles away!

- according to the Doctor, whatever force it is at work, it can ‘penetrate our safety barriers’. My safety barriers are normally penetrated after about five pints.

The Celestial Toymaker - (well, at least they resisted the temptation to give Michael Gough a Chinese ‘makeover’ and force him to pronounce his r’s as l’s) he may be evil but at least he’s not afraid to break through gender defined barriers when it comes to playtime - he’s straightaway fiddling with his dollies (and unlike most men of his age, they’re not life size with big gaping mouths. Nor do they need a good fifteen minutes with a foot-pump before they take on a recognisable shape). If I’d have gone anywhere near a doll when I was a kid I’d have had the shit kicked out of me. I did once toy with the idea of asking for an Action Man…but in the end I decided his khaki outfits would be just too limiting. Anyway, as soon as the TARDIS lands he’s straight after trying to ‘groom’ Steven and Dodo with the aid of a ‘magic telly’ (honest to god, I keep expecting him to offer Dodo a Worther’s Original in exchange for her agreeing to a quick bounce up and down on his knee. Dirty old Toymaker!) This may well be taking on a deeper significance post Savile of course (I’ve only just realised how close that name is to ‘So vile’ - how very appropriate), nevertheless it’s pretty creepy stuff. Just knee him in the bollocks and ring directory enquiries for Esther Rantzen’s telephone number. I would! His real reason for bringing the TARDIS here is to have the Doctor become his eternal playmate (no…sorry, that just brought to mind an image of Mr Gough and Mr Hartnell lounging around Hugh Hefner’s gaff in bunny costumes). And if two older gentlemen want to spend their twilight years playing with one another, then why not! Although the Doctor’s not so keen. Maybe he’s worried about what these games might involve (a full length rubber suit and a funnel, for example). You see, at the heart of the matter, the Toymaker is bored. Very bored. Maybe he should book himself on a few SAGA day trips out. I hear Lullingstone Castle has lovely gardens. He’s always reminded me of the shopkeeper in Mr Benn. After all, both magically appear from nowhere ‘as if by magic’, both wear apparel associated with the mystical East - the Toymaker a mandarin’s outfit, the shopkeeper a fez (which, of course, is cool) - and both seem to be in possession of a magical kingdom where anything can happen. And let’s face it, the shopkeeper was as sinister as fuck too!

- as already mentioned, Steven and Dodo are tempted with images of their past lives on a cybernised Teletubby screen as the Celestial Toymaker attempts to ensnare them, just as Jamie and Zoe are tempted out of the TARDIS with familiar sights in The Mind Robber. Are the two connected I wonder? Is this in actual fact the Land of Fiction? Or a precursor? Does the Celestial Toymaker, after his defeat here and the destruction of this realm, go on Property Finder so’s to upscale?

- Dodo gets squirted in the face. There aren’t enough exclamation marks in the universe to add to the end of that sentence. So I shan’t bother with any.

It was the largest Dairylea
triangle the Doctor had ever
seen.  But where was he going
to find a similar sized
cracker to spread it on?
Game #1 - Clara (no, not that one) calls it ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’ although it looks more like a cheap version of Total Wipeout to me (sadly there don’t appear to be four big red balls for Steven to launch himself across like a stripey jumpered lunatic, nor does Dodo get smacked in the mush by a boxing glove on a stick…alas). Actually, on second thoughts it’s more like a canine agility test…you have to crawl through a tube, cross a narrow plank and traverse oddly shaped bits of tat - a job for which Peter Purves should be ideally suited, after all in his post space pilot of the future days he narrated Crufts dog show for nigh on half a lifetime.

- the Doctor is made intangible again after trying to aid Steven and Dodo in their first game, although as a concession he is left with a corporeal right hand…so at least he’ll still be able to have a wank.

'Number 5, man alive.' With
his time on the show rapidly
coming towards an end,
William Hartnell gets a
part-time job bingo
calling down his local
Mecca. Hasn't he got
funny shaped balls
Game #2 - musical chairs. Without the music (although if you listen carefully to the surviving soundtrack around about the end of the first episode/beginning of the second, you can hear music playing faintly in the background. I always imagine it’s the older sister of the kid who’s recording the programme, who thinks the show is for ‘squares’ and who’s locked herself away in her bedroom listening to some swinging Sixties tunes until Juke Box Jury comes on). Entering the chair room feels a bit like walking into the Conran Shop - there’s uncomfortable looking seating everywhere.

- and so Steven and Dodo set about solving the first riddle. It’s a bit like Channel 4’s fabulous 80s game show Treasure Hunt - I half expected an out of puff Anneka Rice to rush on in a lycra bodysuit at any moment.

- William Hartnell faces the indignity of not only being made intangible, but, from the second episode onwards, dumb too. He really is being treated appallingly bad by the production team.

- Reg Lever’s Joker is marvellously languid and downtrodden. He reminds me of the fool in King Lear (bit of a high-brow observation for me, I know!)…only funnier (doh! Intellectual illusion broken).

- the King recites ‘Eeny, meeny, miny, mo’ to help him choose which chair to try out. The full, original version. Complete with the ‘N’ word! Well…that’s just set race relations back about 150 years. It’s a wonder the Black Panthers weren’t chucking bricks through the windows of Television Centre.

Finding himself in a shower
cubicle with Clare (no, not
that one), Steven realised
he didn't care whether she
was a clown or not. She
was female! Now...if
only he could find the
soap he could start
lathering her tits up.
Doll’s Hall (although describing it in such terms makes it sounds like a second-rate rival to Downton Abbey) - episode two is undoubtedly my favourite part of the whole story. It’s one of the darkest, nastiest twenty-five minutes of television the series has ever produced - if only this was the surviving episode instead of the somewhat turgid last instalment then I’m convinced people might not be so quick to dismiss the entire thing as a fairly dull piece of jejune whimsy (although if certain rumours circulating as I write this turn out to be true then we might one day be able to see it again and judge for ourselves whether or not it’s in need of serious re-evaluation). It’s deliciously macabre in tone - ‘I can smell crumpets toasting’ exclaims the Knave as he’s woken up by the smell of the doll Dodo’s placed in chair 3 burning up after being electrocuted - surely stepping well beyond anything that would be allowed on screen today. And the “deaths” meted out by the various chairs are utterly gruesome. But it’s the way in which the Hearts’ family epitomise what it really means to become a pawn of the Toymaker which makes it all so affecting. The fact that the King is such an amiable old buffer, yet is quite prepared to sacrifice, first, his own son (yup…HIS OWN SON) and then, when that scheme fails, one of his most loyal servants, to one of the chairs, perfectly highlights what it means to fall prey to the Toymaker’s twisted imagination. These are tortured souls who will do anything to escape the wretchedness of an empty existence and regain the lives they once led. The threat of what awaits them is even enough to make Dodo and Steven join in on the cheating as they attempt to keep the discovery of three extra dolls in the second chair room a secret. The King and Queen go so far as to try to trick one another into taking a seat before finally ‘going together’ - a gesture which, perhaps, signifies that deep down there remains some small vestige of their true humanity that the Toymaker wasn’t able to destroy after all?

- in The Dancing Floor, the Toymaker calls Steven and Dodo an ‘astute couple’. He really should get out more! At the beginning of the third game it takes them both about four years to realise they have to hunt for the key, even though the first line of the riddle is ‘Hunt the key to fit the door’.

- how many times does the Toymaker say amuse in this story? Erm…well, actually it’s only 7. I counted (look, it’s been a very slow day and it was raining). It feels like a lot more (it doesn’t help that most of them are used in the same sentence), but even so, it’s enough for us to get the message, He wants to be entertained. Maybe he should buy himself a jumbo Wordsearch…keeps my parents quiet for hours.

'...and this is the one you press
if you want oxtail soup' - the
Toymaker demonstrates
how to work the Toyroom's
vending machine.
Game #3 - finders keepers. At 165 Eton Place by the looks of it. Carmen Silvera does a very passable Mrs Bridges…four years before Angela Baddeley created the role!

The Gay Agenda - Sergeant Rugg is ever so keen in making a man out of Steven (good luck with that one…I hope you like a challenge). There’s also an awful lot of closets being opened, particularly in episode two. Plus, and I might be wrong here, I could swear Michael Gough calls the Doctor ‘Docker’ at one point during The Dancing Floor…so we all know where he was off to after filming wrapped (and poor Anneke Wills sitting back home in Chelsea with his tea on the table). In The Final Test, Steven says he’s going to see if there’s an invisible barrier around Cyril’s backside! And if there isn’t? Maybe he’ll be asking the Toymaker for some lube.

Blimey! I don't remember
Mr Claypole from Rentaghost
being such an old fart.
Steven and Dodo - dear God! Steven’s written for pretty dreadfully in this. When he and Dodo get to the door with a load of locks on it, it takes her to point out he should try pulling the handle after he’s had no luck pushing! And he’s always ‘GOT’ to be doing something. Well just get on and do it then dear. Dodo, on the other hand, proves herself to be both compassionate and caring, someone always willing to see the best in people. Ordinarily such traits would be admirable, but in this situation it comes across as making her look a bit…well…fucking thick (for want of a better phrase)! Does she have no concept of danger?  ‘Dodo my dear, just pop over here and take a bath with this plugged in electric fire will you please’, ‘Oh…okay then’. Yet despite this, at other times she’s the one who provides the voice of reason. Just a second…I’m just going to have to read that sentence again as I can’t believe I’ve just typed it. Blimey! Yes…it’s true! ‘They’re not real’ she points out to her companion with regards to their opponents, ‘How can you lose your temper with them?’ And this is a very valid point. The dolls are purposefully trying to get in their way, their whole modus operandi being to entrap them in the Toymaker’s realm, and thinking of them as being nothing more than stitched together pieces of material with an exorbitant price tag from the local Toys R Us store is ultimately going to be the best way forward. Mind you, ten minutes later, in typical Dodo fashion, she seems to have changed her mind and is talking about them as if they were as real as herself and her companions - losing the games through ‘always through doing something silly and human.’ Oh for a bit of consistency! There being some remnant of their humanity remaining - rather than their being solely the Toymaker’s puppets - actually makes a lot of sense, hence the dolls’ desperate compulsion to win at all costs (an impulse manifested in the King and Queen of Hearts willingness to sacrifice one of their own), the reason for their blatant cheating (as evidenced with Clara [no, not that one], Joey and Cyril) and their generally obstructive behaviour (Mrs Wiggs and Sergeant Rugg). And they are desperate…just look how quickly Joey turns from annoyingly mischievous prankster to terrified victim once his cheating has been discovered and he’s forced to complete the obstacle course with the proper blindfold. It sends a chill down the spine. Similarly, Clara’s (no, not that one) high pitched hysterical laughter smacks of deep felt anguish.

Game #4 - Strictly Come Dancing, although sadly Len Goodman doesn’t put in an appearance. Neither do any of the other old hoofers from the marvellous Saturday night BBC TV show, sadly (I think the producers of that series have missed a trick not roping in Peter Purves to take part…perhaps next year?) Thankfully, Dodo resists the temptation to twerk across the dance floor.

A constipated Dodo seeks
Steven's encouragement
in order to help
her "park her breakfast".
- Billy makes an appearance at the end of The Dancing Floor. No, not Hartnell. He’s still in exile in Cornwall or wherever it is he’s buggered off to to lick his wounds. The Billy here is an overweight, middle-aged, homosexualist in a schoolboy’s outfit blatantly ripping off Billy Bunter. Let’s hope the BBC’s legal team are on standby.

Death-O-Meter: the big question is, does anyone actually die in this story? As the Doctor says at the end of The Final Test, even though his Toyroom is obliterated, the Toymaker lives to roll the dice another day. But does this apply to his playthings as well? Indeed, are they alive in the first place? Well, yes…it would appear so. During the business with the chairs it’s made perfectly clear that the King and Queen of Hearts are in fact real people, ‘victims of the Toymaker, the same as you are’ as the former puts it. This point is seemingly emphasised when Dodo feels his arm and discovers it’s warm, living flesh. But what’s confusing is the fact that the Toymaker’s servants all seem to be played by the same handful of people - ‘Haven’t we seen him before’ asks Dodo with regards to Cyril; ‘All the Toymaker’s creations look alike to me’ replies Steven. We learn at the end of the story that the Toymaker’s capable of fashioning himself another lair, but is also capable of manipulating living matter? Are these the same people he resurrects over and over again - ones who retain the aim to win back their freedom - albeit with different, cartoonish, personalities artificially grafted on each time? Perhaps they’re melted down into one big pot of human gloop after losing a game and refashioned to a similar template, Ganger style, when needed for the next? And if this is the case, are their multiple deaths part of the hell they must suffer at his hands? Is this an endless cycle which continues until they win a game, at which point they’re replaced by those they defeated - though whether they’d ever be allowed their freedom is entirely debatable; ‘I give you a chance of life’ he says to sergeant Rugg and Mrs Wiggs, but is this just a carrot the Toymaker uses to keep them playing his games? I’ve a feeling that if they won they’d simply be binned for doing too good a job…there again the fact that ‘Cyril hates to lose, so he never does’ seemingly puts a bit of a spanner in the works as far as such a theory is concerned. In the end I had to make a decision on how to tackle this entry, taking the above into account. Therefore…
With his world in pieces, the
Toymaker tries out as host
on This Is Your Life.
184. Person #1 - as Joey the Clown he’s reduced to a twisted doll by the Toymaker (although ‘twisted doll’ make him sound like a fucked up Barbie in desperate need of therapy), as the King of Hearts he’s killed by a deadly chair (talking of which, I have a mild phobia of deckchairs…the vicious bastards), and as Sergeant Rugg he’s again reduced an inanimate doll (not one that’s capable of crying, calling for its mother, eating a bowl of baby food or pissing itself though); 185. Person #2 - as Clara (no, not that one), the Queen of Hearts and Mrs Wiggs she suffers exactly the same fates as Person #1, so just read that entry again; 186. Person #3 - as Cyril he’s electrocuted by a board game…good enough reason for a refund back at Argos I would’ve thought; 187 - 190. Persons #4, 5, 6 & 7 - (that’s the Joker and the three Dancing Dolls) - I’ve taken an executive decision that these four, along with the previous three, whatever state or form they’re in, all get blown up anyway when the Toymaker’s kingdom explodes like a lightbulb (for that is what the *ahem* special effect looks like in episode four). ‘Coz let’s face it, he’s an utter psycho and he ain’t gonna take ‘em with ‘im.

The Toymaker realised his
mistake too late. It wasn't
the Doctor's hand he'd left
tangible! I mean...how
did he expect his opponent
to move the pieces round
the board with that
shrivelled up old
Game #5 - Cyril calls it ‘TARDIS Hopscotch’ (a game for three players or more, ages 25+) but to me it just looks like any old board game where you have to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, falling prey to as few obstructive instructions (such as ‘MISS A TURN’) as possible. It’s not very exciting. It’s like something a distant aunt might’ve given you at Christmas when you were a kid, although hopefully, unlike the Toymaker’s board, it wouldn’t have been wired up to the mains. Well…not unless it was an aunt with a very big grudge. Although the threat of the odd couple of hundred volts up the jacksie might liven such a dreary gift up somewhat. The board Steven, Dodo and Cyril play on only has fourteen squares (or rather triangles…what with this and the Trilogic game, it would appear that the Toymaker is obsessed with this basic geometrical shape. Bet his favourite TV programme was the early eighties soap set on a North Sea ferry travelling between Felixstowe, Gothenburg and Amsterdam).

Turns out the Dancing Doll
Steven had his eye on was quite
a size queen. He wouldn't bother
in that case.
- it’s probably a good job Billy had a holiday, for with lines like ‘Stop meddling with my ship’ and ‘Will you leave my ship alone’ to deliver in the last episode it could’ve inadvertently turned into a faecal word-fest.

- so it turns out the Doctor’s an expert mimic. Opportunity Knocks must surely beckon. I wonder what his Margaret Rutherford is like?

- ‘We’ll never see him again, will we Doctor?’ asks Dodo of the Toymaker. Well…considering all three regulars will be getting their P45s in the post over the coming weeks I think that’s highly unlikely.

Score on the TARDIS Doors - 6 - I think this story is vastly underrated, ironic considering it used to be talked of in reverential tones when I was a kid by those fans old enough to have seen it on original broadcast. The setting is wonderfully claustrophobic - it almost feels as if the Toymaker’s kingdom is underground - with the design evoking (a poor man’s) ‘The House That Jack Built’. The atmosphere is supremely Grimm and consequently, out of all the Classic Series, this is the story most similar in tone to the New Series (particularly anything written or overseen by Mr Moffat). Just like The Girl in the Fireplace with its depiction of a girl being stalked all her life by a hidden menace (complete with a monster under the bridge bed) or Night Terrors in which a young boy is terrified of what lies beyond the door of his wardrobe, it takes childhood neuroses and then drops adults (i.e. the TARDIS crew) into the middle of them…upon which they discover a child’s imagination can dream up horrors an adult wouldn’t dare give thought to, even during daylight hours. And that’s the truly scary thing about the Toymaker. He has the appearance of a (fairly) benevolent old man, yet his mind is fractured and schizophrenic and capable of seeing the world in such a warped and twisted manner. He’s Chucky all grown up.

The all-new, terribly thrilling Doctor Who board game...in shops...erm...never.


Mike N said...

Hi Ion, I just discovered your blog today and have devoured all your reviews so far. They're hilarious and touching. Just brilliant. Looking forward to reading more. You've made my day. Cheers!

The Inebriated Anorak said...

Hi Mike...thanks very much for dropping by and for your kind comments :) Hopefully 'The Gunfighters' will be up before the end of the year :)