Apparently I spoke too soon when I said the show’s budget must have gone through the roof for Season 3. The Celestial Toymaker is a mildly entertaining story that doesn’t suck. That’s about the best I can say about it. For the first time, though, I really got the feeling that Doctor Who was a show for kids. It wasn’t just that this story featured a diabolical toy-making villain. But the whole plot and action structure screamed children’s entertainment. It wasn’t bad….it just wasn’t particularly appealing.
The TARDIS lands and we see both Dodo and Steven wearing terribly ugly clothes. It seems that Dodo enjoys playing dress-up as we saw her in the terrible Crusade outfit and now this polka dot dress with a jaunty cap. I suppose this probably intended to highlight her youth and innocence…but she’s not actually that young. She seems to be maybe as old as 18, but they are certainly portraying her as 12. And Steven. I was under the impression that he was Ian’s age, or maybe a little younger. In his 30s. But his striped shirt and behavior in this story indicates he’s supposed to be 16 or 17. These things just contributed to the kids’ show feeling of this story.
The Doctor begins to disappear, and then tells Dodo and Steven they are under attack. He has figured out that they have landed in the world of the Toymaker, villain he has apparently had dealings with in the past. Other than that, we get no other background information on the Toymaker. He apparently enjoys turning dolls into people, people into dolls, and playing games. He also dresses to the nines!
The story’s focus is on Dodo and Steven. While Steven thrived on his own in The Massacre, he doesn’t work quite as well with Dodo. I just didn’t feel their connection, perhaps hampered by his immaturity. The Doctor, instead of mysteriously going somewhere else for two episodes, is trapped in the Toymaker’s lair playing a Tower of Hanoi game. For the producers’ convenience, the toymaker makes the doctor invisible and takes away his voice. So, the Doctor is in the episodes, but William Hartnell is not. He must finish his game in 1023 moves, but not before Dodo and Steven have won their games and located the TARDIS. It’s all a race against the clock, and the toymaker doesn’t play fair. He moves the Tower pieces on their own and his minions cheat at the games against Dodo and Steven.
Dodo and Steven’s games consist of an obstacle course, locating a key in a crazy kitchen, sitting in the right chair, and a version of hopscotch. While they “win” all of the games, in reality the people they play against just mess up. For example, they had officially lost the hopscotch game to Cyril, but in his excitement he stepped on the electric floor and was burnt to a crisp. So, they won by default. Their opponents in the obstacle course are a couple of terrifying-looking clowns that are incapable of completing the course without cheating. These scenes are intended to be great fun and light-hearted, while at the same time suspenseful for children. Since I am not a child, it’s difficult to say how well they succeeded. But, since they were mildly entertaining, I’m going to say they got the job done. I just never felt like there was any serious danger.
Once the Toymaker has been defeated, we learn that he is immortal and destroys his world whenever he loses a game. Therefore, the Doctor does not make his last move in the Tower game. It becomes quite the paradox: if the Doctor wins, they will be destroyed. If he does not make the final move, they will be stuck in the Toymaker’s world forever. This is a rather sinister plot twist that is resolved rather easily with a nice use of foreshadowing. The Toymaker had been commanding the Tower pieces to move. So, the doctor, setting the TARDIS to dematerialize, commands the Tower pieces to move so that he can be in the TARDIS and leave before the world is destroyed. While I rolled my eyes a bit at this, it wasn’t so bad in retrospect. It did provide some needed tension at the end. The Toymaker lives on, and the Doctor indicates that they could meet him again some day. The Wikipedia tells me that he does appear in future novels, but not in any televised adventures. That’s too bad, he would have been a nice recurring villain, assuming his stories matured.
As I said at the beginning, this story was alright. I don’t think it was as good as any of the earlier Season 3 stories, it seems more like a Season 1 entry. But that feeling may have to do with Dodo’s similarity to Susan. I wouldn’t say I’m a Dodo hater, but she didn’t win any points from me this story. I don’t see much depth developing for her yet. And Steven really continues to be stuck in the shadow – even Dodo outshines him in this story, I felt. It seems that Peter Purves simply cannot share the screen with other stars, he’s easily overpowered.
In the cliffhanger, the Doctor eats a piece of the Toymaker’s candy and begins to act as if he’d been poisoned. The next story is The Gunfighters, a wild west tale. So, I’m guessing it just went down the wrong tube because I’m not sure how they would deal with him being poisoned in Tombstone.