Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Celestial Toymaker


  1. I liked this a lot, mostly for the surreal and scary atmosphere.

    The sudden appearance of the Toymaker, and his growing the doll-clowns to human size are suitably spooky, as is Steven being shown his past adventures on a screen.

    The Doctor stating that he's met the Celestial Toymaker before is also interesting - is this the first time we've had an adversary who the Doctor's had an off-screen encounter with?

    The real interest in this story though, is the complete difference in tone to all of the other stories that we've seen. Godlike entities. Abstract and unknown scares, rather than monsters. The low-level feeling of menace throughout. The use of children's things (games and toys in this instance) to terrify. The serial is almost Lovecraftian in its anticipation of terror and mounting sense of unease.

    Then Bill Hartnell disappears for two weeks (a holiday? an illness?) and we're left with a disembodied, silent hand moving disks as it plays the Tower of Hanoi. Meanwhile Dodo and Steven face off against Carmen Silvera and her compatriots in a series of games.

    How times change, though. In the second episode, to choose a chair, the King sings the older, more racist version of eeny-meenie-miney-moe.

    The main problem with The Celestial Toymaker is that it relies throughout on the eponymous villain as being both very clever and very stupid throughout. If he's fixing all the games, why is he obsessed with play? If he's all-powerful within his realm, how do our heroes ever win at all? And by episode three the format (Dodo & Steven play a fixed game, win through) is already starting to tire...

    All told though, this is imaginative and weird and strange and takes Doctor Who off in a new direction. And despite the fact it's not wholly successful, it's well worth watching for that.

  2. My review of THE CELESTIAL TOYMAKER will sound very tired as most of my thoughts echo those of the esteemed Sir Beckley. The general atmosphere is surreal, dark and scary, the childlike nature of the threats making them all the more terrifying. However, it is 4 episodes of the same thing over and over so I would recommend you don't do all 4 episodes back to back as this will exacerbate the problem and probably make you bored quickly. I found little breaks made me succumb to the good stuff.
    And there is much here to recommend. The performances are all pretty good, and Michael Gough is a terrific villain, immortal but incredibly bored with the world he has created. The general atmosphere is dark and interesting, the surreal feel is a great change from what we have become used to, and it has some marvellous imaginative touches.
    One other problem to note is that some of the speech sounds like it comes from a bad school play. I'm thinking in particular of some of Dodos' dialogue, especially when she interacts with the 'toy' characters like Cyril which really grated with me after a while. However, overall the imagination carries you through so I will give it a 7/10.

  3. I agree with everything above. It's imaginative, it's chilling in a sophisticated way, it's repetitive and it's another story that Steven and Dodo have to try to carry in the absence of the Doctor.

    Something I meant to say around the time I was watching The Daleks' Master Plan or The Massacre was that when I've sampled these stories before (the ones I have seen/listened to before, obviously) I have done so in isolation and in the knowledge that Doctor Who is fantastic. In all honesty I couldn't imagine myself in 1966 clearing my schedule and tuning in week after week to watch sub par Doctor Who which didn't even have Hartnell in it. Perhaps if the stories were more consistent, perhaps if the companions were stronger (certainly if Ian and Barbara were still around), but to watch Steven and Dodo in dull and repetetive stories? I think not. I think at this point Doctor Who is badly in need of a shake up, both behind and before the camera.

    Still, The Celestial Toymaker is an interesting story and, while not up to the standard of The Ark it's one of the higher points of series three so far.

    Better than - The Daleks' Master Plan
    Not as good as - Galaxy 4