The Celestial Toymaker ★★★★

Michael Gough stars as the Toymaker in this sinister tale about life-size dolls

42

Season 3 – Story 24

“I’ll never be able to look at a doll or a playing card again with an easy mind. They really do have a secret life of their own” – Dodo

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Storyline
The Tardis becomes trapped in the domain of the Celestial Toymaker, an immortal being already known to the Doctor. “He’s a power for evil. He manipulates people and turns them into his playthings.” The Toymaker reduces the Doctor to a spectral hand with which he must complete the Trilogic Game in precisely 1023 moves. Meanwhile, Steven and Dodo are forced to play a series of deadly games against animated dolls. If they win, they regain the Tardis; if they lose, they must remain with the Toymaker for ever…

First transmissions
1. The Celestial Toyroom – Saturday 2 April 1966
2. The Hall of Dolls – Saturday 9 April 1966
3. The Dancing Floor – Saturday 16 April 1966
4. The Final Test – Saturday 23 April 1966

Production
Filming: March 1966 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: March/April 1966 at Riverside 1

Cast
Doctor Who – William Hartnell
Steven Taylor – Peter Purves
Dodo Chaplet – Jackie Lane
The Toymaker – Michael Gough
Joey, King of Hearts, Sergeant Rugg – Campbell Singer
Clara, Queen of Hearts, Mrs Wiggs – Carmen Silvera
Knave of Hearts, Kitchen boy, Cyril – Peter Stephens
Joker – Reg Lever
Dancers – Beryl Braham, Ann Harrison, Delia Lindon

Crew
Writer – Brian Hayles
Incidental music – Dudley Simpson
Designer – John Wood
Story editor – Gerry Davis
Producer – Innes Lloyd
Director – Bill Sellars

RT Review by Patrick Mulkern
He’s a cunning cove, that Doctor. Though rendered invisible, intangible and voiceless, he proceeds through the Toymaker’s fiendish Trilogic Game undiminished. And off camera William Hartnell also thwarted a plan to remove him permanently from our screens. Producer John Wiles and story editor Donald Tosh had been considering replacing the troublesome star, by giving the Doctor a new face when the spell of invisibility lifted. But the BBC top brass renewed Hartnell’s contract, and it was Wiles and Tosh who moved on.

One could surmise that, behind the scenes, several toys were being thrown around the playroom during this period, and it was down to new playmates Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis to pick up the building bricks and gamely make them work. Indeed, a pool of imagination came into play here.

Brian Hayles dreamt up the concept and got sole writing credit, even though his scripts were completely rewritten – twice. Tosh introduced an oriental slant with the Trilogic Game and by making the Toymaker Mandarin. Then Davis came up with the various dolls and developed the sinister Lewis Carroll-style scenarios. Happily, The Celestial Toymaker is a triumph, remembered fondly by many who watched it as children.

Despite longueurs in later episodes, the bizarre opening instalment – where the threat of the Toyroom slowly becomes clear – is undoubtedly a fantasy classic. With the Doctor spirited away, it falls to Steven and Dodo (capable Peter Purves and Jackie Lane in her best outing) to carry the action. They participate in silly but deadly contests against other poor souls who’ve become trapped in the Toyroom. Although these opponents change each week, eerily they’re played by the same actors.

Most sinister are the clowns – squeaky Clara with her fixed smile and limp arms, and silent Joey with his sad face and Harpo Marx horn. Episode three introduces Cyril, “the most deadly character of all… a fat, jolly schoolboy”. Since actor Peter Stephens was 46, Cyril seems especially creepy. “My friends call me Billy,” he says, making plain his character’s similarity to Billy Bunter. (This caused a copyright kerfuffle, so a BBC announcer issued a disclaimer over the following week’s credits.)

Toymaker

[William Hartnell and Michael Gough. Photographed by Don Smith, 18 March 1966 at Riverside Studios. Copyright Radio Times Archive]

Swishing around in oriental garb, guest star Michael Gough, surprisingly, doesn’t get much screen time as the Toymaker. He exudes menace, though, and has that fabulous voice. “Make your last move, Doctor. Make your last move.” Amusingly, Gough seems to miss a cue in part four: when the Doctor tells him to leave his Ship alone, the Toymaker is still sitting on the other side of the set and has to hurry over to his mark.

Composer Dudley Simpson’s hypnotic, clockwork-like themes linger in the memory. Costume and design are excellent. The police box suddenly becomes a motif – a frustratingly empty shell at the end of each game, even an array of white cupboards in episode two. Yet the Trilogic Game remains a curiosity. To this day I haven’t an inkling how it’s played. Indeed the Doctor and the Toymaker participate in different ways.

Sadly, the surviving soundtrack does little justice to a highly visual, physical escapade. With only The Final Test episode in existence, The Celestial Toymaker must be regarded as another largely lost classic.

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Radio Times archive material

RT’s article on The Celestial Toymaker laid down some ground rules for the Trilogic Game – and the RT mailbag shows that readers were encouraged to try their hand.

Toymaker-feat
Toymaker billings
Letters-Trilogic

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[Episode 4 is on the BBC DVD boxed set, Doctor Who: Lost in Time. Complete soundtrack available on BBC Audio CD]