Tonight (9th December), BBC One will air a sequel to a 57-year-old piece of television that mostly doesn't exist anymore... only Doctor Who could deliver us something so improbable and so wonderful.


The Giggle is almost here – and with it, the return of the Toymaker, portrayed by the late Michael Gough in his 1966 debut and now played by Neil Patrick Harris.

One of the Doctor's (David Tennant) oldest enemies, the villainous Toymaker has remained locked away in his own domain... until now.

Preview clips from The Giggle have seen him taunting the Doctor and Donna, and, despite its name, Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has hinted that the events of this episode will be no laughing matter...

If you need a refresher, here's everything there is to know about The Toymaker and what to expect from his next appearance.

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Who is The Toymaker in Doctor Who?

Neil Patrick Harris as the Toymaker and David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor in Doctor Who
Neil Patrick Harris as the Toymaker and David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor in Doctor Who BBC Studios 2023,Alistair Heap

The First Doctor, played by William Hartnell, first encountered The Celestial Toymaker, then played by Michael Gough, in an iconic 1966 story, which is now about to get an animated remake.

Here, the Doctor and his companions arrive in an otherworldly domain overseen by the Toymaker – another immortal entity, who forces them to play a series of games, with the outcome deciding whether they will remain his playthings for all eternity.

The Doctor was, of course, able to outwit the Toymaker and escape, with the character never making an encore. Plans for a comeback in the 1980s fell by the wayside when Doctor Who was put on hiatus by the BBC during the Colin Baker era.

However, the Doctor is seen facing up to the Toymaker once again in the new episode, with the human race at stake - can he outwit him once again?

Is the Toymaker a Time Lord?

William Hartnell and Michael Gough in Doctor Who: The Celestial Toymaker, with Gough in a robe standing behind Hartnell in a suit
William Hartnell and Michael Gough in Doctor Who: The Celestial Toymaker. BBC

Little was explained on-screen about the Toymaker's origins. However, then-Doctor Who script editor Donald Tosh later revealed that, years before the Time Lords were established in canon, the Toymaker was supposed to be a member of the Doctor's own race.

2001 spin-off novel The Quantum Archangel suggests that he is instead a Guardian (transcendental beings who embodied aspects of the universe). This has never been verified on television. However, when Zellin, an Eternal, appeared in the season 12 episode Can You Hear Me?, he appeared to confirm a link of some kind between the Eternals, the Guardians, and the Time Lords.

Who is actor Neil Patrick Harris?

Neil Patrick Harris as the Toymaker in Doctor Who
Neil Patrick Harris as the Toymaker in Doctor Who BBC

Neil Patrick Harris is known for various iconic TV and film roles, from the titular role in Doogie Howser, MD to Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother. In recent years, he played Count Olaf in Netflix's adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

As for his film career, he's appeared in the likes of Starship Troopers, Beastly, and Gone Girl, and has also had an illustrious career on stage.

During his career, he's won accolades like a Tony Award, and five Primetime Emmy Awards.

At the time of his casting, his character was still under wraps, with showrunner Davies saying: "It’s my huge honour to open our studio doors for the mighty Neil Patrick Harris… but who, why, what is he playing?

"You’ll just have to wait. But I promise you, the stuff we're shooting now is off the scale. Doctor beware!”

Doctor Who is available to stream on BBC iPlayer with episodes of the classic series also available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.

Check out more of our Sci-Fi coverage and visit our TV Guide or Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.


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