Thursday, March 22, 2012

Doctor Who: 024 The Celestial Toymaker

Finally, we come to the first complete serial of this season, The Ark, which was released on DVD just over a year ago and marks the final serial produced by John Wiles after only serving as producer for part of a season. Since I've already seen that one, I'm skipping over it to The Celestial Toymaker. Based on what I've heard, I think this is one of the more revered of the Hartnell stories. In the titular role of the Toymaker is renowned actor Michael Gough, who is best known to modern audiences for his portrayal of Batman's butler in the Tim Burton Batman films.

This is a very different kind of story to the previous stories that had appeared on Doctor Who. The stories had alternated between historicals and science fiction. In this, the mischevious Toymaker kidnaps people and wants them to play games for his amusement. If they lose the game, they become his prisoners, but if they win, they defeat the Toymaker and gain their freedom. The serial consists of a series of games that Steven and Dodo must play to get back to the TARDIS while the Doctor plays a game of Trilogic (aka Tower of Hanoi) in order to attempt to defeat the Toymaker himself.

The Doctor spends a large portion of this serial being invisible and some of it being mute. This was due to Hartnell being on vacation during part of the filming. The previous producer John Wiles originally commissioned this story and had intended to use this as an opportunity to replace Hartnell by having the Toymaker alter his appearance and voice while he was invisible and mute. Wiles and the management at the BBC had a falling out over this as well as several other things like Wiles wanting the series to be darker. Due to these disagreements, Wiles left the program making way for producer Innes Lloyd, who produced this serial. If Wiles had succeeded in this and replaced Hartnell using this method instead of the regeneration method which was ultimately used, the series would have been very different!

Only the final episode of this story exists and there are no telesnaps, so I assume that John Wiles had already put things into motion on the production of this story prior to leaving since Innes Lloyd restored the tradition of having telesnaps made. Once again, we turn to the Loose Cannon reconstruction for missing episodes and to Lost in Time for the remaining episode. Once again, Loose Cannon works miracles, using a number of stills and a couple of video clips from the remaining part along with their usual compositing.

This story was fairly good, although it reminds me a bit of The Mind Robber, which came later... during Troughton's time. This is one story that certainly would have benefitted by having the actual video so you can see them playing the games. At the end of the serial, Dodo asks the Doctor if he thinks they'll ever see the Toymaker again, and he answers that they might. Sadly, the Toymaker has not appeared in the series again even though he's immortal. Perhaps Stephen Moffat can bring him back in the new series. :) He came back in some of the novels and in several Big Finish audio adventures.

After having seen this serial, I now understand why the Doctor has a toothache at the beginning of The Gunfighters... Running tally of missing episodes in season 3 after these 3 is 24. :(

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