23rd April 1966
The Doctor: And if this place vanishes, then the TARDIS and the rest of us will vanish also?
Toymaker: Correct. That is the price of success. Make your last move, Doctor. Make your last move.
Writers: Brian Hayles and Donald Tosh.
Director: Bill Sellars.
Producer: Innes Lloyd.
Starring William Hartnell as the Doctor, Peter Purves as Steven Taylor and Jackie Lane as Dodo Chaplet; with Michael Gough as the Toymaker.
The Doctor, Steven and Dodo are forced to play childish – but deadly – games to entertain the Toymaker.
What they thought:
Though Part Four got the lowest figures of the serial, it still got a hugely-respectable 7.8 million. Parts One and Two both had 8 million watching, but Pat Three was the high-point for the story, with 9.4 million viewers.
Generally, it’s remembered as one of the best Doctor Who stories of the era; experimental and imaginative. But not everyone agrees with this, as the BBC’s Audience Research Report reflected:
“The games were very difficult for children to understand, it was sometimes said, especially as the rules were not clearly explained at the outset and the dolls’ persistent cheating made them all the more confusing… A substantial minority dismissed it as ‘ridiculous rubbish’; in their view, it was a complete waste of time and talent, and it was suggested (not infrequently) that it was time the series was rested as ‘ideas are evidently running out.’ Nevertheless, although some reporting viewers disliked it themselves, they were often at pains to point out that their children had enjoyed it, and there were also some who found it a welcome change from ‘the more usual horrors like the Daleks and monsters.’”
Harsh criticisms indeed! But even the Audience Research Report liked Gough’s Toymaker. As John Binns noted in 1993’s Matrix #45, “in some ways, the story is a masterpiece. Particularly in the first episode, there is an excellent sinister feel to it which is heightened considerably by Michael Gough’s superb performance.”
David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker say in Doctor Who: The Continuity Guide that “this excellent character is, arguably, The Celestial Toymaker’s greatest legacy to the Doctor Who universe.”
Many felt the Doctor’s absence through much of the serial was a huge detraction. Paul Clarke, in his review for Outpost Gallifrey, is obviously a fan of the first Doctor: “His confrontation with the Toymaker at the end is one of his finest moments, as he struggles to outwit an almost undefeatable foe. As he tries to work out how to escape from the Toymaker’s final trap, Hartnell’s face is a picture of intense concentration, impressively conveying the impression that Doctor is bringing all of his considerable intellect to bear on the problem at hand.”
The Celestial Toymakermight be a bit of a mixed bag – but there’s not a Who fan in the universe who doesn’t want to see the full serial back in the BBC’s archives.
DVD (Region 2) Information:
- Part Four available on the Lost in Time box set.
- Part Four is the only episode of the serial still held in the BBC archives, as the other three are missing, believed wiped – never to be seen again. The soundtrack, however, still survives, and can be heard on BBC CD.
- A racial slur in episode 2 is covered by linking narration by Peter Purves on the soundtrack.
- The Toymaker (once more played by Gough) was to return in The Nightmare Fair, but Michael Grade put the show on hiatus for eighteen months, and the serial was never made for broadcast.
WATCH IT IF YOU LIKE… AN UNEARTHLY CHILD.