The Celestial Toymaker

This story is not known to exist in its original format
(4 black-and-white 25-minute TV episodes)
in its entirety.
CD Audio - 2 discs
(Doctor Who Story No. 24, starring William Hartnell)
  • written by Brian Hayles (and rewritten by Gerry Davis)
  • directed by Bill Sellars
  • produced by Innes Lloyd
  • music by Dudley Simpson
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each:
    1. The Celestial Toyroom
    2. The Hall of Dolls
    3. The Dancing Floor
    4. The Final Test
Story: The Doctor, Steven, and Dodo find themselves in the dimension of the Celestial Toymaker, a powerful being who can alter his realm at will. He forces them to play a variety of games against his living toys who love to cheat, while enforcing the rules harshly against the Doctor's party. Can they win their freedom back fair and square? One mistake by any of them, and they will all become toys added to the Toymaker's collection....

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

The official writing credits for this story go to Brian Hayles, but in reality this is much more of a hasty creation by incoming script editor Gerry Davis, as he works quickly to mop up the mess left by previous script editor Donald Tosh's mixed-up methods of throwing too many conflicting ideas and writers together. This story's basic idea and characters are good, but I can't say I care much for the execution, particularly as the plot is so one-dimensional.

Episode One - The Celestial Toyroom

The Doctor and his friends have a new environment to explore and discover, something that usually works well on the series. The dialogue written for that purpose seems to waste much more time than necessary though, as the characters seem to talk a lot and say very little, taking ages to come to the point of their ideas. The Doctor's train of thought becomes as intangible as his visual appearance.

Before long, it becomes abundantly clear what this adventure will be about. After a slight pause to "face up" to whatever powerful force made the Doctor invisible, the three travellers are once more motivated solely by getting back into the TARDIS and leaving. Well, la-dee-da, wake me up when they do. Seriously, this is not the way to motivate a Doctor Who story.

Next point - William Hartnell goes off on holiday, again. Hasn't he already missed enough season three episodes? Apparently not. Although the bulk of this story will be without him, and thus the Doctor's role is once more reduced, the disappearance isn't too bad in this story because it isn't quite total. We can see by his hand and the trilogic game and the odd voice-over that he is still present, right beside the main villain, and his mind is ticking. It's not ideal, obviously, but if we have to endure his disappearance, this will do.

Although the first Doctor puts in a good showing in episode one with his confrontation with the Toymaker, Steven and Dodo must carry the bulk of this adventure, and our first taste of the conflict that will occupy them has the "doll duo" of Carmen Silvera and Campbell Singer playing mischievous clowns. Silvera's voice is so high pitched here that understanding her becomes difficult, and Singer's conversational skills have been reduced to rude blasts of a prop horn. The obstacle course game that they play isn't very interesting in itself, and the sequence relies on the clowns' creativity in cheating for its drama. At least this sequence finally gets a bit of power from a shift to a darker tone as it proceeds. Steven and Dodo eventually triumph, not surprising as the story would come to an end if they didn't, and then it is revealed that they will have to go on to another game before they can achieve their goals. So, in other words, the audience is left to look forward to more of the same silliness for three more weeks, without even a good cliffhanger to entice them. Anticipation, of quality at least, is once more lacking.

Episode Two - The Hall of Dolls
Episode Three - The Dancing Floor

Thankfully, Silvera and Singer get much better roles in the middle episodes. The King and Queen of Hearts are much more interesting characters to listen to, absent-mindedly injecting humour into an otherwise deadly situation. Later on, they play Mrs. Wiggs and Sgt. Rugg, also an interesting and humorous pair, though at times their argumentative side goes too far to remain tasteful.

"I'll never be able to look at a doll or a playing card again with an easy mind."

A rare level of intrigue occurs as Cyril makes fleeting appearances, either as knave, kitchen boy, or school boy, to further hamper matters and make viewers wonder exactly what secret mission he may be on, or what subplot surrounds his character. Episode three's cliffhanger is finally half-decent, creating a sense of escalation and doing a good job to sell viewers on the final episode.

These middle episodes do get points for style, but their impact on the main plot is minimal at best. If episode one is re-discovered, I suggest the story can easily be syndicated with or without episodes two and/or three, especially if stories like "Planet of the Daleks" (story no. 68) and "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" (story no. 71) can be syndicated without an episode simply because they didn't have it in colour at the time.

Episode Four - The Final Test

Cyril's role in this episode is not quite as interesting as before, and the level of intrigue drops as Steven and Dodo have fewer characters to interact with than in any other episode in this adventure. Episode Four's game is better than episode one's, but not as good as episode two's or three's.

The trilogic game is accurately portrayed, and is an interesting mental diversion for those interested enough to find out more about it. As a dramatic device, I do find it a bit lacking however. There are some holes here I'm sure, but I won't nit-pick too much, because in the end Gerry Davis manages to make this game work within the story.

William Hartnell comes back, allowing the Doctor a full-visual final confrontation with the Toymaker. Now things get really interesting, although the dialogue is once more over-flowery and taking a little too much time to get to the point. The points do get well made though, and I prefer the over-explanation here to the under-explanation of later stories like "Ghost Light" (story no. 157). The last dilemma and its final resolution are actually very satisfying. I think Bill Sellars was right to shoot it the way he did. Was the doll-house wall of the set erected for this half-hour? It only seems to appear in cut-away shots. If it was erected, Sellars should have allowed it to appear in the shots a little more - the Toymaker's office appears quite bland without it, even though the sets and props are really quite good if you take time to look at them carefully.

The Candy-Horror Sub-Genre in Doctor Who

While early years of Doctor Who are famous for their flip-flop between historical and sci-fi stories, this adventure clearly does not fit either pattern too well. It is more of a genre I would call "candy-horror", in which the rules of normal reality don't seem to apply, and things one would normally regard as cute or sweet are now much more deadly. Although this may not be the best example of the genre in Doctor Who, this story is easily understandable, and it all gains credibility from the constant mention of mental power and discipline, suggesting that it all exists this way specifically because the powerful Toymaker wills it so.

Michael Gough's presence is what really gives the Toymaker his appeal, as there isn't all that much plot or action for the character to develop from. His acting job is superb. Also adding to his import are the Doctor's mentionings that he has met the Toymaker before, and expects to meet him again. Thus all in one story we have the feeling of meeting a recurring villain without it actually being so, nor perhaps should it be so.

Although this kind of silly story is not actually too bad, it commits the sin of being largely Doctor-less, and season three is full of much better stories anyway. Sylvester McCoy introduces the final episode on
"The Hartnell Years" VHS video tape by saying that many fans regard this adventure as a classic. Well, some fans may regard every adventure as a classic. I don't really believe "The Celestial Toymaker" has earned that label. I'd rather just regard Davis's hasty re-write as a successful catch of the dropped ball, and rate the story somewhere between mediocre and okay. It certainly did not go far to improve ratings or lift season three out of "the dregs".

This story is not known to exist in its original format (4 black-and-white 25-minute TV episodes) in its entirety.
Doctor Who: Lost in Time - William Hartnell
1 DVD disc

(also included in Lost in Time Boxed Sets)

Coverage on The Celestial Toymaker includes:
  • One complete episode:
    • Episode 4: The Final Test
More details & buying options for "Lost in Time" DVD's
Audio CD - Doctor Who - The Celestial Toymaker. (2 discs)

This 2 CD set features the complete audio tracks of all 4 television episodes of this story:
  • The CD Audio version features narration by actor Peter Purves (who also played Steven Taylor) to help listeners follow what used to be visual aspects of the story. This version spans both discs and is playable in any normal audio CD player.

Doctor Who: The Hartnell Years
introduced by Sylvester McCoy

1 VHS video tape

Coverage on The Celestial Toymaker includes:
  • One complete episode:
    • Episode 4: The Final Test
More details & buying options for missing episode VHS videos
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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Gunfighters"

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