Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Celestial Toymaker (1966)

by Chad Denton

After the Doctor becomes invisible, the TARDIS materializes in the middle of a vast empty room. Dodo begs that they leave, but the Doctor remarks that he’s also intangible and can’t operate the TARDIS. Elsewhere a man dressed like a Mandarin sends two clowns to greet his “guests.” Back near the TARDIS, the Doctor deduces that they’re in the realm of the Celestial Toymaker. The man himself appears and causes the TARDIS and then the Doctor to vanish, leaving Dodo and Steven alone with the clowns, who begin to play harmless pranks. The Toymaker reappears and says he’s taken the Doctor to play a game, and Dodo and Steven must play several games on their own. If they win, they’ll be given a TARDIS (which, the Toymaker adds, might not be the real one). If they lose, they’ll be trapped in his world for the rest of their lives. Plus they’ll have to win their games before the Doctor wins his or they all lose.

At the Toymaker’s house, the Doctor accuses the Toymaker of luring people into his realm and literally turning them into toys, which the Toymaker doesn’t deny. However, he admits that he’s become bored and wants to make the Doctor into his “perpetual opponent.” He tells the Doctor that if he and his companions must win all the games they may leave and the Toymaker’s world will be destroyed. He then challenges the Doctor to a very complex version of a Tower of Hanoi game that will require 1,023 turns to win. Back at the room, Steven is challenged by the clowns to a grueling version of a Blind Man’s Bluff with an obstacle course. The Doctor uses the Toymaker’s communication device to warn them that the game is more dangerous than they think, but the Toymaker quickly retaliates by making the Doctor invisible again. The clowns win the game, but Dodo and Steven find out that the clowns were using a fake blindfold, allowing them to challenge the clowns to a second round, which they win. After the victory, the clowns transform into dolls and a TARDIS appears, but inside they only find a written riddle.

Following the clue, they find themselves in two rooms with seven thrones and a group of human playing cards, a King, a Queen, a Joker, and a Knave. Once again the Doctor manages to warn them to be careful, causing the Toymaker to make him mute as well. From the riddle Dodo and Steven deduce that six of the seven thrones is dangerous and they’re supposed to sit on the safe throne. They also find seven mannequins in some cabinets. The King and Queen approach Steven and Dodo and tell them that they’re not inventions of the Toymaker, but people who have also been made into prisoners. The cards and the companions play together by placing the mannequins on the chairs, which offer up an assortment of death traps, but the strategy fails when they find that the cabinet with the last three mannequins has suddenly become locked, leaving three thrones. Dodo accidentally sits on one of the chairs and slowly starts to freeze; Steven is barely able to pull her away. Abandoned by the Joker and the Knave, the King and the Queen sit on one of the chairs together and are “killed” (actually transformed into playing cards), which at least leaves Dodo and Steven free to pick the right chair. Unfortunately, their only reward is another fake TARDIS and another riddle, along with the Toymaker’s taunts that the Doctor is going to win his game before they win theirs.

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