After the delight of watching a complete story on DVD for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, it was back to reconstructions for episodes one, two and three of The Celestial Toymaker. Episode four is in the BBC Archives and was released on the Lost in Time DVD. This is perhaps an opportune time to discuss the incredible work done by Loose Cannon in reconstructing lost episodes of Doctor Who. Started in 1997 by Rick Brindell, Loose Cannon Productions is a team of six very talented Doctor Who aficionados who have devoted their considerable energies to reconstructing lost episodes. Some of their work, such as The Celestial Toymaker, could be more accurately described as a recreation because of the specifically created material contained within. There being no telesnaps of The Celestial Toymaker missing episodes, Loose Cannon utilized authentic photos and screen grabs from the surviving episode four. Large sections have been cleverly recreated such as Steven’s game of blind man’s bluff. Here photos of a man hopping from block to block have been reimaged to appear as Steven. It’s particularly well done and provides the viewer with a sense that they’re watching a much more animated production. The use of extensive captions scrolling across the bottom of the screen provide a running commentary of the action and alerts the viewer to activity that still photos alone could not convey.
Until the recovery of episode four and its release on video in 1991, The Celestial Toymaker had been held in generally high regard by Doctor Who fandom. Based on the recollections of those who originally viewed the serial in 1966, The Target Books novelization and the audio soundtrack, the serial had something of a mystique about it. Sadly, once episode four was viewed opinion took a downward spiral. This is unfortunate as I found the story very engaging and fascinating. The concept of a world of make believe in which the characters are compelled to participate in childish games in order to retrieve the Tardis is both sinister and surreal. That I’m a great fan of the Second Doctor’s The Mind Robber probably evidences my idiosyncratic tendencies. Both serials have a similar edge about them.
The Celestial Toymaker had been commissioned by outgoing producer John Wiles who had been frustrated by William Hartnell’s increasingly petulant behaviour. It had been his intention to write Hartnell out of Doctor Who and in doing so conceived of a plot line in which the Doctor would change his appearance. Wiles’ plan to replace the lead character was vetoed and the new producer, Innes Lloyd, was compelled to retain Hartnell. Much of the storyline remained, however, with Hartnell absent from episodes two and three. It appears that Hartnell had been sent away on holidays. In About Time 1, Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles argue that “from now on … Hartnell is on borrowed time”.
Hartnell’s absence from half of the story was achieved by the ingenious ploy of making the Doctor firstly invisible, and then mute. This required only the pre-recording of a few lines of script, the use of a hand double, and some very clever special effects for the mid 1960s. The Doctor is in battle with the Toymaker, an evil immortal who finds great joy in condemning others to a lifetime of playing puerile children’s games for his own gratification. Even with the control of others so firmly in his grasp, the Toymaker is still bored with this dolls’ house existence. He will not stop, however, as being vain and indignant he never likes to lose. The Doctor is compelled to play a game of trilogic, a puzzle in which the ten pieces must be moved and restacked in exactly the correct 1023 moves. Annoyed by the Doctor’s presence the Toymaker makes him incorporeal, leaving only his right hand visible. Not satisfied by the Doctor’s invisibility, the Toymaker then makes him mute. It is in this state that the Doctor stays until he is one move away from winning the game in episode four.
Meanwhile the Doctor’s companions, Steven and Dodo, are engaged in a surreal world of children’s games with clowns, playing cards, ballerinas, a cook, a sergeant, and a bratty school boy. None of the characters are real, however distancing herself emotionally from them is very difficult for Dodo. At the end of each episode a riddle is flashed onto the screen, the answer to which will guide Steven and Dodo in the successful completion of their tasks. The Tardis has been taken by the Toymaker and to facilitate its return the companions must not only win the games, but do so prior to the Doctor completing his 1023 move game.
The particularly belligerent Steven and the childlike Dodo play blind man’s bluff, musical chairs, avoid the dolls, find the key and a human board game, all with sinister obstacles. Sitting on the wrong chair, for example, may result in you being frozen solid or melted. To fall from a space in the board game sees you electrocuted, and being caught by a ballerina results in you perpetually dancing. Needless to say, our heroes are victorious . The Doctor beats the Toymaker by bluff and cunning and with their Tardis returned, the crew retire to it. Having pocketed some hard lollies from Cyril, the superbly played “adult” school boy, Dodo shares them around. Given that Cyril is not real, I was somewhat bemused to note that his sweet treats are. Despite his “death” by electrocution, Cyril has the last laugh. The Doctor breaks a tooth on the lolly, and so the scene is set for the next episode’s western shenanigans. If you’re up for a comedy musical with an extraordinarily repetitive sung narration, then join me when I next review The Gunfighters.
©Vivien Fleming, 2013.
Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles, About Time. The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who. 1963-1966 Seasons 1 to 3. Mad Norweigan Press, Illinois, 2009.