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“The Celestial Toymaker” as a serial has had quite a mixed history in fandom circles. It was first broadcast in April 1966 as part of the third season of Doctor Who, and like most of the stories of that season, the original episodes were eventually wiped from the BBC. While Episode 4 – “The Final Game” was found in Australia in 1986, there was twenty years it existed as a fan memory, with information shared in fanzines based on these memories celebrating the creativity and fantasy elements of the story. There was even a plan in 1985 to bring back the character for the cancelled original season 23 story “The Nightmare Fair” where he would use video games and theme park threats to menace Colin Baker’s sixth Doctor.

After the final episode was found in 1986, there slowly was a reappraisal of the story. While early Doctor Who special effects and staging were never seen as a strength, the original story’s budget was basically a shoestring. A retrospective by Doctor Who Magazine in the early 2000’s called it boring. In 2011, Elizabeth Sandifer in their Eruditorum Press blog, highlighted the racist aspects of the story, such as the use of a racial slur spoken by a minor character in episode two (thankfully concealed from all media releases), and the character of the Toymaker himself as a Fu Manchu style Asian stereotype. The term “Celestial” itself, while often taken to mean “From the sky” is also an old time slur for the Chinese. Russell T Davies in the lead up to the Toymaker’s return in “The Giggle” acknowledged he was aware of this in interviews, and had the character play with accents using race as an attack against others.

The Original Trilogic Game

So like with many of the very lost stories of the sixties, it’s been an interesting journey for how “The Celestial Toymaker” has been seen. And the last time I sat down to watch the surviving episode, my partner lasted five minutes into watching characters throw dice on the floor before leaving the room and not returning. And she had a point.

But this review isn’t about the original 1966 production. In light of the Toymaker’s triumphant return in 2023’s “The Giggle” a newly animated version of the original 1966 story has been released to allow fans to have better access to this returning villain.

Story Outline

As was standard with the series in 1966, the story begins at the conclusion of the previous story “The Ark” with the Doctor (William Hartnell) suddenly becoming invisible and warning his companions Steven (Peter Purves) and Dodo (Jackie Lane) they were in grave danger. Exiting the TARDIS, the Doctor finds his form has returned, and after being tempted by windows displaying their memories, they are confronted by the Toymaker (Michael Gough). The Toymaker says in order to leave they must play his games, the Doctor being transported away to play the Trilogic Game (Better known as Towers of Hanoi), with Steven and Dodo completing several other games in order to find the TARDIS.

Each of these games is a variation of popular games of the time, such as Blind Man’s Bluff, musical chairs, and hunt the thimble, but with the threat of failure resulting in Steven and Dodo becoming eternal play things of the Toymaker. Meanwhile the Doctor is unable to assist his companions, as the Toymaker demonstrates his power by removing his speech, and reducing him to one hand, operating the game.

While the concept is interesting, and demonstrative of the wide variety of story styles in a series that didn’t have a set format a yet, in practice, watching a bunch of character actors play simple games is a slow and dull spectacle to watch. This isn’t helped by the last episode featuring the game “TARDIS hopscotch” where characters roll dice, and jump from base to base.

Production Turmoil

Behind the scenes, this is an era of Doctor Who of inner turmoil. William Hartnell’s health was declining, with his as yet undiagnosed condition of arteriosclerosis resulting in memory lapses and irritability. Previous production teams, who had known how to work well with Hartnell, had been replaced, alongside much of the cast that he had been close with. As a result, there was a new production team which did not have a good working relationship with Hartnell, and Hartnell often taking extended breaks within stories. Towards this part of Season 3, almost every second story had the Doctor somewhat incapacitated or absent, and in “The Celestial Toymaker” the Toymaker reduces the Doctor to just a hand for most of the first three episodes.

As regeneration would not be created as a plot device until the following season, there had been a plan to have the Toymaker change the Doctor’s appearance when he becomes visible again, and have the new recast Doctor become the main character following. While this plan was vetoed (And the producer who had the plan subsequently left the production of this story), some elements may have lead to the idea of what we now know as regeneration.

There had also been issues raised about the new companion of Dodo Chaplet, introduced five episodes previously. Originally developed as a down to earth modern girl with a Cockney accent, her accent was changed to BBC standard English from this story until her departure at the final story of the season. This was evidence of a different view between the production team wanting to move the series to reflect a youth audience, and the policies of the BBC of the day to only allow certain accents. However, by the end of the season, with the introduction of cockney sailor Ben Jackson as a companion, diversity of accents was eventually accepted.

Missing Stories

Steven and Dodo are menaced by Cyril - animated version

In the 1960’s there was not a view that television need to be stored. Home video was two decades away, repeats were rare, and tape was expensive and a fire hazard to store. As a result, many shows had episode, or entire seasons, wiped by the production teams of the time. Doctor Who is one of the most known series effected by this decision, but definitely not the only one, with series like “The Avengers” “Hancock’s Half Hour” and many more having most of their seasons almost entirely lost.

Fans of the time, while unable to record video, were able to record audio tapes of each episode, and this has meant that “Missing stories” have been able to be enjoyed by fans today either as narrated audio, or combining these audio tracts with existing pictures of the story.

Since 2006, the BBC had looked into animation studios to created animated reconstructions of these missing stories. Originally just attempting to recreate stories as they would have been shown in the 1960’s, since 2019 animation studios have increasingly tried to make a new version of the story, based on the ideas in the script, rather than the limits of what was possible in the budget of the day. The result of that is stories, such as 1967’s “The Macra Terror” featuring far more expressive and mobile monsters than were possible originally.

While the decision to change the stories somewhat substantially was a controversial one, it’s a decision I’ve very much approved of. Rather than make an animated reconstruction which will never match with what the original broadcast episodes would have looked like, instead a new story is created. In cases where these stories and their plots have been known for decades, there is an excitement in finding a new way to make them, and seeing what the animators have been inspired to make from the script.

The New Updated Animated Version – Pros and Cons

“The Celestial Toymaker” is the newest of these animations, and with a style that is quite distinct from most animations that have occurred before. Whereas most of the last productions were producing simple flash style 2D animation, the style used for Celestial Toymaker seems more three dimensional, with textures and crevices more noticeable on the faces of the cast.

This new style of animation has its drawbacks, and at first glance in the trailer earlier this year, the visualizations of the main cast was off putting to me. The way the mouth of most characters move seems not to match the sounds, with often just the lower lip moving to give the impression of speech.

Each human character, no matter their age, seemed to have old, tired eyes. While I reminded myself that no Doctor Who animated feature has been amazing when it came to showing human expression and emotion, the portrayal of the human cast in “The Celestial Toymaker” is a good example of the uncanny valley – they have ceased looking like a cartoon, but instead look like people with something wrong.

However, the animation team for this project have also used “the uncanny valley” for their benefit. Because while out of context, the animated versions of the human cast look wrong, for this particular story, in this particular context, looking uncanny makes sense. The Celestial Toyroom is an uncanny place – it’s meant to be outside of time and space, a world where the only rules are those determined by a God like creature obsessed with games. And this new animated version really reflects it.

Starting with the non-regular cast, not having to use a physical human being for a cast has freed the team to create a range of characters that would not be possible to feature easily in Doctor Who, even today. A comical chef character in episode three is now a life size knitted doll, and the movements which look awkward on an animated human, look sensible on a doll filled with stuffing. Dancing dolls which were originally just human dancers are now wooden dolls, with the wood grain visible on each face. The Toymaker himself seems to shrink and grow to giant sizes on a whim. The playing card characters in episode two, previously just actors dressed to look like the Kings and Queens appearing on a playing card deck, are now cards with stick arms and legs.

The settings also show a world where physics do not make sense. Steven completing an obstacle course can suddenly be walking on the ceiling. Transition between games occurs by crossing toy blocks seemingly hovering above a mist of nothingness. The game of jumping from shallow platforms across the floor, is now jumping through the air, with electrical sparks threatening the cast below.

The best example of how these themes combine is in episode three. As Dodo and Steven enter the dancing floor, there is a musical interlude where the dancing dolls as scripted finish their routine. It’s quite a long musical number, and nothing happens in it. The animated version instead has Dodo and Steven drifting through a void, falling through the Toymaker’s mouth, onto a form of the TARDIS, only to be reformed at the end of the musical montage. The creativity shown in this scene makes it, in my mind, the greatest piece of animated Doctor Who ever made.

While most animated reconstructions have allowed fans to appreciate and enjoy stories which are now lost, with “The Celestial Toymaker” we actually have a reconstruction which enhances on the original. The settings are exciting, the characters visually interesting, and the threat is apparent throughout the animation where it was not before. While no further animations are announced, if this is the new bench mark on what could be aimed for, I hope we see more of this in the future.

In particular, get this team of recreate “The Space Pirates” from 1969, and let them go to town to recreate a space opera without relying on 1969’s model effects.

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Doctor Who

Same Same, But Different. Five EU Stories Which Show Doctor Who monsters in a New Light

See how different creators of Audio Plays, Comics and Books reinvent familiar monsters in unique ways

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One of the paradoxes of being a Doctor Who fan is you want more of the same, but not too much the same.  If you like a particular character or monster, you want them to come back, but not do the exact same thing a second time, instead using a second opportunity to explore a different angle that we didn’t see the first time around.  However, even then for characters and monsters we’ve been seeing for sixty years, how many more angles can we see? 

Luckily, the Doctor Who fan also has the Extended Universe, one of the largest and most diverse in pop culture with a mixtures of books, audio plays and comics across sixty years of entertainment to enjoy.  And in that time, we see views and interpretations of monsters we have never seen before or since. 

Today we’re just going to focus on five monsters, and recommendations for each, but let me know if there’s any monster or character I’ve missed that you’d like to see more of.

The Silurians/Earth Reptiles

First introduced in 1970’s “Doctor Who and the Silurians” the creatures also known as “Earth Reptiles” were one of the first challenges to the Earth-bound era of Doctor Who having to be about alien invasions all the time.  The Silurians aren’t aliens, they’re more Earthlings than we are, having predated humanity but going into hibernation during the time the mammals rose.  After first menacing Jon Pertwee’s third Doctor, they were reintroduced during the Eleventh Doctor’s era in 2010’s “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”

Since then, while rarely a main monster of a storyline, they have continued to make regular cameos, most significantly with the reoccurring character of Madame Vastra, the Doctor’s ally detective in Victorian London. 

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New Interpretation – Bloodtide (2001)

Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor is the best Doctor for the Big Finish Audio Range, and the Big Finish Audio range is the best example of the Sixth Doctor.  With freedom from the difficult production era of the mid-eighties, and coupled with companions like history professor, Evelyn Smythe, (Portrayed by the great Maggie Stables), who was able to challenge the Doctor’s morality and even teach him a thing or two, the Sixth Doctor was given opportunities to be nicer and more definitively a hero, while still being the loud bombastic Doctor of the television series.

Bloodtide sees the Doctor and Evelyn travelling to the Galapagos Islands at the same time in history as Charles Darwin is developing his studies into what will eventually become his theory of evolution.  However, there is another race on the islands, and their influence over humanity will put that theory, and the existence of humanity to the test. The relationship between humanity and the Silurians varies significantly across the appearances, with some stories suggesting no overlap between Silurians and humanity, but this story explores the idea of Silurians being influential in the development of humanity, and seeing us as equivalent to domesticated animals who became feral.  Also, in a novel twist, instead of Silurians suddenly awakening to explore the world, Bloodtide has Silurians already in control of a degree of humanity, albeit a small one, and presents one idea where Silurians and Humanity existence in a master-servant state.

Honorable Mentions

Blood Heat – Presenting a parallel world where the Silurians successfully wipe out much of humanity with a virus, the Silurians, and their cousins the Sea Devils now control the planet with only a minimal force of human rebels opposing them.

The Cybermen – A Doctor Who Magazine (DWM) comic strip which explores the origin of the Cybermen, and connects their creation to a race of Silurians on Earth’s twin planet Mondas


Weeping Angels

The only modern series monster that can really be considered a major reoccurring antagonist, the Weeping Angels, first appeared in the Tenth Doctor story “Blink” where transport people to the past and feed of the time energies that have been left behind.  Their primary characteristic, being stone when in view, and moving quickly when not seen, created a sense of terror for characters Sally Sparrow, and also the viewers at home. 

While originally in their first story there was only four of the angels present, their second appearance in “Flesh and Blood” heightened the fear factor, with the Eleventh Doctor stuck on a world infested by Angels.  Other stories had the Angel develop a farm where human temporal energy could be harvested repeatedly, and even turning the Thirteenth Doctor briefly into a Weeping Angel herself.


New Interpretation – Grey Matter from Twelve Angels Weeping

One of the limitations of a horror based monster like the Weeping Angels in Doctor Who, is that the Doctor must survive, and almost always wins.  It’s hard to be too terrified when we already know the result, and that our hero would likely survive. 

This story is different though.

On the Planet Gehanna, a plague has broken out among the twelve separate human cities.  Our story starts on City One, the last remaining city free from the outbreak, though keeping tightly controlled with specialized breath masks being work at all times to protect its citizens.  The Twelfth Doctor arrives, and is quickly captured and taken for interrogation as an outsider by the City’s Chief Medical Officer, and finds the Medical Officer’s other prisoner, a tortured and disfigured weeping angel. 

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Not to give too much spoilers away, but despite this being a Christmas themed anthology, this story feels more like Halloween.  Angels are seen as victims initially here, but also vengeful, vindictive, and ultimately victorious, with fear inducing scenes conveyed in text but conveying an impact not seen since their initial appearance in “Blink”

Honorable Mention – The Weeping Angel of Mons

Bridging the gap between their first appearance in “Blink” this story sees the Tenth Doctor finding the Angel using the cover of WWI to feast on humanity.  This story has a lot of elements in common with “Angels of Manhattan”and “Blink” but seems like a natural sequel to “Blink” with intensity and involvement of angels increasing but only slightly. 


The Cybermen

Considered one of the Big Two Monsters of Doctor who, these cyborg threats first appeared in 1966’s “The Tenth Planet”, the final story of the First Doctor’s era.  The Cybermen were originally humanoids from the Earth’s twin planet, Mondas, but following their planet being flung out of orbit, and moving away from Earth’s sun, they used gradual replacement of their parts with robotic and computer elements to become the cold, emotionless Cybermen.  Since then we’ve seen a range of Cybermen, from Telos ice vaults, to parallel universes, to the Twelfth Doctor introducing the idea that they are the natural evolution whenever a planet’s technology takes over.  However, the idea of the Cybermen conquering planets, in particular Earth, has remained consistent across all variations, as well as their constant rejection of all emotions as a weakness. 

New Interpretation: Killing Ground

The Cybermen in most of Doctor Who are seen as attempting to invade the planet, but rarely is it explored what would happen if they were successful.  They’re not like Daleks, killing things because they honestly believe they should die.  They’re not like Sontarans, using conquered planets as tools in their war against an enemy.  Mostly during Cybermen stories their motivation is to survive, to take a planet in order to avoid extinction. 

In the “Killing Ground” the Cybermen are still aiming for survival, but that is happening off page.  In the outer context of the story, the Cybermen are weakened, after a Cyber-War they were on the losing side for.  However, on this planet, the planet Agora, they have remained in complete control of the planet for almost fifty years.  People are used as source material for Cybermen to allow the Cyber race to grow in other areas of the cosmos, not to keep control on Agora as most rebellions have been violently suppressed at this time.

Onto this planet arrives the Sixth Doctor and his companion Grant Markham, who was transported  from Agora as a child in order to escape the future of being a Cybermen when his body should prove useful. 

The idea of a reoccurring monster not only invading a planet, but maintaining the control for decades is uncommon for any monster, and the image of what a Cyber-run world would look like adds a new fear, and shows how despite being emotionless, the Cybermen can be cruel with their logical responses. 

Honorable Mentions

Throwback the Soul of the Cybermen -Similar to “Killing Ground” this also shows a Cyberman occupied planet, where there is only slight conflict between the Cybermen and their human slaves.  However, in this story we meet Cyberman Kroton, a Cyberman with a soul, struggling to understand humanity and our emotions, rather than reacting to them. 

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The Flood – The last Eighth Doctor comic strip features the Cybermen attempting to invade Earth.  The comic artist takes full advantage of the range an artist has to make versions of the Cybermen which can never be seen on TV or have an actor inside them.  In addition, this story presents the Cybermen as benevolent – removing emotions removed due to an honest belief they cause harm and distress, so those without them will have improved quality of life. 


The Autons

Servants of the Lovecraftian Nestene consciousness, the Autons are plastic robots, with inbuilt hand weaponry, and skills in duplication.  They first appeared in 1970, facing a newly regenerated Third Doctor, memorably bursting from the shop windows and shooting at passerbys in the final episode of “Spearhead From Space.”

This initial stand out scene was replicated for the relaunch, with the Ninth Doctor and Rose opposing the Autons and their Nestene rulers in the first Ninth Doctor Episode “Rose” when they again appear as shop window dummies attacking the public.

New Interpretation – Brave New Town

In the original stories from the 1970’s, the Autons connected to their controllers, the Nestenes, through Nestene crystal spheres which travel to Earth as meteorites.  Usually if this connection to the Nestenes is cut off the Autons cease to be. 

But what if they don’t?  What would Autons be if they weren’t guided for a time by the Nestenes?  Consdeirng their skills for impersonation, could they impersonate so well they confused themselves?

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This is the question asked in the Eighth Doctor Big Finish story, where the Doctor and his companion Lucie Miller find the quiet seaside town of Thorington is repeating the same day over and over.  Soon they find the planet has many secrets, and its population having been used by monsters both otherworldly and Human. 


Daleks

The Daleks are THE Monster talked about when discussing Doctor Who, the first alien/monster opponent of the entire series, the second antagonist and second alien featured over all.  They have fought against every version of the Doctor, including each of the main Television Doctors, as well as the War Doctor as portrayed by John Hurt, parallel universe Doctors in the Unbound Series and the movie version of Doctor Who, portrayed by Peter Cushing. 

They have featured in Board Games, Video Games, Comics, Comic Strips, Books, Audio Plays, Stage Shows, Escape Rooms – any form of media that could feature the metal monsters from Skaro have featured them. 

So with so many stories showing their evil, their hatred for all other beings, their belief in Dalek supremacy as the natural order of things, what is there left to explore?

New Interpretation – Children of the Revolution

In 1967, Patrick Troughton completed his first season as the second Doctor, with the story “Evil of the Daleks.” This epic seven part story had the Doctor travelling between present day Earth, the Victorian era, and Skaro itself in search for the stolen TARDIS, and on the way uncovering the Dalek plan to discover what makes a Dalek a Dalek, the Dalek factor, and insert it into human kinds to create a Dalek race.

However, the Daleks are defeated by the Doctor instilling three Daleks with a Human factor – creating Daleks with a sense of fun, playfulness, and particularly the ability to question and think for themselves.  This tendency leads to disunity, and as the Doctor spreads the Human factor to more Daleks, a civil war emerges between the rival forces of Daleks.  This was originally devised as the final Dalek story, with the might Dalek emperor being exterminated, and the Dalek city destroyed.

Of course, the Daleks returns around five years later, and a cut piece of dialogue from “Day of the Daleks” said the rebellion was crushed, and the Humanised Daleks exterminated. 

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But what if the survived?  What if the Daleks who were more human lost the war, but escaped?  This is the question the DWM comic strip “Children of the Revolution” aims to answer.

The Eighth Doctor, and his companion Izzy, arrive on the water planet of Kyrol, where a crew of humans on a submarine are captured by a secret Dalek colony.  But this is not a colony preparing nefarious schemes, but just hiding to survive, knowing they are hared by not just other Daleks, but all other species who see Daleks as a threat.  While the Doctor tries to defuse tensions between the human prisoners and the Daleks he played a part in creating, outside enemies attempt to manipulate the situation for their own benefit.

This story shows a world of what would Daleks be if they used their intelligence for acts other that destruction.  How would they view other races if they did not see them worthy of destruction?  We see a Dalek race that invests in art, in scientific curiosity, but can also see the difficulty the Doctor faces in wanting to protect them, while also seeing the point of the humans who want to be free. 

With amazing visuals of Daleks underwater, this is an amazing story and well worth a read.

Honorable mentions:

Jubilee – This audio play by Robert Shearman served as a basis for the eventual television episode “Dalek” but the original audio is very very different and as a result can be enjoyed in a separate way.  The Doctor and Evelyn Smythe arrive on an Earth celebrating a hundred years since the failed Dalek invasion, one the Doctor and Evelyn stopped but have not recalled it at all. 

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Prisoner of the Daleks

While we often hear of the massive Dalek armies of the Dalek war, due to budgets we rarely see them, instead usually seeing small Dalek forces attempting invasions or attacks of certain areas.  Prisoner of the Daleks has the Tenth Doctor landing in a timeline prior to the Time War, where Daleks are a dominant force, with the Earth empire attempting to fight back by paying bounty hunters to destroy Daleks.  The strength and intelligence of the Daleks in this story is impressive, with the Doctor largely being helpless to out manipulate or defeat them until the very end.  Also, for a book from the BBC era which tended to be lighter, this is a dark world, with planets destroying themselves with nuclear weapons to prevent Dalek invasion and the survivors captured anyway by the Daleks who are not deterred by this act. 


This article just touches on some of the Doctor who monsters and villains that can be appreciated in new ways in the Extended Universe.  Of course there are many other ways to appreciate them, and many other monsters and villains to explore.  Please share any characters you’d like to find out about their varied appearances in the comments below. 

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