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Doctor Who: The Celestial Toymaker

Clowns to the left of me, Doctors to the right...
(draws breath)... it was a different time.

Season Three, Story Y

Starring William Hartnell as the Doctor
With Peter Purves (Steven) and Jackie Lane (Dodo)
Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Bill Sellars
Produced by Innes Lloyd
Script Editor: Gerry Davis

Episode Titles and Broadcast Dates
  • The Celestial Toyroom (2 Apr 1966) **MISSING**
  • The Hall of Dolls (9 Apr 1966) **MISSING**
  • The Dancing Floor (16 Apr 1966) **MISSING**
  • The Final Test (23 Apr 1966)

How To Watch
  • Loose Cannon's reconstructions of the three missing episodes are available here
  • "The Final Test" is available on the Lost In Time DVD
  • The audio soundtrack is available as well, with narration by Peter Purves
  • No plans (as of March 2023) to release an animated version


The Doctor, rendered invisible and intangible (though still audible), suspects an evil entity is attacking them, and sure enough the TARDIS lands outside reality in the surreal realm of the Celestial Toymaker, an immortal alien entity presenting as a Mandarin sorcerer. He forces Steven and Dodo to play his sinister games against childrens' toys and fictional characters come to life, having to overcome several potentially fatal obstacles and oblique rhyming clues to find the TARDIS, while the Toymaker challenges the Doctor to play the Trilogic game. Steven and Dodo survive the various games despite their opponents' cheating and reach the TARDIS, but the Doctor realizes the Toymaker is setting a devious trap; upon the Doctor's winning move, the realm of the Toymaker would disappear, and the TARDIS with it. The Doctor manages to cheat the Toymaker by copying his voice and forcing the final move from within the safety of the TARDIS.

Notes and Observations

So, let's address the two elephants in the room, both that deal with elements that were acceptable a half-century-plus ago but would never pass muster today. Firstly the Toymaker, his use of the adjective "Celestial" and his oriental silk robes (recycled from "Marco Polo") are both appropriated from Chinese culture. Michael Gough is Caucasian, though to be fair he doesn't appear to use any accent or makeup to look and sound Asian. For all we know, the Toymaker is wearing these robes purely as an affectation. Your level of offense to this may vary; it's arguably the smaller elephant of the two, and in terms of Asian stereotyping on Doctor Who, it'll get worse.

The other elephant... well. This is the only story in Doctor Who history to use the N-word. Even "Rosa," set in the Deep South of the 1950's, didn't go there. Actor Campbell Singer as the King of Hearts is the culprit in episode two; as he chooses a chair, he mumbles "Eenie Meenie Miney Moe, catch a n****r by the toe..."

According to the Missing Episodes Podcast, the word wasn't in the script. There was a bit of ad-libbing going on during the story – more on that later – and all the script purportedly said was 'the King of Hearts eenie-meenie-miney-moes to select a chair' or somesuch, and, well, today we would normally say 'tiger' but it was more common then to use the N-word, and that was indeed the word Singer opted to use. I wonder, given that he did mutter it sotto voce, did the director or production staff even notice? If they did, was it noted? Given the production methods of the time, when the scenes were shot virtually live to tape, there were no re-shoots unless something egregiously wrong happened. And for better or worse, it wasn't a banned word in those days (you may recall a Monty Python's Flying Circus skit featuring a character named Mrs. N****rbaiter, or a famous scene in the Fawlty Towers episode "The Germans") nor considered as deeply offensive as it is today, so even if it was heard and noted as a problem, it apparently wasn't deemed sufficient grounds for a re-shoot or post-production overdub. Thus it ended up being broadcast, and it's something we have to deal with nearly sixty years later.

Incidentally, the soundtrack release contains a lot of descriptive narration by Peter Purves, and they appear to intentionally have him narrating over the word in question, rendering it unintelligible.

And now we've gotten that out of the way. Oh, wait, there are 3.99 other episodes? You don't say!

"The Celestial Toymaker" had a very troubled development. It was one of the last scripts commissioned by producer John Wiles, and as it happened, William Hartnell's contract expired at the end of that four-episode block. Wiles's feud with Hartnell had reached the point where he and Donald Tosh looked at this story as an opportunity to get rid of Hartnell altogether. If they had their way, when the Doctor re-appeared in episode Four, they'd use a brand new actor who would carry on in the role. But in the end they egregiously miscalculated: Hartnell ultimately got a contract extension, and Wiles and Tosh resigned in frustration.

By then, Brian Hayles' script had been almost completely re-written by Tosh, then re-re-written by new script editor Gerry Davis. According to the Missing Episodes Podcast, the final scripts used the Tosh script with Davis's contributions written in pencil in the margins. And after Wiles supposedly intentionally overspent on "The Ark" out of spite, Lloyd and Tosh had to slash the budget. Though even here, I appreciate that they dealt with it by using three actors reappearing as different characters in each episode.

This is a notable story in that it's the first to be set in a fantasy realm, as well as the first in which the female companion is allowed to wear a mini-skirt (Dodo and Steven's costumes in this story have become ironically iconic). The fantasy setting is among the experiments in style and form that we'd see less of in future seasons, and it's welcome here. I also enjoy the irony that the characters in the games all cheat to win (yet fail) while our heroes attempt to play fairly, but they themselves have to cheat to escape in the end.

"Oh look, there go the BBC legal team!"

Peter Stephens, in episode three, contributes an ad-lib that got the production team in hot water. His character Cyril is clearly modeled after the mischievous Billy Bunter from the early 20th century book series by Charles Hamilton. His ad-lib "My friends call me Billy" caused Hamilton's estate to threaten legal action, and obliged the BBC to add a continuity voice-over in the closing credits of episode four averring there was no deliberate connection between the two characters.

There's a fascinating moment in episode one that tends to get overlooked. Steven and Dodo's attentions are gripped by a robot with a hypnotic video screen that plays moments from their pasts. While Steven sees a flashback to Kembel (from "The Daleks' Master Plan"), Dodo sees herself deep in sorrow just after her mother died. This and a few other hints at her troubled personal life give Dodo far more dimension and backstory than a lot of companions.

It does seem that the story is hobbled by the hurried re-writes and multiple hands it passed through between initial commission and filming. That said, the guest actors bring it to life. Singer and Silvera are a wonderful pair, Stephens is enjoyably menacing as Cyril, Gough is sinister if a bit generic as the Toymaker. For all the troublesome production process and hurdles it had to go through, it nearly holds together. If the missing episodes are ever rediscovered, it would be fascinating to see how the games are played, and to enjoy the lovely visuals now in motion, and the interaction between the guest actors.

Haven't I Seen You...
  • Michael Gough (Toymaker) will return as Time Lord Chancellor Hedin in "Arc of Infinity." Also, he was married to Anneke Wills (Polly) from 1962 to 1979. He is best known to contemporary audiences as Alfred, butler to Bruce Wayne in the Tim Burton Batman movie series.
  • Carmen Silvera (Clara/Queen of Hearts/Mrs Wiggins) will return as Ruth in "Invasion of the Dinosaurs"
  • Peter Stephens (Knave of Hearts/Kitchen Boy/Cyril) will return as the Atlantean Priest Lolem in "The Underwater Menace"

Sausage Factor: 50% (4 females out of a guest cast of 8 credited actors, although 3 are silent ballerinas)

Rating: Two out of Four Deadly Chairs
John Geoffrion is a semi-retired semi-professional thespian, a professional data guy, and a Dad. He usually falls asleep to the Classic Doctor Who channel on Pluto.tv


  1. Michael Gough is also in Hammer Horror classic 'Dracula' (or 'Horror of Dracula' in the US), and he's solid there as well!

    Until I heard about it in discussions of this missing story, I had no idea celestial was a racial slur. It always sounds like a compliment to my ears, as in having to do with the stars/heavens, but reading a bit of history on the term brings this to light, and matches some of the rules for them in the EU game series.

    One of my main complaints about the otherwise excellent Talons of Weng Chiang is the racism in that story. While I can only see a few bits and pieces of this one on the lost years DVD set, the issues in that Tom Baker story are far worse than here, although that doesn't excuse this in any way. The use of the n-word certainly is not a solid thing either. I had thought the Monty Python was intentionally using that name to mock racists as they were generally progressive.

    I still want to see this story animated, I'm fine with them editing out that racial slur, in fact I think they should if they get around to it.

    On a somewhat related note, I've been collecting and watching classic Scooby Doo cartoons as I was born in 69 and it's a huge part of my childhood. I was watching "Mystery mask mix-up" and when Shaggy and Scooby pretend to be Chinese waiters, that was very bad, and I had forgotten about that since it's been 40ish years since I saw it!

  2. Aaaahh! CLOWNS!

    That top pic was a surprise.


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