In 1966, the Doctor came face-to-face with an immortal adversary known as the Celestial Toymaker who has continued to plague him ever since.
When the Doctor first encountered the Celestial Toymaker, it was in a four part serial of the same name. His power entered the TARDIS and rendered the First Doctor completely invisible; the only way he could break free of his invisibility was for him and his companions Dodo and Steven to play a series of his fiendish games.
Of course, these were no ordinary games. Failure to win would result in a fate worse than death – namely, being turned into a toy and becoming part of the Toymaker’s macabre menagerie for all time. And while Steven and Dodo are forced to compete in such grisly games as TARDIS Hopscotch and Blind Man’s Buff, the Doctor must play something called the Trilogic Game. Nobody really understands what this is, except that it involves moving triangular pieces around a board in a certain sequence in order to construct pyramids.
Thankfully, the Doctor and his companions are able to defeat the Celestial Toymaker and destroy his world. But as the Doctor gloomily points out at the story’s conclusion, the Celestial Toymaker is immortal; he “goes on forever,” and “there will be other meetings, in another time.”
But as it would transpire, the Doctor would never actually meet the Celestial Toymaker again – at least, not on screen. But the character’s legacy continues to endure to this day, being occasionally name-checked in TV stories, and even reuniting with the Time Lord in the expanded universe of audio adventures, comics and books.
That being said, a fully-fledged sequel was originally planned for the 1986 season. Titled ‘The Nightmare Fair,’ the adventure would have starred the Sixth Doctor and Peri and would have been set in Blackpool, with the Celestial Toymaker having established a new base of operations in the town’s famous fun fair. This time, he plans to conquer the Earth using an evil video game that devours the souls of those who lose. These souls would then be used to create an army with which the Toymaker could achieve world domination.
Apparently, the idea for this sequel came about after the producer John Nathan-Turner witnessed the Sixth Doctor Colin Baker opening a new ride called Space Mountain on Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach. He’d also been speaking to a man called Ian Levine, who was acting as the series’ unofficial continuity adviser. He had told Nathan-Turner about the character of the Celestial Toymaker and planted the seeds for a possible sequel. The script editor Eric Saward was less taken with the idea, saying on the Season 23 Blu-ray collection that he found the character “rather quaint.”
Despite this, plans for ‘The Nightmare Fair’ were at quite an advanced stage when the plug was pulled, and the serial would have been made had the BBC not put Doctor Who on an 18 month hiatus in 1985.
Ultimately, the Celestial Toymaker’s return never made it to the screen, although Big Finish did adapt the story for radio many years later.
Followers of the BBC Books would soon get another dose of the Toymaker, though. In ‘Divided Loyalties’ by Gary Russell, the Fifth Doctor, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan enter the Toymaker’s domain, and this time it is Adric who is forced to endure his macabre challenges.
But ‘Divided Loyalties’ also delves into the Celestial Toymaker’s past. The book contains a prequel, of sorts, and outline’s the Doctor’s first encounter with his immortal enemy. Apparently, when the Doctor was studying at the Academy on Gallifrey, he and his friends Rallon and Millennia decided to investigate the myth of the Celestial Toymaker, wishing to learn whether he was real or just a legend. They travelled to his domain in a stolen TARDIS and found the Toymaker in a disembodied state – but not for long. He possessed Rallon and turned Millennia into one of his toys, forcing the Doctor to fight him and escape.
To date, ‘Divided Loyalties’ is the only full-length novel featuring the Celestial Toymaker, but he has cropped up in other media. Players of the PC game ‘Destiny of the Doctor’ will remember the Toymaker being name-checked by the Master, and the character was also referenced in the 2020 TV story ‘Can You Hear Me?’ in which the character of Zellin describes her dimension as being like a board game of which “the Toymaker would approve.”
And then there are the Celestial Toymaker’s comic book adventures. In ‘Relative Dimensions,’ the Twelfth Doctor and Clara encounter a somewhat desperate character; the Toymaker’s domain – the Toyroom – is on the brink of collapse, and the Toymaker is afraid that its contents will spill out into the universe. In order to prevent this, the Doctor allows the Celestial Toymaker to put the Toyroom on board the TARDIS. But he then ejects it into space, leaving the Toyroom and its inhabitants sealed once more.
The Eighth Doctor also encountered him on two occasions. In the comic book ‘Endgame,’ he finds himself trapped in a replica of the English village of Stockbridge. The Celestial Toymaker wants the Doctor to battle him for control of a device called the Imagineum, which has the power to transmute light into matter.
And in the audio adventure ‘Solitaire,’ the stakes are even higher. The Eighth Doctor’s companion Charley Pollard finds herself in a mysterious toyshop where, worryingly, she discovers that the Doctor has been turned into a ventriloquist’s doll. She is then forced to take part in the Toymaker’s games in order to save the Doctor, and herself.
Finally, there is the Seventh Doctor audio adventure ‘The Magic Mousetrap.’ This is set in Switzerland in the 1920s and actually sees the Doctor defeat the Toymaker – at least seemingly. The Doctor turns him into a doll, and to make sure he can never escape, he and his friends consume the doll between them – the idea being that they will forget he ever existed, and that his spirit will gradually fade away.
The only drawback with this plan is that it requires the Doctor to forget that he had made it in the first place. The result is a short-circuit, which was the Toymaker’s intention; he reveals that the Doctor was playing into his hands all along, and he wanted to be absorbed into humanity so that he could get a taste of what it was like to lose.
And so, with so many Celestial Toymaker adventures in existence, is it possible the character could still return to TV? Or would you prefer it if new Doctor Who stories focused on new characters? Let me know in the comments below.
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