February 27: "The Final Test" / "A Holiday for the Doctor"

(The Celestial Toymaker episode 4 & The Gunfighters episode 1)

Oh hey, we can actually watch this episode!  And it is clear that visuals do help somewhat -- we can see Cyril's reactions and we can watch the danger that Steven and Dodo are in by almost falling off the game spaces and onto the electrified floor.

But we're still watching other people play a board game.  And it's not the most expensive-looking set ever, is it?  There's a certain minimal charm to it, but it's not sufficiently distracting to engage the eye when the mind wanders.  Some aspects are good though; the Toymaker's desk and the tin robot monitors are really quite lovely, but then they're stuck in a nondescript white room.

Dodo also continues to be gullible, falling for Cyril's "injured" trick despite already knowing that a) Cyril's an underhanded player, b) moving to a different square without authorization sends you back to the start, and c) Steven is adamantly telling her not to.  It's this last point that seems to make up her mind, as she yells she's going to help him, moves to his square, and has to go back to start.  It does point out Dodo's kind nature and her willingness to see the best in people, but it's also frustrating to watch since we're really on Steven's side in this case.

The Toymaker congratulates the Doctor on (almost) completing
the Trilogic Game. ("The Final Test") ©BBC
In any event, Cyril is eventually undone by his own schemes, making the winning roll but then forgetting he'd put slippery powder on one of the spaces, which sends him off to his "death", leaving a charred doll behind.  The rest of the episode consists of the Doctor brought back to permanence and full voice -- despite Wiles' and Tosh's best efforts23 -- and attempting to work out how to leave the Toymaker's domain without getting caught up in its destruction.  He eventually figures out how to imitate the Toymaker's voice to make the final move for him, dematerializing just as the Toymaker's realm explodes with some, ah, interesting choices of stock footage.

The Celestial Toymaker is a hard story to evaluate based on what we've got, as so much of it does appear to be visual in nature.  The visuals we do have though, with "The Final Test", aren't the most encouraging things ever.  There's enough reason to be cautiously optimistic, but it's still not clear how much visuals would save, say, the second half of "The Celestial Toyroom".  But possibly more than any other currently missing story, The Celestial Toymaker is almost impossible to evaluate based on what we've got, other than to note that it's not very workable as an audio-only story.

So not only does "The Final Test" still exist, but the next four episodes still exist as well.  So we can enjoy "A Holiday for the Doctor".  It's not much of a holiday, though, as the Doctor is suffering a bad toothache as a result of one of Cyril's sweets at the end of last episode.  But rather than arrive in a modern or futuristic locale where he can get his tooth properly looked at, he arrives in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, in 1881 (the second time Doctor Who has traveled to America).  The episode starts out quite seriously; there's a song occasionally entering the proceedings to help set the mood, and the Clanton brothers all seem pretty intent on getting their revenge on Doc Holliday, who killed their brother Ruben (not historically accurate, but never mind).  Doc Holliday is less than enthralled by this: "You kill a guy out of sheer professional ethics, and then you've got three of his brothers chasin' after you to leave at once." 

As things progress it becomes clear that this isn't going to be as serious a treatment of the subject as, say, The Massacre was -- not surprising, given writer Donald Cotton's last story was The Myth Makers.  This means that there are some great moments, such as when the Doctor, in Holliday's office to have his tooth removed, realizes there's no anesthetic available.  "You're welcome to a slug of rattlesnake oil!" Holliday says, proffering a bottle.  "Oh my dear man, I never touch alcohol," the Doctor says.  "Well, I do," Holliday replies, taking a large swig.  And then there's Steven and Dodo, who've dressed up in what look more like fancy-dress versions of American West attire, being forced to sing and play piano for the Clantons (who are under the impression they're friends of Doc Holliday).  The bit where Steven starts to become exasperated while singing, only to see one of the gang nonchalantly point a revolver at his face, is a piece of understated joy.  We're only an episode in, but The Gunfighters looks like it's going to be much more entertaining than The Celestial Toymaker was.

23 Producer John Wiles, who was Verity Lambert's replacement, never got along with William Hartnell, and it was becoming clear to many that Hartnell, who was sick with arteriosclerosis (though he didn't know it at the time), wouldn't be able to continue in the role much longer.  So Wiles and story editor Donald Tosh decided to write him out in this serial by virtue of giving him a different appearance and such when the Toymaker brought him back, allowing the role to be recast.  Hartnell reportedly got wind of this and went over their heads to Gerald Savory, who had Hartnell's contract extended for 6 months.  (That's one version, anyway; another suggests that the contract was extended automatically without Wiles realizing it.)   John Wiles, who hadn't really wanted to produce in the first place, decided that enough was enough and he left the position -- which is why The Celestial Toymaker is actually the first story produced by Wiles' successor, Innes Lloyd. And yes, in many ways the drama behind the scenes during the making of this story is much more interesting than what ended up on screen.