Episode summary: First aired 2 April 1966. The TARDIS is getting ready to land. Both Steven and Dodo have changed their clothes. The Doctor sneezes and fades away, although his voice can still be heard. When Steven calls to him, he fades back in and then out again. Dodo and Steven wonder if this sudden invisibility has something to do with the Refusians. "You're wrong!" says the Doctor. "This is something far more serious. We're in grave danger. This is some form of attack...!"
The Doctor, Steven and Dodo have arrived in the realm of the Celestial Toymaker, an immortal, dressed as a mandarin, who loves to play games with very high stakes. The Doctor has been here once before, but was able to escape before having to play. This time, he is not so fortunate. The Toymaker, who seems to have total control over his world, removes the TARDIS and sets the travellers playing games. The Doctor must play the "Trilogic" game (in reality, a version of the Tower of Hanoi) set up by the Toymaker, while Steven and Dodo must try to "win back" the TARDIS by playing Blind Man's Buff against two of the Toymaker's toys, the clown dolls Joey and Clara, grown to full size. Steven and Dodo must find the TARDIS before the Doctor finishes his game at move 1023, or all three will be trapped in the Toymaker's realm forever. The clowns, being the Toymaker's creatures, are playing to win--and try to cheat the two humans. When the Doctor, who is watching on a screen near his Trilogic game, tries to warn his friends (realizing that, if they lose, they will become the playthings of the Toymaker, just like the clowns), the Toymaker makes him intangible and inaudible--except for his right hand, which continues to play. Dodo, however, discovers that the dolls are using a fake blindfold to win the game and Steven forces Joey to run the course again, this time with a real blindfold. Joey, of course, fails, the two clowns fall down and what seems to be a TARDIS appears in the corner. But, when the two run to it, they discover that it's just an empty cabinet. Dodo finds a slip of paper on the ground with what looks like a riddle on it. "Four legs, no feet, of arms no lack, it carries no burden on its back. Six deadly sisters, seven for choice, call the servants without voice." A door swings open in the back of the "TARDIS" cabinet, but before they walk through, Dodo looks back. In the places where Joey and Clara had fallen are two tiny, broken clown dolls....!
Ketina's Transcript Thing
H: This is a story that I've been looking forward to, like a lot of these reconstructions. Having read the script and novelization, and seen stills ages ago, it's a really fantastic story. However, it isn't well served by the reconstruction format. There's a lot of movement that, unfortunately, can't be conveyed by captions.
Sp: Steven's a BEE! [Referring to the shirt Peter Purves was wearing in this story. --H]
Sc: That was my thought too.
H: Having seen a color photo of the shirt, you're not far off. It's a bit more brown than that, but you're spot on.
Sp: Distracting as all get out.
P: And she's [Dodo] wearing a bathing suit the entire episode, hello.
H: No, it was a shirt and skirt.
P: It looked like a 60's bathing suit.
R: Ah, the 60's. An era where everyone dressed like a gay man.
H: Is that another slam at Terry Nation's ascot?
K: I thought we were done with Terry Nation for like, two more years?
H: We're actually done with Terry Nation for the rest of the project.
Sc: Don't speak the name, lest a jungle appear.
H: Getting back to the story, how were people enjoying it?
E: When they referred to him as the Toymaker, I half expected to see some kind of crazy “Toy Story” stuff going on.
H: We did get a little of that with the clowns that started as dolls. When Dodo looks back, they're not people anymore but little twisted dolls.
P: And I'm thinking, “Ah, clowns! Can't sleep, clown will eat me!”
E: High octane nightmare fuel.
H: There were definitely playing on the creepy aspect of clowns.
Sp: The honk and beeps annoyed the heck out of me.
R: Use the beeps!
A: Clara's voice irritated me more.
K: Oh yes.
Sp: I know this show is for kids. But this went down a few levels as far as target audience. Over explained and really drawn out explanations of the games. And who was what. Ick.
P: Yet, at the same time, rules not explained well.
K: Trilogic is relatively well known game. AKA the Towers of Hanoi.
Sp: AKA, Tech company interview fuel.
H: I disagree with Spoo. Having read the story, it takes these childhood, supposedly innocent things and makes them creepy. If that hadn't been explained we wouldn't have gotten the whole level of menace.
Sp: I was going solely off the dialogue. We can't entirely hand wave this one away just due to the reconstruction. I was going off the explanation of the game, who was who, why they couldn't leave, and so on.
H: I thought it was a building thing.
K: Evil Blind-man's bluff!
Sp: With sticks and stairs!
H: Did everyone enjoy seeing Alfred the Butler dressed as a Chinese Mandarin?
H: I think he did a good job though.
Sp: With what he was given.
H: Half way between friendly and menacing.
Sc: This episode was... just was bad. There's... it made no sense first off. They introduce a super powerful omnipotent being who does crazy things for no reason.
H: They explain why he was doing it.
Sc: I thought it was just stupid. It was like the Star Trek episode with the arena guy, only without the fighting.
Sp: Inter-racial kissing would have made this better, yes.
H: I think we're going to have to agree to disagree on this one.
P: That's fine, you can be wrong.
K: But... he's the Historian!
P: And a wrong one at that.
Sp: I liked the bit of continuity. There. I liked the reference to the previous story, where they assumed it had something to do with the guy from the previous week.
H: That was from the cliff hanger from last week.
K: Not entirely. There were a couple lines about the Refusians beyond the cliffhanger.
R: I have to admit, I'm coming down a little bit further on the side of the Historian than I think the rest of you are. I though there was a lot of really over tedious dialog. It's a kids show, and kids know the rules to Blind Man's Bluff. But I can see how, as a kid, I would have found this pretty spooky. This creepy adult in this big house with all these toys, who can just bend reality to his will. And, to be fair, this is the guy who was the first omnipotent energy being... or one of the very first after the last story's Refusian.
H: This story was intended to be an experiment and different.
Sc: It's certainly different.
H: It wasn't meant to straightforward. It's kind of weird. It's not even the original scripts. They had to rewrite a lot at the last minute due to the production issues. [I will talk about this a bit more in the wrapup post! --H]
Sp: So you remember this as a better episode because you know all that?
H: No, I like this episode as it is.
P: I don't necessarily see this episode as such a mind bend. It may have been different, but in the end it's still the same as “there's a challenge in front of us that we must meet.” It's just a little more literal this time.
K: I like the puzzle. It's got a cliffhanger riddle!
A: Yeah, that was cool.
P: I imaging people still had a buzz about it.
Sp: Steven certainly did.
R: “See what I did there... with the bee reference.”
Sp: Don't put words in my mouth.
H: Final thoughts?
P: The pacing was erratic. Sometimes it was a slow waltz, and sometimes it was just a complete jump. I would have been happier if it was consistent throughout.
E: Well, this is my first time seeing a recon of a Doctor Who episode. My thoughts are similar to everyone else. There's a lot of physical action that was subtracted from a little bit with the stills. It was kind of mediocre for me. Ohh-kaaay.
Sp: More Toymaker, less clowns!
H: Well, no more clowns after this week.
K: They're all dead!
H: They were never alive in the first place.
Sc: I think my dislike I can analyze a bit more. Everything previous has been very natural.. they were in the past or in the future. And now the 60's have happened and we're pretty much not any place. Consider, don't you think that this is way trippier and more 60's than anything we've seen so far.
H: I think this is certainly odder than anything we've seen so far. But I don't think it's specifically due to the 60's.
Sc: But in two years we've gone from the male companion wearing a suit and tie to a bee. I don't think the writer are on drugs, but I do think they're picking up cultural...
Sp: Hard to say.. hard to spell.
A: Back to picking up on something cultural, I think this is about the time that subversive precursors to Monty Python we're starting to show up on the BBC.
H: That's a good point.
R: “Are you inferring that I am senile.” “No, I am implying that you are senile, and I believe you just proved my point.”
Sc: Yeah, there was a lot of old coot in this episode.
Sp: And Michael Gough had a Billy Fluff.
P: Yeah, a Billy Gruff!
K: Lord of puns strikes again. Anyway, like the Historian, I also know this story. I've seen part 4 before, so I've been looking forward to this one. But yeah, it didn't start well. I do like the idea of the Toymaker... this bored wanting to play games all day is neat in my mind.
A: He needs an Xbox.
K: Yeah, probably. He's trying to form a D&D group with the Doctor. And failing.
E: He would be the creepies DM every.
R: “I'd let you play a sorcerer, or a monk or something.”
Sp: No monks!
P: Or thieves.
Sp: “What do you mean I'm invisible. What do you mean I can't touch anything. This game blows!”
H: A couple things. Something that I think people might have missed... because you were apparently bored. One of the things about the Toymaker and the clowns... people come to play. If they lose a game, they become his play things. The clowns were people who lost the game before. And the fact the Dodo and Steven don't understand it, but we do. They don't understand the danger that they are in. I really like this story. I think the main problem of the episode was that we couldn't see what was going on. I think the reconstruction did as well as it could with what little survives. I really enjoyed it.
P: Not to play Devil's Advocate, but part of the problem I had with this episode was the sound. Not the quality of the sound, but the voices they chose.
H: Well, the quality of the taping was quite bad. You can hear some music coming from the other room for parts of it.
P: The great crooners of the day, like Bing Crosby, were displaced when the quality of the radio improved because their voices sound good on AM radios. When you went to FM other people sound better. So it makes me wonder if the voice of Clara sounded horrible, or if it was the quality of the recording.
H: It's also possible, knowing other things further on in this story, it could have been a direct reference to something going on in pop culture at the time. We'll talk about that more in future discussions.
E: The quality that the girl clowns voice was so bad, I couldn't tell what she was saying. When things are lower quality like that, it hikes up the suspense more for me. And there's the element of taking something innocent into something twisted like that, it creeps you out.
H: That's the entire point of this story.
E: I liked it, but I feel that the reconstruction subtracted from it. At last this part.
H: Yeah, it was a rough one.
And there we have the first post of what turned out to be (as you can already tell) a bit of a contentious story for the Project. As always, a plug for Loose Cannon Productions, who created the reconstruction we watched. Hopefully, my truncated summary (which was still longer than I thought it'd be) worked for all of you! Feel free to let me know in the comments if you have any, well, comments. Next episode post will be coming soon--keep an eye out for it! I will catch up! Until then, I remain
NEXT POST: "THE HALL OF DOLLS"