30 April 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 120: The Final Test (The Celestial Toymaker, Episode Four)

Dear diary,

Well! How stunning! The shot of the TARDIS atop the pedestal, all lit from behind by fierce beams of lights, the electrified floor that glimmered beneath a thin layer of dry ice, the jagged triangles formed of a dark, black quartz, with numbers set into them… That's surely the best that anything in Doctor Who has looked up to now!

Hm? Sorry, what? No, no. That's definitely what those 'TARDIS hopscotch' scenes looked like. They did. Promise. You must be thinking of something else. Yeah, that's it.

…Oh, alright. I'll admit it. I cheated. At the time of writing… I've not watched The Final Test. No, I've not given up on the experiment. The Celestial Toymaker hasn't beaten me into submission. The truth of the matter is that I came home today, got ready to cue up the episode and then… well… I didn't. I did the washing up instead. With the soundtrack plugged in. I listened to it, instead. Don't worry, I'm going to go and have a look at the episode in a moment, but I wanted to see how it fared without my being influenced by the visuals, before I actually saw them.

I enjoyed it more than I did the previous episode, but I wonder if that's down to me forcing myself to imagine the most fantastic set I possibly could for today. In many ways, there's nothing different in today's episode compared to anything from the last three. The escape from the Toymaker's realm was quite well done, but it came a bit out of nowhere, and almost seemed a little bit… easy for my liking.

Still, I've found plenty to enjoy in the episode. Cyril really is good fun, and there are mannerisms in his voice that remind me somewhat of Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. Elsewhere, the music throughout the story has been quite good, and it's no exception here.

But now comes the hard part. The Lost in Time DVD is cued up in the drive, and it's time to see what this episode actually looked like. I'll be back in a bit…

(You can imagine some kind of musical interlude here, if you like. Or just a fade to black before I return)

I'm somewhat intrigued. My intention was to watch a few key bits from the episode - a bit of the hopscotch game, a little of the Doctor and the Toymaker in the Trilogic room and the ending of the episode - just enough to give me a fair idea of how the episode looked. Thing is… I ended up watching it all! The full 25 minutes! And you know what the weirdest thing is? I think seeing it has improved my score by at least a couple of marks…

Let's get the negative out of the way first. It really does look pretty cheap. The hopscotch game certainly isn't as grand on screen as it was in my head, but even so, it's better than I remembered it being. For a start, there were actual raised platforms. In my head, I'd convinced myself that the episode itself featured just triangles marked out on the floor in tape. Perhaps the worst room has to be the one the Doctor has been stuck in all this time. The Dolls House is pretty grand (and much larger than I'd imagined! I assumed that they dolls grew to human size, but I get the impression from this that they must have always been so!), but the room is very bare. The tiny screen set into the wall is a particular disappointment - especially after the large back-projections seen back in The Daleks' Master Plan.

But then there's several things that are improved by seeing the episode for real. The performances of Michael Gough as the Toymaker, and Peter Stephens as Cyril are fantastic - they're really the things that drew me into the episode and kept me watching for the full running time. I mused the other day that I didn't really get the fascination with bringing the Toymaker back to the series in later years, but the chance to pit Michael Gough against another Doctor is pretty tempting.

If you'd told me a few days ago that I'd end up doing one episode of The Celestial Toymaker twice in one evening, I'd have assumed that I'd be calling it quits with the experiment, the blog, and Doctor Who as a whole. I'm stunned.

(It was looking like a 5/10 based solely on the audio)

Next Episode: A Holiday for the Doctor

Next Episode: A Holiday for the Doctor 
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