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Out of the Toyroom...

The Metamorphosis of the Toymaker into the Mandarin

By Peter Adamson

Had the BBC not forced a hiatus upon Doctor Who ten years ago, the Twenty-Third Season that never saw light would have begun with Graham Williams' last work for the series, The Nightmare Fair. This story would have reintroduced the character of the (Celestial) Toymaker, his plans for a destructive global video game, and his defeat by the Doctor and Peri in Blackpool. In the resulting novelisation which became part of the 'Missing Episodes' series, Williams brings a depth of character to the Toymaker that exists in only a handful of the other villains of the later years. In fact, as the Mandarin, Williams' Toymaker is such a strong departure from the original character conceived by Brian Hayles and Gerry Davis as to make him an almost totally new personality.

One of the most obvious elements of the story is the omission of the celestial toyroom, itself such an integral part of the first story. Initially it had a dual role, being both the location of the Toymaker's act of 'revenge' (the 'first' story actually being the second encounter between the Doctor and Toymaker), and, as the self-made realm of the Toymaker, a virtual universe from which there would be no escape for the TARDIS crew if they were to play the Toymaker's game. In The Nightmare Fair the action takes place in the Earthly setting of Space Mountain, the latest attraction at Blackpool's amusement park. This 'bringing down to Earth' of the Toymaker's activities not only presents us with a villain taken out of his established setting, but allows the action to be contained within a more recognisable location. The threat now posed by the Mandarin is made all the more believable by being in a 'real' contemporary setting, and because of this, the Doctor's involvement is all the more crucial, as it threatens his adopted 'home'.

The Doctor's Role

In The Nightmare Fair it is suggested that the TARDIS' arrival at the fairground is both the result of a happy accident and also part of an elaborate trap set by the Mandarin to gain revenge on the Doctor. This claim is refuted by the Mandarin himself (p70), but the idea returns at the novel's climax when he declares he has had 'millions of years to devise a punishment for [the Doctor]' (p139). The original Toymaker story also begins with the Toymaker essentially 'luring' and 'trapping' the TARDIS and its crew in his domain. As it is revealed in the latter story that the Mandarin has already spent centuries on Earth, perhaps over this time he prepared the means of extracting his revenge:

'My dear Doctor! ... the idea that I should squat on this amusing but depressingly backward planet waiting for you is egocentric in the extreme...'
The Doctor refused to be bluffed. 'You set up the Space-Time Vortex,' he accused quietly.
'Doctor,' replied the Mandarin, fixing him with his eyes and replying just as quietly, 'I am the Space-Time Vortex.'
That stopped the Doctor in his tracks. Either the man was truly mad or... 'What do you want with me?' he asked, his voice a little hoarse with what could have been genuine fear.
'You know perfectly well,' replied the Mandarin implacably.
'How often do I have to win before you give up?' he demanded with a sigh.
'Oh lots,' replied the Mandarin...


Once again the Toymaker traps the Doctor into his games, only this time he means to destroy him outright. Another idea carried on from the original story is the inevitable splitting-up of the TARDIS crew, leaving the Doctor to face the Mandarin alone while Peri negotiates the larger and more physically threatening 'game' in 'Broken Neck Gap', set against her opponent, Stefan. Presumably the goldmine ride provides the Mandarin with servants and victims to test his game on, hence the kidnapping of Kevin's brother, and the need for prison cells in what is basically a video game factory.

The Mandarin on Earth

That the Mandarin seems to have spent such a great number of years on Earth is intriguing. Certainly, in The Celestial Toymaker the Toymaker had in his private office a collection of models of contemporary Earth 'toys', being weapons and war machines, and the Toyroom itself was based upon an Earth model with a Victorian dollhouse and playing-card character henchmen. In The Nightmare Fair however, the Mandarin has appropriated new servants from Earth's history: Shardlow and Stefan. Each is consciously human and maintained in an immortal state by the Mandarin's devices, but both are quite individual in their personalities, while the dolls of the original story, in whatever guise they adopted, remained ciphers. Stefan and Shardlow are almost moral opposites. Stefan is brutish and sadistic, exalting in his agelessness and enjoying his service to the master to whom he lost his immortal soul in a game of dice, while Shardlow is infinitely more fragile, a gentleman deserving the sympathy afforded him by the Doctor. In a masterly twist of characterisation, Shardlow's weariness at his great age suffered in torment is a poignant prefiguration of the Mandarin's own dilemma.

The Toymaker's Fate

This returns us to the Mandarin himself, and more significantly, his motivation for being on Earth and creating the Game. For most of the story the Mandarin poses a real threat to the Doctor, but by eluding the Doctor's questions retains some mystery and falls shy of the conventions of the stock Doctor Who villain, who usually gives the game away at an early stage. In fact, the Mandarin's true motives are not revealed until the very end, and it comes as a real surprise (especially in the context of the surrounding villains of the Colin Baker era) that he has not set up shop merely to conquer Earth, nor even to destroy the Doctor once and for all. In proper tradition, the Toymaker exists by the grace of his games and, in doing so, has become irreversibly reliant upon them for his survival. In the original story, the Doctor explains that the Toymaker is not only immortal, but one of a small race of 'Toymakers' in the known Universe. By the concluding pages of The Nightmare Fair we learn that this observation no longer holds true. In fact, the Toymaker is one - or the last - of his kind; expelled from his own separate Universe, forced back by time to replay his life a million-fold.

[The Doctor] swung round on the Toymaker again. 'Your own universe is receding from this one so fast, it's pushing your time back as it goes!' He stared at the Toymaker, awestruck. 'You'll live for millions of years!'
The Toymaker had a look of crushing despair on his face as he croaked out. 'I have done...'
... 'The isolation of aeons,' whispered the Doctor, overcome with compassion for the being he'd detested all his adult life. 'The crushing loneliness of thousands of millennia ... you poor, poor creature...'


It is inevitable, however, that the Mandarin reinstate himself as the villain of the story, but even in his winning over the Mandarin for hopefully the last time, the Doctor cannot remove the identity of the Toymaker as victim of chance and retain some form of sympathy for a fellow time-sensitive, even when his desperate form of defeat is to sentence the being to an eternal time-loop. The Doctor sees this form of retribution as being so 'loathsome' (p141) that his act of bringing the Mandarin's games to an end really are among the most desperate actions he has thus far taken (the destruction of Skaro seemingly too barbaric even for this Doctor).

Such actions are telling in comparison with the 'first' Toymaker story. Whereas in the original games, victory seemed only to require a successful escape, in the latter story less tolerant means of winning are necessary: this is the Eighties after all, and the return of old villains and monsters has become an assured part of the wider Doctor Who story for over twenty years. Despite this, and the obligatory inclusion of a possible escape route for the Mandarin, The Nightmare Fair assures us an effective conclusion to an old game and an admirable return of an old foe. It could have made great television.

This item appeared in TSV 43 (March 1995).

Index nodes: The Celestial Toymaker, The Nightmare Fair