In this unpublished
article from a couple of years back I examined the script to see what the
unmade Toymaker story `The Nightmare Fair` might have been like.
There is a sense that `The Nightmare Fair` represents Graham Williams creatively unleashed, freed of the restraints that had led to his producership being seen by fans and beyond as “silly”. The humour in his period has been over stated though and you don’t have to look far to see concepts equally as grim as anything Philip Hinchcliffe and co dreamed up so that aspect of Williams’ Doctor Who work was always lurking. He had a sense of the menace a good tale requires and this story is home to several characters who might easily have come from later eras of the show albeit sketched rather more broadly than they would be these days.
Like a lot of classic Doctor
Who it’s not a story with a massive moral core though the Doctor’s dissatisfaction
with his own resolution to events is an unusual take that plays pleasingly against
the brusque character we saw on screen and is closer to modern Doctors. Colin
Baker’s idea was always to gradually soften his interpretation and this story
seems to see that process starting – he even has fun when on the various
funfair rides. Williams also plays into that era’s increasing on screen
references to its own past so there are mentions of Magnus Greel, Jamie and even Duggan.
The story seems to have
been influenced by some of the work other writers brought to his producer’s
table notably Douglas Adams. Williams’ explanation of the Toymaker’s background
and his endless, restless life is a very Adams- like concept. Williams knew how
a good Doctor Who script ebbs and flows and using a limited cast manages
to balance both action and tension together. Visually you suspect that the more
imaginative elements of the script will always seem better to us than they
would have been had the show been made. The programme in the Eighties was very afraid
to turn down the lights so there are many stories with unconvincing monster
costumes whose flaws are all too visible in a bright studio environment. How
would the production have fared with the subterranean passages described here?
You also wonder what the video game finale would have been like- as a former
producer Williams must have received scripts that would just be impossible to
make so presumably was aware of what to include.
Interviewed in the md
Eighties, Williams said that the offer to write for the series again had come
out of the blue; “I was asked to write for the next
season and told what it would be about in the same telephone conversation! Eric
just phoned me up and asked would I like to write another story for Doctor Who
and if I would, would I like to set it in Blackpool, and if I’d like to set it
in Blackpool, would I like to use the Toymaker?”
He seemed relaxed about the brief
“I didn’t mind it as after all we had
written to quite severe restrictions on the three stories I had been involved
in the writing of. It didn’t do them any harm!” He admitted however he knew
“little or nothing” about the prospective villain; “except for the photographs of Michael Gough,
and so I got Eric to get the camera scripts out of the archive, and watched the
only remaining episode of the programme, and phoned back and said yes there was
a story to be told, only because the original story told so little about the
A fairground has never really
been used to its full potential in the show and reading the script dated 15
January 1985 suggests this could have been the story to do it. It was hoped
that Mathew Robinson would direct this story and you can see how he might add
considerable atmospherics. The first episode would have opened at dawn panning
around the silhouettes of an empty fairground with the camera homing in on the
ghost train as a middle aged man, looking fearful and breathing heavily emerges
pursued by a red glow that becomes a person about seven feet tall. He staggers
towards the arcade watched covertly by a character called Kevin. There is a
scream but when Kevin runs to see what has happened finds only dust in the
wind. Now that is what you’d call a suitably engaging start to a story.
In the script Williams seems to effortlessly capture the slightly arrogant wit of this Doctor- his first scene involves him waxing lyrical about something we imagine to be one of the wonders of the Universe but turns out to be Blackpool! This sort of thing was something at which the fourth Doctor excelled so it’s no surprise to find it leaking into Williams’ interpretation of the sixth. One thing that came across to me from the script is how well this would have suited Colin Baker whose performances to that point had been somewhat lacking in warmth. Not his fault but given a script like this he would have been able to develop a more even tone. Some actors have a reputation for giving loud performances but when they speak more intimately are hugely effective and Baker is definitely such a performer. There are occasions when Williams’ dialogue for Peri suggests Romana. I’m not sure the Peri we had become familiar with would say “Your attitude towards self-determination could be called pragmatic”. I’m actually not sure anyone would say it!
The aforementioned Kevin is described as “about twenty two and pleasant enough” and we find him being interviewed by an Inspector Truscott over what he’s seen. Seems he’s been a regular reporter of strange events featuring “a mandarin” figure. We later discover Kevin has been keeping a lookout for his missing sixteen year old brother though the police response seems unduly harsh- “we are not a missing person’s bureau” Truscott tells him. Williams gives the officer a cynical air and he tells Kevin if he sees any more red giants to send them “up to Preston North End!” A rather neat idea sees the Doctor and Peri examining a mechanical mandarin before we cut to the real thing in his lair!
It’s a moot point as to how many
viewers in the mid Eighties would have recalled the Toymaker (how many knew him
when his current return was announced?). His sole appearance in the show had
been nearly twenty years earlier but the script introduces him early in episode
one seated in a large carver matching a desk upon which is a large crystal
ball. He uses the latter to control a screen and on it he is observing the Doctor
and Peri. So even if most viewers would have no clue who it was they know he’s
up to no good. He has a lackey too called Stefan described as “mid-thirties and
saturnine”. Stefan himself has a lackey
as well called Shardlow who seems a rather pitiful man. It’s unusual for
Williams to populate a story solely with male characters as a hallmark of his
producership was an increase in significant female roles.
Episode one is set up very much
as the Doctor and Peri meandering about the fairground while the Toymaker
watches. A sense of battle being drawn comes in a neat moment when the Toymaker
recognises the Doctor and speaks his name whereupon we cut to the Time Lord who
replies “Yes” confusing Peri. This hints at a telepathic link and you imagine
Colin Baker’s expression changing suddenly to one of concern.
Visually the script offers rich
possibilities. The Toymaker has constructed a subterranean labyrinth that seems
to evolve from modern day to a Victorian look and there’s some sort of monster
lurking too- we see a large claw grabbing piles of meat left by Shardlow. In
the open air there’s scenes of the Doctor and Peri on a rollercoaster and
amusingly the former goes into some sort of catatonic state though still
beaming from ear to ear! Afterwards he says it was more “magnificent” than many
of his outer space escapades. We also see a montage of them enjoying every ride
on the fair which, while fun for the actors, may have made a televised version
drag a little though soon afterwards the Doctor senses “there’s something wrong
here”. The Doctor and Peri follow what the script describes as “an audio scent”
and the two are pursued by Kevin.
The trail leads to the Space
Mountain attraction which Colin Baker had actually opened in real life. Here the
Doctor is spirited away while Kevin and Peri (that sounds familiar!) end up in
the hands of `security`. The Doctor is being led by guards underground.
Williams gives Peri some initiative as he has her feign fatigue so she can grab
a spanner while Kevin gets a gun and starts firing it with abandon allowing
There is a sense that the story
is marking time at this juncture - why does the Toymaker make the Doctor wait
so long before seeing him? This was an
issue with the fifty- minute episode format making it awkward to stretch out
the lead up to the big mid story cliff hanger. Peri and Kevin’s adventure seems
more interesting as they find unexpected things like a steam organ and a
replica of a ride called Gold Mine. Touches like this give the story a macabre
feel. In a very Doctor Who moment after they pass one of the miners it
turns its head.
Meanwhile, stuck in his cell the
Doctor seems to be communicating with someone else by tapping on a pipe. While
these scenarios are not new Williams is building a slow burn type of story in which very little
happens but does so with an atmosphere that keeps viewers watching. Assuming
Mathew Robinson would have exploited the script’s rich visual possibilities at
this juncture the story is shaping up to be a strong one.
The Doctor and Toymaker finally
meet as the former’s cell door seems to vanish revealing the latter. Williams
opts for a civil exchange weighting both the Toymaker’s menace and the Doctor’s
defiance in polite enough terms- the Doctor declaring that if the Toymaker has
harmed Peri “then you and I should fall out”. The Toymaker, saying that the
games have hardly started, introduces the Doctor to “your opponent”- the thing with
the giant claw. This turns out not to be what we might expect which is probably
wise given examples like the Shrivenzale. The script describes it as over six
feet tall, clad in `alien like` leather, black hair, no mouth, one human hand
and one giant claw hand. It sounds rather similar to the Morbius monster. On
the cover of the novelisation it has two claws and only a passing resemblance
to this description so perhaps it was to be altered. It is rather difficult to
visualise what is described here. In part 2 it becomes known as `the assassin`.
Episode one ends with this creature throttling the Doctor with it claw...
The resolution to the cliff-hanger is quite neat in that the creatures’ claw seems to be the tapping noise the Doctor heard earlier and in repeating it on the pipe he is able to stop his assailant, wittily the Doctor says “See, you can talk your way out of anything.” Yet the Toymaker seems to have anticipated this would happen. I had thought that for an antagonist like the Toymaker to resort to such a basic method of action seems unlike the character with his penchant for games so it’s pleasing that there is more to it than it seems. Their subsequent conversation actually allows the viewer some information about Stefan whom the Doctor gets the Toymaker to casually insult while the henchman is listening. It also clears up the idea that the Toymaker was just waiting for the Doctor to “drop in”. Meanwhile Kevin and Peri’s exploits in part one ramped up the action with the miners’ figures coming alive to hurl rocks at them, one of which knocks Kevin unconscious. She tangles with the miners for a while before Kevin appears suspiciously recovered.
The Doctor is taken to a room
where there is someone else lying on the bed- it is Kevin. Handled well this
could be a strong reveal given we’ve seen what is ostensibly this character
somewhere else with Peri. In the other scenario the script describes the fake
Kevin as momentarily shimmering and half fading out. There isn’t a lot of
detail about Kevin who features more than anyone except for the Doctor and Peri
and at times behaves more like a teenager than the twenty something he is
supposed to be. It’s a role an actor would no doubt have made his own.
The Doctor does his camera trick
creating a looping image of them as he did on the corridor in `The Sunmakers`.
There’s an amusing line as the Doctor tells Kevin about the Celestial Toymaker.
“Variety act is he?” asks the latter. The lighter tone continues as they each empty
their pockets and the Doctor bemoans the lack of items the other man has, “When
I was your age I had enough stuff in my pockets to build a Holo field scrambler
in five minutes flat”
The video game machine is a
hologram that appears solid to the touch and that’s not the end of the
revelations in what is one of the story’s most concept heavy scenes. We also discover
that Shardlow is hundreds of years old and having lost a backgammon game was,
the Doctor surmises, “being given the gift of immortality” albeit for an
endless servitude. These things emphasise the power the Toymaker appears to
have at his disposal. Meanwhile Peri rumbles fake Kevin- though how does she
know he sold out his brother?
The Doctor has been using bits of
the machine to make some sort of device. At this stage the viewer might have
been second guessing the storyline thinking that the Toymaker knew he’d do this
but I suppose the latter has been distracted controlling fake Kevin. I have to
say that this does play into something of a familiar tv fantasy idea- the super
villain with seemingly limitless power who nevertheless indulges in awkwardly
detailed plots. And it seems he gets his way by cheating; there’s a scene where
he refers to a “high score limiter” on one machine.
According to the Doctor Who
Wiki, Michael Gough had been persuaded to return to the role of the Toymaker
though other sources dispute this. When Big Finish later produced an audio
version David Bailie played the part. It
is definitely a role given more gravity than The Master had at this time, as
portrayed in the script the Toymaker remains calm, collected and deadly
Williams introduces some
background on the Toymaker who existed “before Time Lord records” and they got
bored of trying to track his games. “Time Lords aren’t very good at handling
things,” the Doctor says, “Especially themselves.” Later when playing the final
game the Doctor describes the Toymaker as being “not from this Universe….from
another Time and Space.” Hurled from his own Universe the Toymaker is being
pushed into living for millions of years. “Your own Universe is receding so
fast,” says the Doctor, “it’s pushing your time back as it goes.” Almost
chucked away this is a big concept worthy of perhaps a little more attention
from the narrative though there’s a great speech in which the Toymaker rues his
Shardlow is the sympathetic
character in the midst of all this- the Doctor’s arrival means he must play his
final game of backgammon yet he also reveals that Kevin’s missing brother is
here as suspected working for the Toymaker.
The Toymaker’s mixture of associates also runs to what is called a
humandroid which seems to have a very human speech pattern to the point of
politeness reminiscent perhaps of Marvin from Hitch Hikers. These
characters are his toys nowadays but one by one the Doctor wins them round to
the idea of helping him. This is a more
proactive sixth Doctor than we had seen thus far on screen.
Matters culminate in the Doctor
and Toymaker sitting down for a contest after some verbal fencing first in
which the Toymaker discusses humans’ penchant for games, some of them brutal.
“My little pranks pale in comparison,” he suggests. So as the two play what is essentially an
arcade video game bringing the scenario up to date at the time, Peri and the
others are busy in the cell. Yet the Doctor ends up revealing the chinks in the
Toymaker’s armour by focussing on his never ending loneliness- “the isolation
of aeons” as he calls it and the Toymaker eventually concurs suggesting he
yearns for a release.
He lists his evil
accomplishments, each of which he got bored of after a while. When the Doctor
states the Toymaker is losing, the latter says “I hope so.” Is it another
trick? With fast edits to and from the cell which are indicated this sequence
had the potential to be quite powerful and tense.
The Doctor stops short of
achieving the score he needs to win, wary of another ruse and he’s right, the
game really being one that feeds on souls and can create monsters. A huge alien emerges from those in the game
though this one is real and it seems to be Peri’s amplified scream that
confuses the alien enough for it to choose the Toymaker as its target. This
gives the Doctor enough time to trap him in the confines of his own holofield. The Doctor seems depressed that he had to do
this- a marvellous direction in the script says `he really is an old gloomy
boots about the whole thing`.
The impression the script gives-
and it is plausible that some of this would have been altered in later rewrites
–is of a very atmospheric first episode and a more talky second which contains
its best surprises in the final quarter. The almost last minute focus on the
Toymaker’s history seems too rushed though we have to remember that the classic
series didn’t take as much time to go into the psyche of antagonists the way
the modern series does. I suppose it’s a progression that the subject was
raised at all back then.
What is definitely apparent is
that this story is a level above what was being transmitted when it was being
drafted and more pertinently the revamped season that would eventually follow
in 1986. I wonder why this and the other `lost` stories were not carried
forward as they seem home to more inventive ideas than the `Trial` season and
it seems a waste for a story like this to be thrown away. Perhaps the show had
the season it needed in front of it all along?