And we'll come to the Toymaker.
Let's look at the other aspects of the story first. I think there's so much going on that the show is in danger of imploding. Compare this with pretty much any story from the Jodie Whittaker era and the difference is marked. They were for the most part one-note moralistic pieces, designed to deliver a 'message' ... and on the whole they did that very well, though the adventure and incidentals were lacking. Here though we have multifaceted complex pieces, where the characters all spin around each other ...
The devices they wore to ward off the effects of 'the giggle', this Zeedex thing ... In 1968's 'The Invasion', when the Cybermen invasion began, people avoided being impacted by the Cyber-control signal by wearing neuristers on the back of their necks, and UNIT took a supply of them to Russia and elsewhere to stop the people there being affected. So why couldn't UNIT ensure that at least the heads of government were supplied with and wore the Zeedex devices - despite the very familiar anti-news propaganda about them?
And the idea that everyone thinks they're right. Acutely explaining the total lack of empathy that so called 'leaders' like Trump and Johnson have, and that their followers mindlessly exploit ... 'I am right and therefore you must be wrong' ... endlessly repeated through online posts, blogs, comments and texts without any come back or actually having to say the same to real people. Keyboard warriorism at its most toxic. And THIS is what Doctor Who has always done: held a mirror up to real life and asked 'What If'. Recently the series Black Mirror has become the primary touchstone for 'What If' storytelling, but in Doctor Who terms reference the threat from the rise of technology in 'The War Machines' and 'The Tenth Planet', world food shortages in 'The Seeds of Doom', global Ice Ages in 'The Ice Warriors', pollution in 'The Green Death', the Common Market in 'The Curse of Peladon' and the miners strikes in 'The Monster of Peladon'. Also soulless high rise buildings in 'Paradise Towers', happy happy Conservatism threat in 'The Happiness Patrol' and even the issues of diesel cars and air pollution in 'Gridlock' ... it's riddled through the history of Doctor Who and is nothing new.
These are all great elements ... and they make UNIT seem more cohesive, even if Mel and the unexplained alien robot thing are totally surplus to requirement ... But where is Torchwood in all this? They seem to have been conveniently forgotten.
And now ... to the Toymaker, as promised.
And sadly the same happens here. Rather than the rather serene and noble Gough, a bored immortal entity getting his kicks from playing games, and almost quite enjoying when he lost, we have Neil Patrick Harris playing some batshit mad character. His cod Germanic accent was perhaps acceptable at the beginning, but he was MUCH more threatening when he dropped it to a flat English accent. Less is far more in this case.
I have been criticised in the past of reviewing based on what I think the show should have done rather than what it did do, so let me say I loved what it did do ... it's just that (and this is in common with so many of my reviews of Russell T Davies' episodes in the past), he misses a trick, doesn't do things which would - in my view - have been so much better and satisfying as a story.
The original Toymaker story had the companions playing a sequence of games to try and 'win' the TARDIS back against some of the Toymaker's trapped previous opponents. Whereas the Doctor had to win at the Trilogic Game (being made invisible for some of it to boot), with a final kicker, that when the Doctor made the final move, the Toymaker's world would be destroyed, and the Doctor along with it - but if the Doctor was not in the world, he couldn't make the move. A neat little final conundrum that the original story found a neat and satisfying way around.
After all this, the Toymaker is defeated. And the Doctor says he's banished 'from existence forever' which actually means he never existed, ever, so the battle/episode could never have taken place, and the Doctor never bigenerated. Be careful with your words Doctor as they have power! But I think the show takes this to mean that we'll fold him up, pop him back in his box, and keep the box somewhere forever. Hmmm.
Except of course for his gold tooth, in which the Master is apparently trapped. Then, in exactly the same way as with his ring in 'Last of the Time Lords', a mysterious female-presenting hand picks up the tooth at the end ... so are we building to another Master regeneration in the new series at some point? Might this be the character played by the drag artist Jinxx Monsoon? Time will tell!
Ncuti Gatwa, from the second he appears on screen, owns it. He even overshadows David Tennant! But this is I feel a massive complement to Tennant's portrayal, that he can pull back the Doctor to a quiet, tired, exhausted Gallifreyan, and allow Gatwa to take full reign of the charisma and dynamism that the part demands.
In a coda we see that the 14th Doctor has decided (sort of) to settle down with his new family: basically Donna's family, with added Auntie Mel (still not sure why she was included. Great actress, dancer, singer though she is, they gave her nothing to do!). And the Doctor is still sneaking off to Mars with Rose, and New York with Mel ... so there are more adventures happening ... more perhaps to be seen. Do I detect a potential spin off working it's way in ... maybe. Is the cynic in me wondering that this might be an escape valve for if the Gatwa adventures don't work out ... that we can revert to Tennant again? Or is this Disney insisting on the development of a MCU-style approach to Doctor Who, with lots of spin off shows and potential avenues for exploration? Or maybe both or all or none. I have no inside knowledge.
Other meanings for stookie/stooky:
- A plaster statue
- A slow-witted, dull person
- Standing motionless
- To hit hard
- Headbutt (This isn’t in the Dictionar o the Scots Leid, but it was a common meaning when I (the writer of the blog) was a kid.)
- Stookies: A game where you have to stand like a statue while others prod, pull, and tease you into reacting. I (the writer of the blog) also remember a version where we ran around until the person who was “it” told us to freeze, and the first to move became “it.”