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The Toymaker temporarily relinquishes his confounding mock-German accent while lip-syncing to Spice Girls in Stark Tower for the conclusion of the 60th Anniversary Specials

It’s 1925 and John Logie Baird would have invented television already if only it weren’t for the tragic lack of a televisual crash test dummy. Fortunately, just across the road, the affable Mr Emporium’s Toy Shop stands ready and waiting. A few cuts later, a chap we’ve known was the Toymaker for at least a year now furnishes his assistant with a puppet whose noiseless, manipulative giggle will be emblazoned upon all types of screens forever. Fast-forward to 2023 and London—and by extension the world—is in turmoil.

South Korea has just launched a new television satellite into orbit and suddenly everyone in the world thinks they’re all right then about everything. Anarchy is the only logical consequence and thus Doc und Donna join the UN-gers at Stark Tower to piece it all together. Cut back to 1925, and DnD have instantly tracked down the Toymaker, enjoyed front-row seats to a scaled-back NuWho recap for the Disney+ subscribers, lost a game, and whizzed back to 2023 again, where a second-rate third act and a hopefully first-class 15th Doctor await.

Here's what we think of N178 The Giggle

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

2.2

Drew | @drewbackwhen

1.9

Here's what we think of N178 The Giggle

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

2.2

Drew | @drewbackwhen

1.9

Here's what you think 8 Responses to “N178 The Giggle”
  1. Bob Balderdash

    Positives:
    -Fantastic music in this one, especially for the regeneration scene!
    -Great humor in this episode:
    -Doctor, with all the seriousness in the world, saying, “Best of three”
    -Donna destroying the dolls
    -Great special effects! Loved the house and the Toymaker folding up.
    -Really sweet conversations between the Doctor and Donna (especially the one in the TARDIS. It was so good that it seems unnecessary to give the Doctor another TARDIS instead of him full-on retiring)

    Negatives & Concerns (sorry there are so many!):
    -Welcome back Mel! I know you guys weren’t a fan of her in Classic, but she was one of my top companions. I’m glad they removed her screechy scream and gave her the very personal role of… uh… being in the room, being at brunch, and being at a computer. The only way to redeem her unnecessary cameo is if she becomes a constant of UNIT
    -Speaking of UNIT, hello Vlinx. UNIT hasn’t had an employee quite like this before, so to blow off who the heck this robot is seems lazy.
    -Okay RTD, we have WAY too many ominous villains approaching. We’re introduced to The One Who Waits, the Master, the Toymaker’s legions, and lest we forget, the Meep’s Boss. Way too many foreshadowed rivals!
    -A big negative of this episode is the wildly Chibnall-level unsubtle theme. We even have a “Doctor yells angrily about something unfixable about humanity” moment. You can do something about the problems of social media, but this was poorly done. Kate Stewart does not think she’s always right, she just becomes overly paranoid. The only good scene was the man in the road explaining his actions. With this plot, it’s wild to me there isn’t a moment where the Doctor has to outfox someone by using their self-righteousness to his advantage. And the Toymaker saying, “ghost” and “cancel” was just cringey.
    -Also, how has no one noticed the strange effect this arpeggio has? In nearly a century, no one has noticed and named this phenomenon and eventually found an association with it and screens? Seems unlikely.
    -Oh boy, that puppet effect looked terrible. I don’t know why they tried to do it. Reminds of the Doctor crotch in Wild Blue Yonder. Despite the budget, it just doesn’t look right.
    -It surprised me that when the ball fell off the Avenger’s platform, the Toymaker didn’t jump after it in some climactic “I technically didn’t drop it yet!” type move. Once the 15th Doctor appears, the great tension created by the all-powerful Toymaker vanished in a disappointing way.
    -What happened to 14’s shoes? And where in the world is 15’s pants, and why does no one point it out? Vicki-No-Pants must be furious.
    -How is RTD going to get around keeping Tennant with a TARDIS alive? You can’t have a solo-Doctor adventure with end-of-the-world-and/or-universe stakes if another Doctor is clearly available.

    I had so many negatives it’s easy to forget how fun of an episode this is. Watching it again really helped. So, overall, I give it a 4.05 vague enemies out of 5

  2. Izaak | @msmonsteradams

    Like with the Grand Serpent, the Toymaker feels like they are in a role originally written for the Master. Grand scale hypnosis, a grudge against UNIT, a dance number, silly voices, thoughtless killing. It’s only in the middle (the best bit) where we get some proper Toymakery stuff and it’s wonderful! The music is great and NPH is so good in the role.

    Haven’t got anything to say about bi-generation. It’s fine, though if someone has to go on The One Show to explain it, then it’s probably not written very clearly. It would have been much better if the final challenge against the Toymaker had some dialogue in it. Some back and forth, some confidence and swagger to put the Toymaker off his game. I sound so negative here, but it wasn’t, like, bad. It was fun!

    – A laser powerful enough to take out a satelite doesn’t do that much damage when it’s aimed inwards, at a window or the Doctor.
    – I love that 15’s equivalent of 10’s wooden console hammer is a cartoonishly large, Harley Quinn Sledgehammer
    – Mel, the first redheaded companion? I will not stand for Turlough erasure!
    – “Aihmy Pwand.”
    – interesting choice for the Doctor to show off a new disability access ramp for the TARDIS in front of a wheelchair user, and not then let them in.
    – Did they tease Sutekh? I hope so!

    Anyway, yeah, it was pretty good! Not spectacular or anything. It was nice.

    3.0

  3. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    So having finally watched it (after my laptop decided it was a great time to play up, bloody ASUS), I thought it was…good. I dunno quite what I was expecting. I’d read the leak about the bi-generation other week so that wasn’t a surprise. I’m not sure on it. If Tennant gets a shit ton of spin-off appearances from it, I’ll be annoyed. He’s not my favourite post 2005 Doctor and he seems to hog the limelight. And that ending was very Journey’s End/End of Time, previous RTD finales that I have opinions on….
    The rest of the plot was interesting and plenty of good set pieces. Interesting that the Master tried his luck with the Toymaker. And presumably will be back with that hand picking up the toth at the end.
    Generally, I had a good time but I think it doesn’t quite all hang together. Though Ncuti looks good 3.5/5

  4. It’s hard to believe the second coming of Christ… I mean Tennant is already over. What a strange ending… I’m really not sure what to make of it. The Toymaker almost feels like an afterthought in this episode, with the real story being about Tennant and his workaholic lifestyle. It is a bold and daring conclusion to this short run of specials. It’s completely unjustified, but somehow it still feels OK. I don’t know, let’s give it 4 stars and hope this all pays off in the future. At the very least, it’s a great intro for Ncuti.

    Chris

  5. Andy Parkinson | @caffreys71

    Hi Gang

    So here we are at the last of the 60th specials – it’ll be a fun jaunt with nothing controversial right, nothing to make fans lose their minds right?

    Likes
    – Neil Patrick Harris smashes it from the opening scene
    – Mel is back!! Bonnie Langford is wonderful in the small scenes she gets
    – Kate’s meltdown after taking off the Zeedex and her regret afterwards is possibly the best Kate moment we’ve had for ages.
    – The puppet show with The Toymaker brilliantly effective
    – Charles as the puppet and Stooky Sue and the Babbies are so creepy
    – The Spice Girls sequence so much fun and The Toymaker turning the soldiers into balls is wonderfully scary.
    – After the Bi-generation 14th and 15th Doctors wearing half of the Tennant;s costume each. Also as Ncuti has the pants that means Tennant is going commando right?

    Beefs
    – Mel says she’s the first redhead – I think Turlough wants a word

    So, is this perfect? Not by any means but it’s a great way to go out. I love that the 14th Doctor gets a happy ending, so often the Doctor regenerating is tragic, it’s nice just once we see it ending on a happy note. I have seen that some people feel that these specials don’t feel celebratory enough, but we’ve had returning characters and loads of nods and winks in the dialogue about past adventures, characters etc to satisify me. Even after a month I’m still not sure how I feel about Bi-generation. I think I can accept it this once.
    I’ve really enjoyed these specials and I’m so excited for Ncuti’s era
    I award this story 4.6 mad auntie Mel’s out of 5
    Andy Parkinson
    @caffreys71

  6. Tracey from America | @yecartniatnouf

    Idk this might be my favorite of 14 trilogy. Here’s a collection of my thoughts:

    I’m glad they don’t spend the whole time freaking us out with puppets. (Especially great that Donna is having none of it.) We just had creepy last week, and we’ve done wooden dolls stalking us previously, in Amy and Rory times.

    Mel, Shirley, Kate Stew are all in fine form.

    Very on brand for the Doctor to offer the Toymaker travel and adventure- games across the stars. Toymaker’s an idiot for refusing.

    For me, music is this big encompassing thing that almost has a life of its own. So I like scifi plots that include music. This story took what’s essentially a warmup exercise and gave it the Day-Of-The-Moon treatment. Does that make it another retread of the same ground? Uh yeah. But that’s fine by me. These episodes are interim. While we wait. I’m optimistic there will be more fully original things ahead.

    Husband from America observed that this episode used the time machine for time travel as an actual part of the plot.

    I like the dual regeneration. I was worried about them pulling on the Doctor’s arms though. My read was, oh god the Toymaker’s turned him into a Christmas cracker! Thank goodness it was so much better than that. And welcome to Ncuti as 15! He’s immediately very caring to his past self. This is exactly what I want from Doctor/Doctor interactions.

    Ok maybe the happy ending for 14 is a bit saccharine? But 14 (and 10) often clung to unrelenting action as a way to avoid facing this soul-swallowing guilt lurking beneath the surface. Giving him the space to breathe and relax, and especially to just not be alone, was the right choice. And it leaves the next Doctor with less baggage, for something of a fresh start.

    Rating: Make way for Ncuti!

  7. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    Likes:
    – The horror! The poor puppet dude! UNIT grunts turning into balls! Those creepy Chucky dolls!
    – Enjoyed the Toymaker. *That* dance routine was fun. It wasn’t in character with the gravitas of the original Toymaker though. He’s become The Joker with Q-like powers.
    – The return of Seventh Doctor companion Mel!
    – The Avengers (ahem) UNIT tower.
    – The New Doctor.
    – It’s that same lady’s hand as last time!
    – Ooooh, who is ‘The One Who Waits’? Bets please. I reckon the Kandyman!

    Beefs:
    – Cut a pack of cards and a game of catch?! Those games suck! I wanted a giant Squid Game board game of death – like in the ‘60s episode. How awesome would it have been if they played a giant game of Mousetrap! Booo writers…Booo!
    – Fake Wilf in a wheelchair. Booo Death…Booo!

    Rating: 4.5/5 UNIT soldiers contributing to the ballpool in the children’s crèche on level 4.

  8. Peter Zunitch

    I agree with Drew. It’s admirable that a writer cares enough to try to explain everything in the broader context of the series for the sake of the few fans who care. But should you? Does that explanation make the series better? Maybe it only needs to be explained in the context of the story. Maybe let the audience speculate about the series as a whole. In fact maybe taking the time to needlessly explain the whole series is bad for the particular episode.

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