It’s finally been confirmed, after months of speculation, that Neil Patrick Harris will play the Celestial Toymaker in the 60th anniversary specials, notably The Giggle, also starring David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor.
So just who is the Toymaker and why does he have such a hatred of the Doctor? This guide will give you a good idea before he makes his return onscreen since 1966.
Who is the Toymaker?
The Toymaker is a celestial being, who managed to create his own universe after, in some accounts, surviving the death of the old universe along with a handful of other beings. Since then, he could be described as a Rumpelstiltskin-like figure, commanding immense powers and rigging games and deals in his favour. For example, he might “forget” to mention certain rules and/or bend them to see that he always wins. His powers, however, are limited to rules he sets out for any given game, though when a player loses, he controls what happens to his victim (akin to the Grandmaster in the Marvel comics universe). Some games are rigged to kill, like the deadly game he makes Steven and Dodo play against Cyril in his debut story, The Celestial Toymaker (1966), and sometimes he might turn you into a toy.
There are times when the Toymaker will join in with the games, like playing opposite the First Doctor in his Trilogic Game. But the games are always rigged in the Toymaker’s favour. The First Doctor only won by tricking the celestial being, but the Toymaker is immortal and invulnerable so when the Doctor destroyed the Toyroom, the Toymaker wasn’t destroyed along with it — he survived in various forms to take up his deadly games with the Doctor throughout their multiple incarnations.
However, given his powers and immortality, the Toymaker was scared of the outside universe. Whether this was because of his defeat at the hands of the First Doctor or because, as a creature of an old universe, the new is uncertain; either way, when the Twelfth Doctor met him in a comic book adventure, Relative Dimensions, he allowed the Toymaker to create a new toyshop inside the TARDIS before ejecting it back out into space when his old Toyroom broke down.
Encounters with the the Doctor
The Doctor first met the Celestial Toymaker, travelling with his companions Steven and Dodo in the story, The Celestial Toymaker. When the Doctor mysteriously vanishes before their eyes, Steven, Dodo, and the Doctor have no choice but to leave the TARDIS. The Doctor learns that the reason why they have been brought here is because the Toymaker is bored and wants a mind as brilliant as his to play against. While the Doctor has to play the Trilogic Game, Steven and Dodo are forced into playing a number of deadly games before they are able to get back to the real TARDIS.
The Toymaker hints that this isn’t the first time he and the Doctor have met but he left the Toymaker’s domain before he could play a game and that is why, this time, the Doctor has been brought here. The Doctor manages to make enough correct moves to make himself visible and eventually joins his companions by the real TARDIS. Once inside, he uses the Toymaker’s own voice against him, commanding the winning move on the Trilogic Game, realising that to make the final move in the Toyroom would have seen that world vanish and them along with it. In winning against his foe, the Doctor, Steven, and Dodo are set free while the Toymaker’s dimension is destroyed.
The comic, Relative Dimensions, saw him facing off against the Twelfth Doctor and Clara. The Toymaker is seemingly afraid of the outside universe but finds his own one breaking down. The Doctor does however help him make a new one, allowing him to enter the TARDIS and turn one of the rooms into his Toyroom, the Doctor then jettisoned that room from the TARDIS — allowing the Toymaker to continue his games under the impression that he wouldn’t continue to take people from other worlds. Of course, this promise wouldn’t last.
The Doctor also met the Toymaker in Divided Loyalties, when the Celestial being’s body began to break down. Once upon a time, he had taken over the body of a Time Lord called Rallon. The Toymaker then decided to turn Tegan, Nyssa, and Adric against the Doctor, leaving the Time Lord alone so that he could take over his body. All the games came to nothing though, with Rallon fighting against the entity that had taken him over many centuries ago and forcing his body to undergo many regenerations. The shock from this forced the Toymaker out of his body and Rallon died. This had once again destroyed his Toyroom and, with his servant Stefan in tow, the Toymaker fled to Earth and hid in a place called Blackpool…
This is where the Sixth Doctor and Peri encountered him (The Nightmare Fair); now calling himself the Mandarin and in a new host, the Mandarin was controlling a thrill ride, Space Mountain, as well as a number of deadly video games. The Doctor and Peri managed to trap the Mandarin in an impenetrable force field which was being powered by the Mandarin’s own mental energy, meaning that the universe believed that he was finally trapped forever.
But how many times has a villain been believed defeated only to come back when you least expect it? The final encounters with the Doctor come out of order, but while he was still calling himself the Mandarin, he would play chess opposite Fenric (from the Seventh Doctor tale, The Curse of Fenric). But when Fenric very nearly outplayed him, the Mandarin realised that a stalemate against this powerful entity was the only victory he was going to have. But this wouldn’t be his last encounter with Fenric…
Now back to calling himself the Toymaker, his next encounter with the Doctor was in a comic strip called Endgame which saw the Eighth Doctor meeting Izzy. The Toymaker had taken over the village of Stockbridge, using an evil duplicate of the Doctor to try and defeat his enemies. However, the Doctor manages to convince his evil duplicate that he would only ever be a pawn of the Toymaker, a creature never to have a life of their own. While the evil Doctor distracts the Toymaker, the real one uses part of a machine called the Imagineum to create a duplicate of the Toymaker, who drags the real one into the shadow dimensions. With the Toymaker gone and the Imagineum destroyed, Stockbridge, the Doctor, and Izzy are returned to Earth.
This wasn’t the last time the Eighth Doctor would encounter the Toymaker, though, as later the TARDIS was dragged into the Toyroom once again (Solitaire). This time, the Doctor was put into the body of a ventriloquist’s doll, while Charley was forced to take part in the Toymaker’s riddle. However, they tricked the Toymaker and his Toyroom was shrunk to nothing, destroying his current host body. Charley never faced the Toymaker again, though the Doctor would come up against him one final time…
The Doctor’s last encounter with the Toymaker was when the Doctor was in his seventh incarnation. In The Magic Mousetrap, the Doctor and his companions Ace and Hex find themselves in a Sanatorium in the Swiss Alps. With the Doctor’s help, a group of survivors manage to defeat the Toymaker by imprisoning him inside a doll that they they all eat parts of, splitting up the Toymaker and stretching him between too many humans to once again take one host. The Toymaker had regained his powers with the unintentional help of Fenric, who in his rising again had stirred the Toymaker from his dimension. Of course, the Toymaker had been in control all this time, trying to find out what it feels like to finally lose. But a chess-master managed to trap the Toymaker in a perpetual stalemate in his own dimension; the Doctor, Ace, Hex, and a woman named Queenie Glasscock managed to escape after everyone else was turned into wooden dolls.
The Legacy of Toymaker
Despite having only appeared in one televised story so far, the Toymaker seems to have been a popular villain since 1966. Many writers have used him in various stories and each time, the Doctor only just gets away by the skin of their teeth. The Toymaker even had a brief mention in the Thirteenth Doctor adventure, Can You Hear Me?, when she had to face off against some of the Eternals.
The Star Beast, Wild Blue Yonder, and The Giggle are set to air around the show’s 60th anniversary, in November 2023, with the Toymaker being played by Neil Patrick Harris.
But in the meantime, now is the perfect opportunity to catch up with all the Celestial Toymaker’s previous encounters with the Doctor…