If you have read my review of The Giggle, the third and final of the 60th Anniversary Doctor Who episodes, you will know that I loved it. The story was fun, epic, and did something new with the show that was exciting and actually worked well within the lore of the show (unlike some “timeless child” stuff I won’t be mentioning…).
If you want to know more about what bi-regeneration is and what it means for canon, we have an article about that you should check out.
Now, as much as I enjoyed The Giggle, I think it is time to look back on that episode and see whether the Toymaker’s return was wasted on the story.
If you know anything about the history of the Toymaker, you will know that he is a classic villain from the 1960’s, when William Hartnell was the First Doctor. All but the final episode of this arc is lost to time, but we know from recreations that it was an epic adventure, and introduced one of the Doctor’s most dangerous villains.
The Toymaker is a celestial being, one from his own universe, with god-like powers that the Doctor cannot beat by waving his sonic about. The Doctor is forced to play the Toymaker’s games, and must win to survive.
Pitting the Doctor against a villain like this makes for interesting storytelling. Unlike with the Daleks, Cybermen, or any other classic villain, the Doctor is forced to do precisely what the Toymaker wants, and is on the back foot from the start.
In The Giggle, we have some fantastic scenes of the Doctor and Donna trapped in the Toymaker’s games. It is especially nerve wracking when the Doctor loses his first game in The Giggle, but as this was their second game, the Toymaker is forced to play “best of three”.
This is where the episode loses its narrative flow. For the first part, we watch a pretty standard episode of Doctor Who, with the Doctor and his companion attempting to defeat the villain. However, because the episode gets so distracted by the bi-generation, all the pacing falls flat on its face.
The episode ends with a game of catch, in which the Toymaker drops the ball first, and therefore loses. It is a lacklustre, disappointing ending for a story that was building into something epic.
I can’t help but feel like we missed out on something truly special, with the 14th and 15th Doctors teaming up to beat the Toymaker at one of his own games. Technically, we got that, but visually a game of catch did not fit the incredible display of power and influence this villain can have, that we saw earlier in The Giggle.
So, was the Toymaker wasted in The Giggle? I think he was the perfect villain for an anniversary episode, and I am glad we got to see Neil Patrick Harris triumph in the role (one he seemed born to play). The first half of the episode was fantastic, and was precisely the sort of story a villain of this magnitude deserved. However, his ending was anticlimactic at best, and lazy writing at worst, which is not something you can say about much of Russell T Davies’ writing.
It is a shame defeat of the Toymaker was such a disappointment, but luckily The Giggle as an episode of Doctor Who was not ruined by this ending. Instead we got to see Ncuti Gatwa’s 15th Doctor absolutely killing it in the last twenty minutes, teasing a cheeky, flirty, fun incarnation of the character who we will be seeing a lot more of in the next few years.