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The First Doctor and the Celestial Toymaker

So there’s this guy, right, and he’s immortal. He’s been exiled from an alternative universe, where the physical rules are different, and because of this, he’s lived for millions and millions of years. This has not had a positive effect on his mental wellbeing. In fact, the solitude has driven him mad.

(Note: he does not have a collection of broken TARDISes in his front yard, that’s a different guy)

Now, in order to glean some satisfaction from his eternal drudgery, he has turned to mischief. Anyone who blunders into his world must become part of his series of games. The kind of games children play in the schoolyard, often with characters from children’s fiction as cheating playbuddies. The catch is, if they lose, they become a toy, to be played against anyone else who arrives, and if they win, the entire world is destroyed, and them with it, leaving the Celestial Toymaker to create a new world and start again.

Now, even describing this plotline as plainly as I can, it’s impossible not to see this fella as an allegory for the existence of God, written by an atheist. It’s not known whether Brian Hayles, who created the Toymaker, had strong views on the subject, but once you’ve seen the link, it’s hard to ignore.

There’s an immortal being, and he offers everyone he meets a choice: submit to my will and become part of my wider plan, or fight me and risk the destruction of the world. Even the name Celestial Toymaker sounds like a euphemism for God, or Santa at the very least, with heaven being the eternal Toy Shop in the sky.

Here are Dodo and Stephen attempting to beat Billy Bunter in a game of TARDIS hopscotch. Because the Celestial Toymaker said so, that’s why:

And what does he do when the Doctor cuts up rough and attempts to thwart his plans? He makes him invisible, and silent. Any criticism of his divine plans is simply taken away. Not destroyed, or addressed, merely silenced. It’s almost as if he enjoys having a fellow ageless (ish) being, even an adversary, along for the ride. I’m tempted to mention the Devil at this point, but it’s probably wise not to.

Of course, Doctor Who being what it was in 1966, this existential battle is played for laughs, and the Toymaker, while still a threatening presence, displays a puckish sense of glee as he forces his guests to obey his will. So he’s more like a devil anyway, and  this therefore puts the Doctor in the position of being the redemptive force in this little allegory.

And it’s a popular allegory too. Despite only making one appearance in the TV show, the Toymaker has appeared in Doctor Who novelisations and magazine stories, pitted against the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors, in various incarnations of his own. And of course there’s the omnipotent House in The Doctor’s Wife, who shares many of the Toymaker’s worst traits, particularly playing little games with people (remember poor Amy and Rory running around the back corridors of the TARDIS?).

So, it seems being Godlike isn’t all its cracked up to be. Maybe the Toymaker should’ve stuck to solitaire.

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By Fraser McAlpine