MISSING DOCTOR WHO - The Celestial Toymaker
and childhood's imaginative legacy

   I remember seeing this when it was originally transmitted.
   Although I was only 7 or 8 years old, it left an impression that has
   stayed with me ever since. There was a marvellous 'Alice in
   Wonderland' feel about it that, although I could not identify it
   as such, appealed to my early responsiveness to 'mood' over
   storytelling. Or, to put it more accurately, the way certain stories
   make concrete a state of mind.

   Those dancing toy ballerinas have haunted me ever since; there
   is something deliriously fascinating about the look of them; the   
   wish-bone shaped poses they made with their arms, the hearts
   for red cheeks, the whole idea of coming under their spell and
   dancing with them for eternity.

   Yet there is another layer to this that even as a kid I somehow
   responded to. These early episodes, embedded as they were in
   a black and white hazy transmission and recorded in an
   evidently studio-bound world do, for these reasons, intrinsically
   enhance the 'other worldliness' quality of it all. It has always
   struck me as curious how the ambient studio noise and echo,
   the slightly claustrophobic sets and awareness of the heavy
   studio cameras following the actors around (rather like sentient
   robots sans cameraman) creates an atmosphere of make
   believe almost by default. It’s as if early Doctor Who seems to
   take place in the 'playroom' of the BBC studios long after
   everyone has gone home. The Celestial Toymaker simply took
   this state of affairs and ran with it.

   I guess the 'quality' of this story is completely beside the point.
   Even the best of Doctor Who, the very best, is well below a
   good, competent 'straight' drama in terms of its production.
   And by that I mean all the production elements, even if you
   ignore the 'unspecial' effects. Just pick at random any episode
   of the Jeremy Brett 'Sherlock Holmes' series and almost any one
   of them will be superior to the pinnacle of what Doctor Who
   has to offer in terms of consistency of acting, tightness of script,
   photography, music score, sets...everything.

   My point is fundamentally that it is 'the idea' of Doctor Who that
   enters your bloodstream. The whole lexicon of all the
   components; scary, daft, witty, companions, the good 'ol Brig,
   Benton, battered Dalek casings, Jo's marvellous legs, fantastic
   costume design for sixpence, uncle Tewence, thoroughly
   interesting Mr Hinchcliffe, enormously likable Mr Davison, the RT
   forum, boring episodes, quite good episodes... on and on it
   goes. But the most important thing in all this is its relationship to
   our childhood, To someone who has an enormous, incurable
   soft spot for this show, the effect it had is forever tattooed on
   our psyche.

   So, whenever the old shows remembered from our childhood
   are revisited, they never match up to the memory. They are like
   marvelling at and being slightly shocked by the tiny desks when
   we look at our infant school classrooms. It is the idea of Doctor
   Who that is the most intriguing thing; no, that's not quite
   accurate. It is something more resembling the 'heart' of it that I
   have so much affection for. Such an innocent joy. It is that
   simple really.

   This brings me neatly to a point I would like to make about the
   missing episodes in general: Most of them will stay missing
   forever. There only testament to ever having existed being a
   few broken fragments which are set into the surviving audio
   tapes like one or two remains from a giant Roman vase.
   I saw these episodes as a child and can never, ever see them
   again. The memory of them, all that frightened me, thrilled me
   and, most of all, inspired me is now part of my imaginative
   world. A flickering black and white world once glimpsed
   through the window of a mysterious, temperamental, heavy
   box in the corner of a normal, surburban living room. And
   although part of me would love to see them again, part of me
   is glad they are gone, because even though much of our
   childhood impression remains after seeing them in adult life,
   something is taken away.

   I shall forever dance with those toy ballerinas of The Celestial
   Toymaker in my mind; half terrified of them and half in love with
   them. If my adult mind were to see them again, they would
   become actresses, lighting and sets. They would become the
   fascinating world of archive TV and the musings about how
   things had changed. All this would be fascinating in itself. But
   they would have left that shadowy ballroom of spells where
   they waltz with me in my childhood memory. I'm perfectly
   happy not to be rescued...


   In my mind’s eye there is an image of childhood’s Christmas
   tree. It is lit up and curiously resembles the central column of the
   TARDIS console. The tree still has many unopened presents at its
   foot and the carpet is not yet covered in pine needles. On the
   top there is a little fairy and, with a gasp, I realise the light on
   her wand has gone out and will shine no more.

   Chris Bennett 2008