‘THE NIGHTMARE FAIR’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Celestial Toymaker with the Sixth Doctor and Peri
It’s time for the Lost Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’!
In 1985, ‘Doctor Who’ was put on trial for its life in more ways than one. It was decided by the BBC to put the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series on hold for a hiatus of eighteen months. This was something fans weren’t happy about and they protested against this news. But the BBC was so firm in their decision.
As a consequence of this decision, the pre-planned Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’ meant for 1986 was cancelled. It was a heavy blow for the cast and crew working on the series. The plans for the original Season 23 are detailed in full for ‘The Lost Season’ special feature on ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ DVD.
Thankfully however in 2009, Big Finish revived the Lost Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’ by reproducing the stories for audio. This was to be a part of the new audio range for ‘Doctor Who’ called ‘The Lost Stories’, which became popular with fans who wanted to have these lost TV stories made for audio.
I was pretty excited by the news that Big Finish were producing these lost stories of ‘Doctor Who’ starring Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant as the Doctor and Peri. I didn’t purchase the whole Lost Season 23 straight away, but I was fascinated with what these stories were going to be like for audio.
I purchased the first two stories of the Lost Season 23, ‘The Nightmare Fair’ and ‘Mission To Magnus’ from the Big Finish stall at the ‘Regenerations 2010’ convention in Swansea, September 2010. Sadly not all the lost stories documented in ‘The Lost Season’ DVD special feature are re-made onto audio.
For example, ‘The Ultimate Evil’ by Wally K. Daly and ‘Yellow Fever and How To Cure It’ by Robert Holmes are not included in this lost season. Despite the good intentions of Big Finish to get these stories made onto audio, they were unable to get the rights and make good use of these lost stories.
Not that I’m complaining, as I was certain that the stories featured in this missing Season 23 would be exciting enough for us ‘Doctor Who’ fans to enjoy. They would include ones mentioned in the original Season 23 outline as well as some new tales that got pitched but never saw the light of day.
So, how does the Lost Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’ start? How else? With ‘The Nightmare Fair’ of course! This was always going to be the season opener in the original Season 23 back in the 1980s. For its audio adaptation, ‘The Nightmare Fair’ is a 2 x 50-minute episode story by Graham Williams.
For many fans, Graham Williams was the producer of ‘Doctor Who’ from 1977 to 1980 when Tom Baker was the Doctor. Graham Williams contributed the scripts to the ‘Doctor Who’ production office in the 1980s before it was cancelled. Thankfully Graham Williams novelized his lost TV story in 1989.
Sadly Graham Williams died a year later after he novelized ‘The Nightmare Fair’ for Target books. When Big Finish came to do ‘The Lost Stories’ for audio, producer David Richardson asked the permission of Graham Williams’ wife, Jacqueline, to adapt her husband’s original TV scripts for audio.
Jacqueline Williams kindly gave her consent to Big Finish and the scripts were adapted for audio. The person responsible for adapting Graham Williams’ ‘Doctor Who’ scripts into audio was director John Ainsworth. I think it’s fair that John Ainsworth did a good job adapting ‘The Nightmare Fair’ on audio.
I like Graham Williams’ era of ‘Doctor Who’. I was always inspired by the stories he produced in his era with the likes of ‘The Stones of Blood’, ‘The Androids of Tara’ and ‘City of Death’. So I was looking forward to finding out what ‘The Nightmare Fair’ was to be like as a story and whether it’ll be good.
If you know the story of ‘The Nightmare Fair’, you know what to expect. But for those who don’t know, ‘The Nightmare Fair’ is about the Doctor and Peri having a holiday trip to Blackpool. This was meant to be the ‘fun’ place the Doctor was to take Peri to after the end of ‘Revelation of the Daleks’.
Whilst the Doctor and Peri enjoy themselves in Blackpool, they’re being watched by an old enemy of the Doctor’s. This happens to be the Celestial Toymaker, who has been waiting a long time for the Doctor to arrive. The Celestial Toymaker wants to play a game with the Doctor. Will the Doctor play?
The Celestial Toymaker made his first appearance in…‘The Celestial Toymaker’ with William Hartnell’s Doctor. Had this story been made for TV, it would have seen Michael Gough return to the role. Sadly it didn’t transpire and Michael Gough also wasn’t able to return for this audio adaptation.
Instead of Michael Gough, Big Finish cast David Bailie as the Celestial Toymaker. David Bailie is known to ‘Doctor Who’ fans for playing Dask in ‘The Robots of Death’ with Tom Baker. I enjoyed his performance as the Celestial Toymaker in this story. This isn’t an exact re-creation of Michael Gough.
But David manages to deliver the gleefully evil and sinister cunning of the Toymaker superbly. I don’t fully understand the Toymaker’s motives and why he wants to keep playing games with the Doctor. But his obsessive desire in playing games and wanting the Doctor beaten is quite mesmerising here.
Colin Baker returns on fine form as the Sixth Doctor in this audio adventure. This would of course be the brash, unlikeable Sixth Doctor from the TV series after ‘Revelation of the Daleks’. I get a sense Big Finish are finding ways to mellow Colin’s Doctor down to the one he will be for the ‘Trial’ season.
That’s not to say Colin Baker’s Doctor isn’t enjoyably entertaining in this adventure. On the contrary, he is. I’m amazed Colin’s been able to re-create that Doctor that he was from the TV series after doing so many audios for Big Finish. His brashness and sense of adventure come across great in this.
I liked it when Colin’s Doctor was encouraging Peri to enjoy herself when they were in Blackpool. I enjoyed that scene when the Doctor and Peri were on that rollercoaster ride and they were enjoying themselves from the thrill of the ride. Colin’s Doctor also gets to be very inquisitive in this adventure.
Nicola Bryant is equally wonderful as Peri in this audio adventure. I could easily imagine Peri eating candy floss when she and the Doctor were in Blackpool. She’s not so keen about being Blackpool which gets the Doctor disappointed. I would have thought she’d find some fun at least in Blackpool.
Pretty soon, Peri and the Doctor get to go on a space adventure ride, which would have been in Blackpool at the time and would have featured in the original TV story. Peri gets separated from the Doctor most of the time and get to meet up with Matthew Noble as young man, Kevin in the drama.
I enjoyed how Peri interacted with Kevin, as they braved through the dangers whilst inside the funfair of Blackpool. Peri loses Kevin at some point in the story before she reunites with him until discovering he’s not real. Thankfully she meets up with the Doctor and the real Kevin in a prison cell.
As well as David Bailie and Matthew Noble in the cast, there’s also Andrew Fettes as Stefan. Stefan is a servant of the Toymaker, who also appeared in ‘Divided Loyalties’ apparently. There’s also William Whymper as Shardlow, Toby Longworth as Yasumoto and Duncan Wisbey as Geoff, Kevin’s brother.
I enjoyed ‘Part One’ more than I enjoyed ‘Part Two’ in this story. It was great to hear the funfair sequences with the Doctor and Peri early on in the story. But I did feel the story sagged a bit by the time we came to ‘Part Two’. The story is good, but I wish we had some more funfair scenes outside.
The CD extras are as follows. At the start of Disc 1, there’s a trailer for ‘Mission to Magnus’ with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant. At the end of Discs 1 and 2, there are behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew including director/adaptor John Ainsworth, Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, David Bailie, etc.
‘The Nightmare Fair’ is a great opening story for the Lost Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’ with the Sixth Doctor and Peri. I was looking forward to hearing the rest of the season as I went through it. David Bailie’s performance as the Celestial Toymaker is great and Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant shine here.
‘The Nightmare Fair’ rating – 8/10
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Great review Tim, i like you was overjoyed when BF announced the lost stories seasons were being adapted for audio & as a fan who lived through the awful 18 month hiatus i was thrilled to finally hear what i had wanted to see on tv originally in 1986 although i love Trial Of A Timelord because without that we’d have no Valeyard.
Good performances by the cast, i enjoyed David Ballie as the Toymaker but agree the pacing does slightly sag in Part Two but did at least pick up & deliver a satisfying conclusion for me.
I highly recommend you listen to Solitare a Eighth Doctor CC featuring Ballie again as the Toymaker it’s a crackingly good story.
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Very pleased you enjoyed my review on ‘The Nightmare Fair’.
Yeah I was very pleased Big Finish were adapting the lost Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’ for audio after it got cancelled in 1985. I was disappointed ‘The Ultimate Evil’, ‘Yellow Fever and How to Cure It’ and ‘The Children of January’ weren’t going to be adapted into audio. But I was pleased ‘The Nightmare Fair’, ‘Mission to Magnus’, ‘The Hollows of Time’ and other stories were going to be adapted for audio.
Yeah the pacing did sag in ‘Part Two’, but I’m glad it was made up for with good performances from the cast, an enjoyable ‘Part One’ and a decent conclusion.
Thanks for recommending ‘Solitare’ for me, Simon. I’ll have to check it out.
Many thanks for your comments.