Thursday, 4 March 2010

Review: The Nightmare Fair

'The Nightmare Fair' is my first experience of Big Finish audio stories. It is also the first in their adaptations of Colin Baker's "Lost Stories" for audio. The original season 23 was shelved when Michael Grade put Doctor Who on an 18-month hiatus and when it returned to screens, it was in the form of 1986's season-long story arc 'The Trial of a Time Lord', and the original scripts were never filmed. Thus, in 2009 Big Finish took the very sensible decision to dramatise these lost scripts. 'The Nightmare Fair', written by former Doctor Who producer Graham Williams, was fairly advanced at the time of the series' hiatus, with a director even been assigned to the story. Williams even went on to novelise the story in 1989.

'The Nightmare Fair' sees the return of The Celestial Toymaker, a mysterious character first seen in the 1966 William Hartnell story... 'The Celestial Toymaker'. In that serial he was played by Michael Gough (who, I believe, would have been approached to play him again if this story was ever filmed) but for this adaptation he is played, very well in my opinion, by David Bailie, best known to Doctor Who fans as Dask in 'The Robots of Death'. Here he adds something of a childlike sort of impetuous glee to the Toymaker, which makes a nice change for a Who villain.

Overall it's a pretty good story, well told and it's fairly clear that all the actors involved are having a good time. Chris has suggested that the story might actually have looked pretty cheap onscreen and I'm inclined to agree with him: given the BBC's budget and special effects capabilities in the mid-80s I can't help but think that Blackpool might have ended up looking a bit cheap and tawdry. Similarly the focus on arcade machines may seem a little dated now, but I did very much enjoy learning a little more about the motivations of the Toymaker. 'The Nightmare Fair' is not too bad a place to start with Big Finish and there's a nice kind of justice in allowing Colin Baker to rewrite a little bit of his tragic history as the Doctor.


Vislor Merlot said...

I totally read the small text on the CD sleeve image as "David Bowie as the Celestial Toymaker". Massive disappointment ahoy!

Chris JC said...

I think The Mechanic, the arcade game and the sequence of the Doctor and Peri on a rollercoaster are the sections that would be the most shoddy on screen.

The rollercoaster part in particular would likely have made the Hilarious Fans of the time make comments about the infamous Jim'll Fix It segment featuring Boy Scouts eating their lunch on a Blackpool Pleasure Beach rollercoaster.

PalmerEldritch said...

interestingly, Colin Baker is the only Doctor who i've stood near awkwardly while he talked to other people.

he looks like a giant Bakshi hobbit nowadays.

Chris JC said...

What an unusual reference, guy.

And I've just failed to find a screenshot of the Bakshi hobbit yelling "PROUDFEET!"

Chris JC said...

Actually though, Palmer, it was pointed out by Horatio that Baker's looking a bit more trim these days, check out this pic from the recording of Mission to Magnus.

Looking pretty good. Stick a blonde perm on him and he's ready for The Eleven Doctors in 2013. Although that should probably be done in CG.

Horatio Outside said...

I think we should definitely have a podcast dedicated to the anniversary specials and predictions for 2013.

Baker, C. did go through a pretty bad phase - he looks horrendous in some of the DVD extras. But he is looking better there, and his voice acting is not bad at all.

Chris JC said...

Michael Gough update: he does actually provide a voice in the new Alice in Wonderland film, but it's a very small role, whereas the Toymaker in The Nightmare Fair has a fair amount of stuff to do.