Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Toymakers, time-traps and more of Mad Uncle Tom

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2010-02 SFX p129.jpg

  • Publication: SFX
  • Date: Feb. 2010
  • Author: Saxon Bullock, Ian Berriman, Guy Haley
  • Page: 129
  • Language: English


Big Finish 95 mins (two discs) £12.99 (download)/E14.99 (CD) OUT NOW! ★★★


Big Finish 110 mins (two discs) £12.99 (download)/£14.99 (CD) OUT NOW! ★★★★


BBC Audio 61 mins (one disc) £9.77 OUT NOW! ★★★


BBC Audio 70 mins (ono disc) 19.77 OUT NOW! ★★★

Over its 26-year original run, Doctor Who built up a mountain of scripts that never made it onto our screens, for one reason or another. Now, Big Finish are bringing a selection of these "Lost Stories" to life, starting with the most infamous missing tales - the stories originally planned for the 23rd season, scrapped when the show was cancelled in 1985.

First up in this "alternate" season 23 is The Nightmare Fair, which sees the Sixth Doctor and Peri visiting Blackpool, and running foul of '60s adversary the Celestial Toymaker (David Bailie). Late Who producer Graham Williams's script forgoes the more surreal aspects of the Toymaker in favour of verbal wit and techno gadgetry, but while it showcases plenty of imagination, it's also a rambling yarn that sometimes seems to be more of a collection of oddball ideas than a genuine story.

Deliberately recreating mid-'80s Who also means recreating its problems. From the overload of continuity to the sarcastic characterisation of the Doctor, anyone who doesn't like this era of Who is unlikely to be won over. The production side is excellent and Bailie is a fine villain, but this is a flawed start to a promising concept.

Elsewhere, Big Finish's Stockbridge Trilogy continues with The Eternal Summer, where the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa's journey through the history of the English village brings them to what seems to be the present day - except that time is looping back on itself, forcing the villagers to relive their own past... The references to the Stockbridge comic strips from Doctor Who Magazine are even stronger here, thanks to the presence of UFO obsessive Maxwell Edison (The Fast ShoWs Mark Williams), and this is the kind of mindbending and utterly English tale that only Who could get away with. Aside from some overly kooky twists, it's a well-crafted and thoroughly entertaining adventure.

Tom Baker's return to the TARDIS concludes in parts four and five of Hornets' Nest. Part four kicks off in hugely atmospheric style, as a nunnery in 11th century England is besieged by wild dogs possessed by the alien hornets, out to recover their queen, who has ensconced herself in a pig. A pig which the slingshot-packing nuns have elevated to Mother Superior. Utterly barking. Paul Magrs's script is as egregiously grandiloquent as ever - we'll be slipping "frangible" and "imbroglio" into casual conversation as soon as possible - and there's a fun chase through the TARDIS (revealed to have a swamp...). A shame, then, that the "twist ending" is nothing of the kind, simply reminding us of a piece of already revealed information.

In Hive Of Horror, a miniaturised Doctor climbs into the head of a stuffed zebra (we're not making this up) to confront the hornet queen. Along the way, companion Mike Yates is tempted to betray the Doctor, a development which would have been more dramatic had the story starred The Brigadier, as originally planned. Sadly, it all concludes rather conveniently, in a development akin to giant-ant tale "The Web Planet" being solved by a giant kettle of boiling water. All in all, this has been a frustrating saga. Its word power and sense of the absurd are admirable, but we'd have preferred a planet-hopping series of five standalone adventures. axon Bullock/Ian Berriman

AI A throwaway line in Hive Of Horrorsuggests INIF that the Fourth Doctor once battled the Vogons from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.


Pretend to be a Time Lord with Cubicle 7's latest

Authors: David F Chapman and others Publisher: Cubicle 7 260 pages (three books) £39.99 ISBN: 9784907204-11-1 OUT NOW! ★★★★

The creators of the award-winning Starblazer Adventures have pulled out all the stops with this handsome cardboard box full of "time-wimey stuff". It's a pretty thing, comprising three books, glossy character sheets and six clear dice with Who-friendly purple dots. Free of the lousy production values that dog so many RPGs, it's a pleasure to read with a strong layout, clear fonts and Ood-les of lovely glossy pictures.

This is not a rules-heavy RPG and the balance of the game swings on story. Character creation is points-based, geared toward making adventurers who'll sit well in a mutually enjoyable narrative experience; killing machines out to snaffle goblin loot and complex rules tables a la Dungeons & Dragons are entirely absent. Jolly good too: this emphasis on wit and wits is more than appropriate to the show's spirit - a violent game just wouldn't cut it.

It's one of the best written RPGs we've come across in a while, explaining rules, background and concepts in an upbeat style reminiscent of David Tennant's take on the Time Lord. And while it's up-front about its focus on New Who, there's many a mention of the old days to keep the old timers happy.

It does have one weakness - there will be spats about who gets to play the Doctor, despite the game's attempts to smooth this over - but otherwise it's well-penned fun, with a large pool of potential players. You only have to check out YouTube to see how many people already spend their time pretending to be Time Lords, after all...

This is the third Who RPG. FASA published one in 1985, while a lesser-known effort, Time Lord, was released by Virgin Publishing in 1991.

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to

  • APA 6th ed.: Haley, Saxon Bullock, Ian Berriman, Guy (Feb. 2010). Toymakers, time-traps and more of Mad Uncle Tom. SFX p. 129.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Haley, Saxon Bullock, Ian Berriman, Guy. "Toymakers, time-traps and more of Mad Uncle Tom." SFX [add city] Feb. 2010, 129. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Haley, Saxon Bullock, Ian Berriman, Guy. "Toymakers, time-traps and more of Mad Uncle Tom." SFX, edition, sec., Feb. 2010
  • Turabian: Haley, Saxon Bullock, Ian Berriman, Guy. "Toymakers, time-traps and more of Mad Uncle Tom." SFX, Feb. 2010, section, 129 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Toymakers, time-traps and more of Mad Uncle Tom | url=,_time-traps_and_more_of_Mad_Uncle_Tom | work=SFX | pages=129 | date=Feb. 2010 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 February 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Toymakers, time-traps and more of Mad Uncle Tom | url=,_time-traps_and_more_of_Mad_Uncle_Tom | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 February 2024}}</ref>