Doctor Who: The Celestial Toymaker

Doctor Who: The Celestial Toymaker January 7, 2012

The Celestial Toymaker” is an episode of Doctor Who from the William Hartnell era, and most of the original footage is lostGary Zimmer sums up the significance of this early episode of Doctor Who very well: “`The Celestial Toymaker‘ was unlike any previous Doctor Who story. Until then stories had been in either of two very broad categories, historical or science fiction. In a bold departure from this formula the Doctor and his companions find themselves in the realm of the Celestial Toymaker. This is the first time we see the Doctor encounter an enigmatic and immortal being in a place outside of space and time.”

The Toymaker is a lot like a deity of the sort encountered in many religious systems: immortal, whimsical, amoral or at least seemingly above notions of right and wrong, able to command the power to create worlds, and manipulating lesser beings as puppets and playthings.

From that point on, the Doctor would encounter godlike entities far more frequently.

What is the significance of sci-fi figures like the Toymaker or “Q” from Star Trek? And what, perhaps more importantly, is the message inherent in the fact that, despite their power, lesser beings, whether human or time lord, are capable of outwitting them?

Sci-fi, as a rule, has room for deities with limitations, not ones that are infinite and incomparable. But arguably the same may be said for human religions, no matter how much they may protest otherwise.

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  • Michael Wilson

    From a story tellers perspective the truly all powerful god would be hard to write for and unsatisfying as either a hero or villain. The limited god allows writers to play around with someone who can do anything but has some kind of Achilles’s heal or limitation. Old school Pagan religion frequently presented god in the Q way since they saw nature as a set of forces in conflict and hadn’t speculated on  an underlying force that unites all phenomenon. Sometimes we get that impression form the Biblical God as well, how he regrets things and cuts deals with people. In a way the Christian story of fall and redemption is a way for humanity to get from God the fruit of both tree’s by manipulating His compassion, but of course this was God’s plan all along. Maybe the defeats of Q and the Toymaker are part of their larger plan?BY the way, one of my favorite scenes from The Next Generation was when Q told Picard that maybe he couldn’t stop the Borg. It really set them up as boss villains when Q is afraid of them.  My question to you, did Q ever fight the Borg, and if not, who do you think would win?

    • I don’t think that the Q Continuum ever fought the Borg. I think that they had some interest in preventing the Borg from assimilating everyone and making the universe a far more boring place. I think that Q would win, unless perhaps the Borg managed to assimilate a member of the Q Continuum – then all bets would be off.