The Celestial Toymaker written by Brian Hayles with Donald Tosh
The Gunfighters written by Donald Cotton
The Celestial Toymaker directed by Bill Sellars
The Gunfighters directed by Rex Tucker
The tower of Hanoi is a puzzle consisting of three rods and a number of disks, each disk of a different size. The starting state is all of the disks, stacked largest to smallest, on the first rod. The goal is to move all of the disks to the third rod. the disks may only be placed on one of the rods, only one disk can be moved at a time, and a larger disk may not be placed on top of a smaller disk. The solution to the puzzle gets exponentially* longer each time a disk is added: a three disk version can be done in a few seconds, whereas 20 disks would take far more time than a sane person would be willing to spend. Legend has it that if the monks at the temple in Brahma finish their 64 disk version of the puzzle, the world will end**. I have no idea if Brian Hayles or Donald Tosh were aware of this when they gave the Doctor a tower of hanoi puzzle to complete, and used it as the deadline for the doctor’s companions finding the TARDIS, but either way it means I can look smart by knowing about it.
Given the number of times I’d seen stories in which a bunch of space wonderin’ scientists stumble across a bored super-all powerful being intent of using them as entertainment for all time (every other next gen episode for a start) I wasn’t sure if the Celestial Toymaker would be one of the early who stories I enjoyed. The last remaining episode, included, The Final Test, made me pretty sure it wouldn’t be. I was, sadly, right. Not that its a total mess or anything, but the combination of a slightly silly story done better elsewhere with one of the poorer TARDIS crews, and the lack of William Hartnell, who spends a lot of it invisible, mute, or both all conspire to sap the entertainment value from the story.
Poor Dodo, up until the end of the Celestial Toymaker she really was the most annoying this on the screen. Luckily for her, the gunfighters came along and Steven took over role of most punchable thing due to his horrific insistence on putting on an awful american accent for the whole damn story. The Doctor himself sums up the story pretty fucking well at the end of the last episode: “Oh, my dear Dodo, my dear Dodo. You know you’re fast becoming a prey to every cliché-ridden convention in the American West.” Except its not just Dodo. Its everyone. Even the cowboys. As a story its pretty damn similar to the other historical tales: land, separated, mistaken identity, lots of bellowing yada yada blah fucking blah. Which is fair enough, I guess, since, as it turned out, it was Hartnell’s last historical romp.
Since Verity Lambert left the show at the end of Mission to the Unknown I’m not sure that Who recovered. But it would. Happily, after much buggering about, Who would finally pick up again, in The Savages. *Specifically 2^n -1 moves, where n is the number of disks. ** if the monks were able to move one disk a second, it would take them around 584,942,417,355, or five hundred and eighty four billion, nine hundred and forty two million, four hundred and seventeen thousand, three hundred and fifty five years, which is probably quite a lot longer than even the most optimistic estimates for the lifetime of or sun.