Fiction Reviews

Doctor Who: The Giggle

(2023) James Goss, Target – BBC Books, £9.99 / Can$19.99 / US$13.99, pbk, 220pp ISBN 978-1-785-94847-3


A sinister toyshop. The Earth erupting in violence. Shockwaves travelling through history. With old friends powerless to help, the Doctor is drawn into a deadly duel against an old nemesis who can bend reality to his will – and change the Doctor’s future for ever…

“The Giggle” was the last of three 60th anniversary special episodes starring David Tennant as the 14th Doctor, and I thought it was the best of the bunch, bringing back an old companion, some familiar faces, and a very old adversary in the shape of The Toymaker whom the first Doctor encountered way back in episodes broadcasted in 1966. Sadly, not many of those episodes remain, although William Hartwell, who played the first Doctor, and Michael Gough, who played The Toymaker, make fleeting appearances from the Doctor’s memory as he recalls his first encounter with The Toymaker.  This time round he was played with bravado by Neil Patrick Harris, in a performance that mixed over-the-top zaniness with detached cruelty and a smattering of pantomime racism. That episode also contains my favourite TV scene of 2023, namely The Toymaker arriving in UNIT’s headquarters, dressed as a toy soldier and performing a dance routine to a Spice Girls song. Sadly, there is no way to really capture that in print, so I was disappointed that when I reached that part in the novel and turned the page the song didn’t start up, damn…!

Hats off to James Goss for a very entertaining way to tell the story of the televised version as this is told, not in chapters, but in moves, all 56 of them, and like some games, moves can be long or very short. Interspersed between these moves, are some games to play like a maze made from a scan of the President of the United States’s brain; or a word grid where the only words to find are HA, or AHA, or HAHAHA or AHAHAHA, etc, etc. But after Move 13, The Toymaker takes over the story and we switch to Move 1024 before moving (ouch) on to Move 14. In this section, we are treated to an old-fashioned adventure gamebook extract – which door should Donna Noble take? We also get treated to a puppet show when The Toymaker updates Donna on what the Doctor has been up to since they last met, particularly the unhappy fates of some of his companions and half the universe due to The Flux. Like a passing comment that was made in “The Star Beast” about “the Boss” being interested in creatures with two hearts; here, the Toymaker is boasting about all his triumphs, but admits he fled from “The One Who Waits”. The Doctor doesn’t know who that is. “That is someone else’s game,” the Toymaker tells him. Look out 15th Doctor. The dance routine part of the episode that I loved is written almost like an extract from a play.

No spoilers here, in case you have been on another planet or in a very deep sleep after being pricked by the needle on a spindle, but the rest of us knows how the regeneration scene went after the 14th Doctor was mortally wounded by a shot from the Galactic Beam, and his regeneration started, but The Toymaker still has a few surprises up his sleeve before the story ends.

All in all, Goss has told “The Giggle” in a smart, entertaining way, capturing the twisted madness/genius of The Toymaker, as well as capturing the creepy horror of some of the scenes involving life-size puppets, and Stooky Sue and the Stooky Babbies. This is a pretty essential purchase for all Whovians, and I look forward to a future hardback deluxe edition with built-in speakers. Here come the Spice Girls.

Dance, anyone?

Ian Hunter


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