Reviewed By: adamelijah
Review Date: 4/3/15 6:27 pm
2 out of 2 found this review helpful.
The Nightmare Fair was originally written by Graham Williams to lead off Season 23 of Doctor Who. In some ways, it was typical of the Nostalgia that was in the prior season which among its six stories featured the Doctor meeting up with old foes the Cybermen, the Master, the Sontarans, and the Daleks as the Celestial Toymaker hadn't been seen since Series 23.
As a story, it's really mediocre. Most of it is fixed in a cell or in and about the Toymaker's lair. Yet, it doesn't really feel claustrophobic or atmospheric or anything else that makes it special. It's very slow paced.
It's on the character level that the story does work. Colin Baker captures the right feel for these lost stories. Through Season 22, the Sixth Doctor had been on a journey, softening a bit throughout the whole season. At the start of Season 23, when he and Peri are running around the forest, it feels like you've missed something. Here, we pick up those missing bits of development. The Peri-Doctor relationship isn't the constant sniping and arguing of early Season 22, but neither is as close knit as we see at the start of the Trial.
The Doctor has some funny scenes with Kevin, as he has some choice sarcastic remarks for the youth, who actually made a very good fill in companion. You also begin to see the Doctor's compassion and desire for justice come out when he meets Shardlow, an elderly butler who the Toymaker impressed for service for two centuries. The resolution of the plot requires the Doctor take harsh action but he takes no joy in it which is definitely a change from earlier in Season 22.
The characters wouldn't be such a saving grace, except the mystery of who the Celestial Toymaker is was the most interesting feature of the plot. The Doctor builds it up as not even the Timelords can trace his origins and the solution is epic. Though ultimately, it's the Doctor's reaction to this that really makes it impactful.
Overall, these were very fun characters and the story is well-acted with the result being that the story is far entertaining even with a plot that has a lot of flaws.