Doctor Who – The Giggle (60th Anniversary Special)

When a malevolant force known as ‘The Toymaker’, finds his way into our reality, The Doctor is forced to play a deadly game in order to save the human race.

‘The Giggle’, the finale of the three episode arc signalling the long awaited return of Russell T Davies, and conclusion of the Doctor Donna story, aims to reinfuse the series with a sense of lightheartedness and humour. In the closing scene of episode two, the TARDIS lands back in London, returning Donna home after a brief outer-space excursion and as she predicted, we are met with her Grandad Wilf, played by the late Bernard Cribbins. Although they did not expect to return to a London full of chaos.

We also welcome back characters Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, Chief Scientific Officer and Head of UNIT and Mel, both long-term allies to the doctor. The reintroduction of Mel, who was originally companion to the 7th Doctor in the 80s, feels somewhat unnecessary, but is sure to put a smile on the face of long-time ‘Whovians’.

The character of The Toymaker, played by Neil Patrick Harris, is another call back to the original seasons of the show back in 1966. The character is decidedly more camp than the original 60’s version, which, along with the tongue in cheek mockery of the current political climate, is clearly signalling that the upcoming season is going to be focussed on inclusivity with a clear political message, as Davies’ seasons always have been. It turns out that The Toymaker now has a hold over the population of the planet, after spending decades slowly infesting people’s mind with a maddening subliminal ‘giggle’ that convinces everybody who hears it that they’re never wrong.

The calling back to old characters, in a somewhat ham-fisted way, feels like a strange lack of imagination from Davies, who always blended old with the new in previous seasons, but in this episode feels like we are hanging on to what was before rather than looking forward. Mel’s character for example is introduced, her storyline quickly summed up, and her reason for being here sort of makes sense. It does feel like episode wouldn’t have lost anything if she was not there. This could be Davies’ way of packaging up the current era of the show, and with the introduction of Ncuti Gatwa at the end of the episode as the new Doctor, hopefully we can move forward into the new era of the show.

The MacGuffin of the episode, Stooky Bill, feels reminiscent of a previous episode ‘The Idiot Lantern’ from series 2, where televisions from the 1950s housed a sinister creature. If there is one thing Davies can do, it is creepy. Stooky Bill’s inanimate yet menacing character feels similar to the Weeping Angels, another brilliant episode from one of Tennant’s seasons. This creepiness is an element of the show that I hope carries on into the new season. CGI can become dated very quickly, which is part of why the seasons from the 2000s still hold up today, as they relied more on their practical effects and storytelling rather than visual effects.

 

The humour, for the most part, strikes a good balance between wit and slapstick comedy, eliciting some genuine laughs, especially seeing Donna fighting off three tiny infant wooden dolls and their mother. The jokes, however, feel forced at times, and not all of them land successfully. This inconsistency in the humour can hinder the overall enjoyment of the episode as it feels a little disjointed and over-explained. Neil Patrick Harris does a great job with what he’s given though, with The Toymaker darting between over the top accents in order to confuse and annoy his opponents. Harris is also a real life magician, so all the scenes featuring The Toymaker juggling or using slight of hand are real. Even when his charcater literally breaks into song at one point, it feels like Harris was the only person who could’ve pulled off the camp but menacing nature of the character.

Visually, the episode has its ups and downs, the set designs and special effects are generally adequate, but they lack the standout moments or innovation that other episodes in previous seasons have delivered. The 60th anniversary episodes lack a sense of grittiness that is usually a hallmark of Davies’ writing. The UNIT building feels a bit too polished and Avengers Tower-esque. And yet we are supposed to believe this is paid for by the current British government which they make jabs at throughout these three episodes.

The episode ends in a rather surprising regeneration, or rather, bi-regeneration. After being fatally injured by The Toymaker, we think Tennant is set to take his final bow, however this time “I don’t know, feels different this time” exclaims The Doctor, as Donna and Mel literally ‘pull’ the new Doctor out of him. It’s another novel idea of RTD’s which is sure to also split fans, however from the moment he appears as the 15th Doctor, Ncuti OWNS the screen, almost eclipsing Tennant as they team up to play one more game against The Toymaker.

But how will this work? Two Doctors? Well turns out Tennant’s Doctor will be taking a well deserved, once in a billion year break and sticking around with Donna and her family… for now. Meanwhile, Ncuti’s new Doctor will fly off in his newly sledgehammered TARDIS (you’ll see) doing what he has always done best… be a Doctor. In fact, it’s funny that the very first thing he does, is take the time to quite literally heal himself, allowing him to move forward emotionally.

Despite some of its shortcomings, ‘The Giggle’ has its enjoyable moments and can provide a light and entertaining experience for viewers hoping to get back I to the show having lost touch with it in the last few years. It may not be one of the standout episodes of Doctor Who, but it still manages to capture the spirit of the series. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual viewer, ‘The Giggle’ is an episode that can be appreciated for its attempt to draw people back in to the show, which lost so many viewers over the past few years. Hopefully the upcoming Christmas Day episode will follow suit with previous holiday specials from Davies, and catapult us into a new ‘Whoniverse’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Olivia, Cambridge Store

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