Welcome to Doctor Who: The Giggle, the latest episode as a part of Doctor Who‘s 60th Anniversary specials. The episode is certainly set to be a special one as well. It’s the end for David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor, but has the moment been prepared for? How he’ll hand the keys to the TARDIS over to Ncuti Gatwa has been a subject of wild speculation. After so many months, this is the episode where it finally all goes down.
When we last left off, the world has gone, man, thanks to the laugh of the maniacal Toymaker (Neil Patrick Harris). People are fighting in the streets, things are on fire, planes are crashing, it’s just overall not a good time. As far as it looks, only the Doctor and Donna (Catherine Tate) can stop him. Teaming up with UNIT again and friends old and new, can this new TARDIS team get out alive?
Find the answers to your burning questions from the last few specials in our full review of “The Giggle”. WARNING – This is our full review of the episode and, as such, will contain spoilers. If you haven’t seen the episode, you should turn away now. Some things happen in this episode that you do not want to be spoiled for yourself. Now that that’s out, let’s get into it!
The episode opens in Soho, 1925. It features Charlie De Melo as Charles Banerjee, walking into a toyshop we’ve all seen in the trailers. He speaks with Neil Patrick Harris’ Toymaker, who’s hamming it up in a ridiculous German accent. It’s perfect for a show like Doctor Who, which thrives on being a little camp. He teases Banerjee about the doll, claiming he stole the hair from someone who won’t miss it. It’s just the right sort of threatening to set him up as the episode’s villain. Throughout the whole scene, he’s chilling.
Back at the workshop, Banerjee meets his boss, John Logie Baird. He’s played by the same man from Russell T Davies’ other series, Nolly, being John Mackay. This puppet almost catches fire before letting out a laugh. This is a historic moment, being the first televised image in history (yes, really!). You have to love it when Doctor Who delves into history and incorporates it into the episode.
Compared to the first special’s cold open, which was a narrated Series 4 recap, and the second special’s, the infamous Mavity scene, this was probably the best. It was significant to the episode, and introduced the glorious Toymaker. It also didn’t actually feature the Doctor, allowing the episode to begin without the Doctor interfering at all. Beyond being a Toymaker, he’s also inherently a troublemaker. It’s a fast and unsettling start to a crazy episode, and it makes for a memorable cold open.
Chaos in Camden
We then cut to the Doctor, who’s walking through the chaos through Camden from the end of the last episode. It’s just as explosive as you want, with so many moving pieces that make the whole thing beyond enthralling. There’s a brief focus pull to the Toymaker dancing around the street, briefly donning a French accent. This was actually filmed in Bristol, which is where some of us are currently based. Honestly, watching this was fantastic. The ability to have some of us briefly visit this set was amazing.
Unfortunately, Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) is not in this episode. As showrunner Russell T Davies said, the only scene that he was able to complete before he died was the one from the end of Wild Blue Yonder. To move him out of the episode, they used a body double for a couple of shots, and some archive audio from what seems to be “The Poison Sky”. While it was a little noticeable and jarring, there weren’t many other options. I’m very glad that they didn’t kill him off, with Wilf living happily in the background
It’s UNIT that interrupts the scene and really gets the episode moving. They come in with all the old UNIT themes from the previous Russell T Davies episode. The reused themes from previous episodes are overall amazing, feeling familiar and totally new at the same time. It injects the episode with a sense of real energy, with Murray Gold’s score lifting the episode up to a whole other level.
Laughing at the Human Race
The UNIT base is really where a lot of the episode’s events are explained. We get a proper look at how the UNIT soldiers are able to avoid going mad. As we predicted, this is because of their armbands. They’re called a Zeedex, and are something that UNIT have tried to bring out worldwide. We also met the Vlinx, a new robot-looking alien assistant for UNIT voiced by Nicholas Briggs. Hopefully we’ll see them again in the future, as the design and concept is rather cool.
However, in true human fashion, conspiracies abound about the Zeedex. None other than Trinity Wells (Lachele Carl), who now has her own talk show, is seen on screen spreading these conspiracy theories. She’s a returning character from the previous Russell T Davies episodes, and it’s the sort of brief cameo that just delights me. Perhaps she’ll become a figure going forward, standing in for those sort of screaming right wing conspiracist TV hosts.
There’s also a frankly heartwarming reunion with Mel (Bonnie Langford). She’s reintroduced rather well, with an actual explanation as to how she came back to earth after the events of “Dragonfire”. After the events of “Power of the Doctor”, where she was in the companion group, I’m so glad that her return is explained. The scene where Donna negotiated her potential UNIT salary is also worthy of a shoutout, with Catherine Tate being one of the funniest actors to grace the Whoniverse. Perhaps she’ll take that job? The episode certainly leaves open that the Nobles could return later on.
The Toymaker’s Domain
The Toymaker’s domain is so wonderfully bizarre. From the second the Doctor and the Toymaker were moving side to side in the window, I just knew this would be so much fun. The incorporation of footage from the original serial, “The Celestial Toymaker”, was great. It was colourised, and all of it was previously seen in the montage at the end of “The Daleks in Colour”. This introduction uses the Toymaker’s theme as well, with the reveal being genuinely chilling.
The corridors looping onto one another, which are certainly the same set shot from different angles. You’ve got to love it when Doctor Who finds a cheap solution to a problem like that. The Doctor and Donna are separated, left to wander through the Toymaker’s domain alone. Alone, they find their own battles to fight. The Doctor runs back into Banerjee, and in one of the episode’s scariest sequences, he’s been turned into a puppet. Meanwhile Donna finds Stooky Sue, the wife of Stooky Bill. The whole thing was just plain weird, in the best possible way.
I love when Doctor Who dips its toes into horror and being unsettling. The Toymaker’s puppet show was just plain cool. It is the 60th, so namedropping like this is acceptable. It also goes to show just how tragic all the companion exits in the Steven Moffat episodes were. Not one of them got a happy ending. Even the Flux gets another name drop, this is clearly some trauma that the Doctor’s carrying into the new episodes, a bit like the Time War before. The card cutting game was also surprisingly tense. Even in a comparatively quiet moment, the episode is still mental.
Battle at UNIT
After the card game, the Toymaker runs into 2023 and invades UNIT HQ from earlier. It’s a moment that’s on the same level of campy as the Master dancing around to Voodoo Child in “Last of the Time Lords”, and more recently to Rasputin in “Power of the Doctor”. This time, the Toymaker prides around to the Spice Girls’ Spice Up Your Life. He’s dancing, lip-syncing, and terrorising UNIT in the process. Kate (Jemma Redgrave) and Mel are knocked out, people are killed and turned into balls, and all the bullets turned into petals. Crazy, insane stuff. Absolutely wild.
Speaking of UNIT, while they have a heavy presence in this episode, it appears this is being set up for future appearances. If you did not know, it’s been confirmed that Jemma Redgrave will return as Kate Stewart in Series 14 and 15 of Doctor Who. She’ll work alongside Ncuti Gatwa’s 15th Doctor and the new companion Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson). However, it seems Colonel Ibrahim (Alexander Devrient) and Shirley Anne Bingham (Ruth Madeley) will also be coming back.
There have been long rumours of a Doctor Who UNIT spin-off. Will it happen? We don’t know at the moment. But then again, Russell T Davies did tease a new spin-off series is due to be announced soon. Rumours swirl that it could feature UNIT, and there have even been whispers of a Sea Devil spinoff. Hopefully we get a better picture of what’s coming soon.
Now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the death of the Fourteenth Doctor. Protecting his friends from the Toymaker, who’s taken control of UNIT’s Galvanic Beam, he takes fire. In a surprise twist, the Toymaker decides that round 3 of his game with the Doctor needs to be played with a different incarnation of the Doctor. It felt a little sudden, happening with almost no warning. The genuine shock of the moment unfolding was an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
The scene’s a bit of a tearjerker. Regeneration energy is buzzing around the Doctor, just as we saw in the trailer. I expected it to be a bit of a misdirect, but the regeneration actually happens on the helipad. His companions, Donna and Mel approach to make sure he isn’t dying alone. Except, something’s wrong. Even with the “Allons-y” line, and this time clearly being ready to go, David Tennant is still standing there.
Ncuti Gatwa’s entrance, briefly being conjoined with Tennant’s Doctor, was really different. The concept of bi-generation is a new one, but it did create the most original regeneration scene of the revival. Back in the classic series, each regeneration would look a little bit different, and this is no exception. This is followed of course by on of the most intense games of catch ever put on screen. I cannot exaggerate quite how bonkers the whole affair was. The undying seriousness with which the show takes this insanity made for some of the best Doctor Who ever put to film.
A Happy Ending
The Fifteenth Doctor gets his own TARDIS, in a moment that’s frankly too cartoonish for words. After the absolute insanity that’s preceded though, it’s excusable. It’s much the same TARDIS interior as earlier, although it’s now got a jukebox in it. Hopefully the Doctor’s got some great taste in music, I can already tell this is going to be good! This new TARDIS is also wheelchair accessible, much to the delight of Shirley. The Fifteenth Doctor also prefers some warmer lights, which honestly suits the interior better.
The Fourteenth Doctor on the other hand now has exactly what Donna teased toward the end of The Star Beast. He now gets to stop, recover, and live on Earth properly for a while. He’s still got a TARDIS, which he’s clearly still using and taking Rose around on a couple of adventures already. Mel’s also close with the Nobles now, and is coming around for lunch. We know Mel’s coming back as a recurring character in the next series, so hopefully some of these other characters, Rose (Yasmin Finney) in particular, can appear as well.
I’m glad that, unlike a lot of other finales that Doctor Who has done in the past, that this one has a happy ending. Nobody dies, loses their memory, or has their consciousness planted into something else. Everyone is able to live happily, and that’s the sort of positive note these episodes needed. Just what this means for the lore going forward remains to be seen. The show moves on, and the suit doesn’t fit Fourteen anymore. But Fourteen is still floating around out there, giving the Doctor their first happy ending in 60 years.
Teases for the Future
As you’d probably predict in an episode of Doctor Who, the Toymaker loses. The Doctor also gets his prize, which he chooses to banish the Toymaker from existence. With how amazing Neil Patrick Harris was in the episode, from the campy German accent, the dancing, and being genuinely menacing, we only hope that he’s not banished forever. Although, it’s safe to say his return isn’t exactly set up. However, he does tease some threats that I assume will be picked up on in the next series.
During the first card cutting game, the Toymaker teases “The One Who Waits”. This is someone that the Toymaker ran away from, refusing to play a game with them. The Toymaker seemed genuinely intimidated and refused to elaborate on this. I’d be very surprised if this isn’t picked up on soon. There’s also a chance that this could be the same “Boss” alluded to by the Meep. The idea of someone being so powerful that the Toymaker ran for the hills is quite exciting.
While he’s being banished, the Toymaker mentions that his legions are coming. We can only assume that the Toymaker’s going to be avenged. It looks like the Fifteenth Doctor sure has a powerful rogues gallery that’s being assembled. To add to the mix, someone picks up the Toymaker’s golden tooth, which was earlier said to contain The Master. The whole affair very much reminded me of the end of Flash Gordon, and is supposed to mirror Saxon’s ring being picked up in “The End of Time”. So, the Master’s is coming back again soon, but which one? I can’t wait to get a look at this!
Overall, this episode was absolutely insane! The director, Chanya Button tapped into everything wild, crazy, and camp in the Whoniverse. It acted as a lovely finale, creating a real trilogy of adventures all feeding into one another. Russell T Davies has crafted a wonderful series, and each of these episodes has been so innovative and forward-looking. We’re really looking forward to the next series now, and we don’t have all that long to wait. A little over two weeks to go until Doctor Who returns, again, at Christmas with “The Church on Ruby Road”.
Doctor Who returned on November 25th 2023, with “The Star Beast“, the first in three special episodes as the show’s 60th Anniversary headliner event. David Tennant returned as the 14th Doctor alongside Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. Ncuti Gatwa’s first episode as the Fifteenth Doctor will air over the festive period, while his series 14 will debut in 2024 with Millie Gibson. Disney+ will be the exclusive home for new Doctor Who seasons outside the UK and Ireland.