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The Giggle was the third and final of the three 60th Anniversary Specials of Doctor Who, broadcast on 9 December 2023[1] as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations.

The Giggle notably marked the return of the Toymaker, now portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris, fifty-seven years after his only televised appearance in The Celestial Toymaker [+]Brian Hayles, Doctor Who season 3 (BBC1, 1966)., beating the record set by the Great Intelligence as the longest gap between television appearances for individual antagonists. Harris's casting also made the Toymaker the second established Doctor Who antagonist to be played by an American actor, following Eric Roberts portraying the "Bruce" Master in the TV Movie [+]Matthew Jacobs, Doctor Who Television Movie (Fox Broadcasting Company, 1996).. The Giggle also featured the return of Bonnie Langford as Melanie Bush, in her first full story following her cameo in The Power of the Doctor [+]Chris Chibnall, Doctor Who Centenary Special 2022 (BBC One, 2022)., with this story revealing that Mel now worked for UNIT.

Most notably, The Giggle saw the final onscreen adventure of the Fourteenth Doctor and Donna Noble, and featured the first televised appearance of Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor, though the story notably doesn't see the Fourteenth Doctor regenerate into the Fifteenth Doctor. Historically The Giggle introduced the concept of bi-generation, a variant of the regeneration process that results in a split between the previous and next incarnations of a Time Lord, resulting in both existing at the same time. As such the story saw the very first bi-generation of the Doctor, resulting in the Fourteenth Doctor's regeneration story also acting as a Multi-Doctor story, and marking the first time since the TV Movie that the Doctor regenerates part-way through the story rather than at the end, as well as the second time since the TV Movie that one Doctor's regeneration story also acted as the post-regeneration story of the next Doctor. The Giggle also marked the first time that both the preceding and succeeding incarnations of the Doctor are shown to exist within the same timeline rather than the current incarnation teaming up with a past incarnation during a Multi-Doctor event.

Therefore, thanks to the circumstances of bi-generation, The Giggle concluded the Fourteenth Doctor's story by showing him being the first incarnation to fully retire from travelling through space and time to live with the Noble family, while letting his successor continue in their place. It also answered the question as to why the Fourteenth Doctor had regenerated with the face of his tenth incarnation, with Donna believing the Doctor had subconsciously chosen the face of the Tenth Doctor so that he could finally settle down into a normal life, with the Fifteenth Doctor adding that his predecessor was "running on fumes" and needed to rest to ensure he would be healed.

Synopsis[]

The giggle of a mysterious puppet is driving the human race insane. When the Doctor discovers the return of the terrifying Toymaker, he faces a fight he can never win.[2]

Plot[]

In 1925 Soho, Charles Banerjee enters the Mr Emporium toyshop to purchase a ventriloquist's dummy named Stooky Bill, as his employer, John Logie Baird, needs a subject to test his newest invention; television. Banerjee is disturbed by the shop owner, particularly when his German accent slips as he delivers a racial remark. Later, Baird and Banerjee place Stooky Bill's head before the camera and begin the test of the first ever television recording. The camera's wheels spin and the bright lights burn and, to the accompaniment of an arpeggioed giggle, Stooky Bill bursts into flames.

In 2023, the Fourteenth Doctor, Donna Noble and Wilfred Mott traverse the streets of London as it is plagued by chaotic anarchy. A man annoyed by cars driving in his way tells the Doctor that everybody on Earth believes themselves to be right all the time and that arguing drives them into a rage. As the shop owner from 1925, now dressed a gentleman speaking with a French accent, pulls the Doctor into a dance, UNIT arrives on the scene and takes the Doctor and Donna to UNIT HQ, while also taking Wilf to a safer location.

Shirley Anne Bingham and Kate Lethbridge-Stewart greet the Doctor and Donna at UNIT's new skyscraper headquarters, both inoculated to the chaos thanks to an armband called a Zeedex. The Doctor deduces that he and the Vlinx, a robot working for UNIT, are immune due to being extra-terrestrials, as are Donna and Mel Bush, who recently joined UNIT, benefitting from the effects of long-term TARDIS travel. Kate orders her Zeedex be briefly deactivated to demonstrate the consequences to the Doctor, and she quickly turns paranoid and vengeful due to a a distorted brainwave. Analysing the waveform and playing it as a sound, the group discovers it corresponds to the giggle accompanying the Stooky Bill recording. The recording has been hidden in every screen since 1925, only triggered when the launch of the KOSAT 5 satellite finally connected all of humanity to the internet.

The Doctor and Donna trek back to 1925, searching for the cause of the giggle, and trace Stooky Bill to Mr Emporium. Entering, the Doctor and Donna are greeted by the owner, whom the Doctor recognises as the Toymaker, who talks about the oldest game, catch, while juggling balls until he retreats further into his shop in a game of hide and seek. The Doctor chases the Toymaker, followed by Donna despite telling her to return to the TARDIS. Donna insists on staying with him, and the two become trapped in the Toymaker's funhouse labyrinth, which the Doctor realises is the Celestial Toyroom, stumbling around and eventually becoming separated. The Doctor encounters Banerjee, turned into a marionette who dances on the Toymaker's command after losing a game to remove the giggle in his head. Donna encounters Stooky Bill's doll family and breaks apart Stooky Sue as the Stooky children try to eat her.

The Doctor and Donna reunite and find themselves the guests of honour at the Toymaker's puppet show: an attempt to recount to Donna the Doctor's adventures since leaving her. The Toymaker portrays the deaths of Amy Pond, Clara Oswald and Bill Potts in puppet form, with the Doctor objecting that none of them died under his care; all three continued to live on in some form. The Toymaker is dismissive and treats the nitpicking with contempt, until mentioning how the Flux ravaged the universe under the Doctor's watch provokes the Doctor into challenging the Toymaker to a game. The Toymaker accepts, bragging as they prepare about his fun since arriving in the Doctor's universe. He has already made God a Jack-in-the-Box, made a jigsaw out of the Doctor's history, and sealed the Spy Master inside his gold tooth after he lost the game that was his last hope for life. However, there was one the Toymaker did not face, "the One Who Waits", but he considers that someone else's game when the Doctor asks who they are.

The Doctor and the Toymaker decide on a game: a simple cut of the deck where the highest card wins. After confirming the rules and assuring Donna the Toymaker can't cheat even though he is using his own conjured cards, the pair play. The Doctor turns over an eight, but the Toymaker unveils a king and wins. As the Toymaker moves to claim his prize, the Doctor points out that, since he won the previous game, they are therefore tied one-all and a third game is required to declare an absolute winner in a best of three. The Toymaker agrees and disappears after declaring 2023 will be their battleground, causing the labyrinth to collapse around the Doctor and Donna and the toy store to fold into a small toy box. The duo escape in time, realising the Toymaker intends to play the third game in their present day.

Back at UNIT HQ, Kate manages to have the KOSAT 5 satellite shot down using the galvanic beam, breaking the satellite chain triggering the giggle. The Doctor arrives and hands Mel the toy box, warning her to be careful with it, and explaining to Shirley that the Toymaker is an elemental force who can meddle with reality, stepping from 1925 to the present as if walking through a door. The Toymaker promptly walks through a door he creates in the middle of the room, performing a dance number to "Spice Up Your Life" by the Spice Girls as he pulls Kate and Mel into dances to knock them down, collapses two soldiers trying to detain him into coloured bouncy sentient balls, and turns the other UNIT troops' bullets into harmless red rose petals. As the song ends, the Toymaker disappears through the floor before materialising on the helipad manning the galvanic beam. The Doctor begs the Toymaker to stop, offering to leave with him to take their game to the stars. The Toymaker is tempted, but declines; he considers Earth the ultimate playground.

The Doctor demands that the Toymaker finish their game, prompting the Toymaker to shoot him through his chest with the galvanic beam, reasoning, since their last two games were played by different incarnations, the next Doctor should play him this time. The Doctor begins to regenerate, with Donna and Mel by his side and holding his hands. The Doctor accepts what is to come, but the regeneration light dies away, and the Doctor asks Mel and Donna to pull on him, as something about the regeneration feels different. As Donna and Mel begin to pull, the Doctor begins to glow with regeneration energy again, but his body begins splitting in half, as the Fifteenth Doctor emerges from him in a separate body, but with the clothes split between them. The two Doctors excitedly greet and hug each other, explaining to everyone that they have bi-generated, something that was previously thought to be just a myth.

The Doctors both challenge the Toymaker to a game of catch, which he accepts after they strike down his protest of cheating, due to both being the same man. The three players dash across the helipad, tossing the ball back and forth, barely catching it many times, before the Toymaker misses a throw from the Fifteenth Doctor that falls to the city below. The Doctors are the winners, with the Fourteenth Doctor claiming his prize of forever banishing the Toymaker from existence. The Toymaker vengefully cries out that his legions will come for them before folding up like a paper doll and slotting inside his toy box, which UNIT takes to their deepest vault to bind in salt as the waveform dissipates. As the Doctors and their friends walk off, the gold tooth that contained the Master is picked up by a mysteriously unseen woman as the laugh of various incarnations of the Master is heard.

Inside the TARDIS, the Doctors discuss how life will work with two of them simultaneously existing. The Fifteenth Doctor, after reassuring him that he is only stable now because he spent time recovering from their heavy experiences in their prior incarnations, encourages his fourteenth incarnation to retire, which Donna supports, believing the Fourteenth Doctor regenerated into a form near-identical to the Tenth Doctor as a subconscious sign to "come home" to her and rest. The Fourteenth Doctor reluctantly agrees, but hesitates to part with the TARDIS. The Fifteenth Doctor realises the Toymaker's domain might be lingering and also that he hasn't claimed his prize for winning. He retrieves a mallet from under a platform and hits the TARDIS, bringing his TARDIS back from the future. The Fourteenth Doctor bids farewell to his successor, both hugging each other and parting with friendly salutes to each other. The Fifteenth Doctor boards the future TARDIS and dematerialises, leaving the earlier TARDIS with the Fourteenth Doctor.

The Fourteenth Doctor decides to live on Earth with the Noble family for the time being. He has a garden party with them and Mel at his home, recounting tales of his adventures. He remarks to Donna that he is the happiest he has been in his entire life because he finally knows what he has been fighting for: a normal life with a family. Elsewhere, the Fifteenth Doctor travels into the unknown, his next adventures soon to come.

Cast[]

And introducing Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor

Uncredited cast[]

Crew[]

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics

Movement

Casting

General post-production staff

Special and visual effects

Sound



Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.
          

Note: Several of the camera department credits were given erroneously on broadcast due to an apparent formatting error. (More details here.)


Worldbuilding[]

Individuals[]

  • The television was created by John Logie Baird, with the assistance of Charles Banerjee and the usage of a puppet called Stooky Bill.
  • The Doctor remarks to Donna that he's "a billion-years-old".
  • The Toymaker says he played against the Guardians of Time and turned them into voodoo dolls.
  • Sabalom Glitz died at the age of 101-years-old after tripping over a whiskey bottle. He had a Viking-themed funeral.
  • Donna spent six months teaching Rose how to play the recorder before she said it "[was]n't who [she was]", which was apparently the start of "a whole other conversation".
  • The Toymaker "gambled with God" and turned Him into a jack-in-the-box.
  • The Toymaker remarks that he made a "jigsaw" out of the Doctor's history, implying that he is, at the very least, partly responsible for any inconsistencies and changes in the Doctor's past, such as his origins and the history of the Timeless Child.
  • The Spy Master begged the Toymaker to save his life when he drew close to dying. They played a a game, but the Master lost, and was imprisoned in the Toymaker's gold tooth.
  • The only being the Toymaker made to avoid with his games was the One Who Waits.
  • Sarah Jane Smith is confirmed to be deceased by 2023.

Notes[]

Comparison between BBC and Disney+ versions[]

There are slight differences between the version broadcast on BBC One and the one shown on Disney+:

  • The Whoniverse ident was shown at the beginning of the episode on the BBC version. However, on the Disney+ version, the BBC ident was shown.
  • The Disney ident was shown at the end of the episode on the Disney+ version.
  • The Executive Producers' credits were shown after the title sequence in the BBC version, however, they were shown in the end credits in the Disney+ version.
  • In the end board for the BBC version, the Bad Wolf logo was shown on the left and the BBC Studios Productions logo on the right. In the Disney+ version, they were switched.

Myths[]

  • Donna Noble would regenerate into the Fifteenth Doctor instead of the Fourteenth Doctor.[source needed] (This theory gained some attention before the airing of the 2023 specials, but was proven false during the first special)
  • The Toymaker would be revealed as the reason for the Fourteenth Doctor having the same face as the Tenth Doctor. (No connection was made between the two, with the Toymaker just telling the Doctor he had "made a jigsaw out of [his] history", leaving it ambiguous what he meant by that.)
  • The Fourteenth Doctor's regeneration would go wrong, causing the Fifteenth Doctor to physically separate from the Fourteenth, resulting in both incarnations existing at the same time. (This was partially true, as instead of the regeneration going wrong, the Fourteenth Doctor underwent a bi-generation that resulted in him "splitting" from the Fifteenth Doctor, delaying his physical change until after his healing with the Nobles.)
  • The First Doctor would appear in the story and interact with the Fifteenth Doctor, either in the form of David Bradley reprising the role, or a deep-faked version of William Hartnell. (The First Doctor only appears in the form of colourised flashback footage from The Celestial Toymaker, and does not interact with the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Doctors. This may have been fuelled by Ncuti Gatwa's teasing that a scene was coming up in which his Doctor would share a scene with the First Doctor, which turned out to be referring to the newly-filmed insert in the 60th Anniversary rebroadcast of An Adventure in Space and Time.)

Filming locations[]

Ratings[]

  • 4.62 million (UK overnight).[7]
  • 6.84 million (UK final).[8]

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • After the bi-generation splits the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Doctors into two separate entities, the English (UK) captions on the Disney+ version incorrectly identity the Fourteenth Doctor as the Tenth Doctor.
  • In certain shots, the green-screen erected for filming on Clare Street can be seen reflected in the window fronts of Grades, Mr Emporium, and a window of the building besides.
  • At beginning of the Toymaker's attack on UNIT, Kate is standing next to Donna. But when the Toymaker pulls her into a dance, Kate is now at the front of the room.
  • During the Doctor's bi-generation, in the shot that follows after the Fourteenth Doctor says, "You're me", David Tennant can be seen mouthing the same line again before the Fifteenth Doctor says, "No, I'm me", with his audio having clearly been removed.

Continuity[]

Home media releases[]

DVD and Blu-Ray[]

This story was released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the United Kingdom on 18 December 2023, along with The Star Beast [+]Russell T Davies, adapted from Doctor Who and the Star Beast (Pat Mills and John Wagner), Doctor Who 2023 specials (BBC One, 2023). and Wild Blue Yonder [+]Russell T Davies, Doctor Who 2023 specials (BBC One and Disney+, 2023).. The Bluray release is encoded to Region B, atypical of BBC releases which usually do not have any kind of region encoding on the disc.

Contents:

Digital releases[]

This story is available on BBC iPlayer in the United Kingdom, in Ultra High-Def (4K). It is also available on Disney+ in other territories.

Gallery[]

to be added

Footnotes[]

Notes[]

  1. The events of The Star Beast [+]Russell T Davies, adapted from Doctor Who and the Star Beast (Pat Mills and John Wagner), Doctor Who 2023 specials (BBC One, 2023). are dated to November 2023 by its novelisation [+]Gary Russell, adapted from The Star Beast (Russell T Davies), 60th Anniversary Novels (Target Books, 2023)., and Wild Blue Yonder [+]Russell T Davies, Doctor Who 2023 specials (BBC One and Disney+, 2023). — which is set immediately before this episode — has the Fourteenth Doctor, upon returning the TARDIS to Earth, comment that he and Donna "Might be a day or two out." This is further evidenced by the The Church on Ruby Road [+]Russell T Davies, Doctor Who Christmas Special 2023 (BBC One and Disney+, 2023). being set throughout December 2023, with its novelisation [+]Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson, adapted from The Church on Ruby Road (Russell T Davies), BBC Books novelisations (BBC Books, 2024). Chapter Two; Page 6. explicitly showing "the Giggle" happened before 1 December.

Footnotes[]

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