Toys in the Attic

Big Finish Folly, Part 158 – The Magic Mousetrap, by Matthew Sweet

The Magic MousetrapSwitzerland, 1926: the Doctor finds himself halfway up an Alpine mountainside, on his way to an exclusive sanatorium for the rich and famous run by the Viennese alienist Ludovic ‘Ludo’ Comfort. In between bouts of electric shock therapy, Ludo’s patients – including faded music hall turn Harry Randall, chess grandmaster Swapnil Khan and Lola Luna, darling of the Weimar cabaret scene – fill their time with endless rounds of Snap!, among other diversions.

But the Doctor soon suspects that someone’s playing an altogether more sinister game. Someone with a score to settle…

We begin with a mystery – where is the Doctor? What is he doing? And why? Since even he doesn’t know, he’s having to test the rules and boundaries of his situation to find out. It feels a bit like an Agatha Christie-style mystery, specifically one of those over-hammed ITV ones where character actors all vie to chew on the juiciest pieces of furniture. It quickly goes a bit off that beaten path however – Hex and Ace are in the attic, putting on posh accents, and everybody’s desperately trying to keep the Doctor truly ignorant of what’s really going on. It’s all one big unhappy game…

And that should clue you in as to who’s behind the curtain with this one. Yes, it’s the Celestial Toymaker, as previously met in the Colin Baker Lost Stories play The Nightmare Fair, except this time, as a sort of cheat (this was recorded before David Baillie was cast to play him in the Lost Stories) he’s voiced via a ventriloquist’s doll. Once the surrealism and Agathaness of the setting is dispelled in favour of the Toymaker’s games, The Magic Mousetrap loses some of its blithe charm and becomes a bit of a struggle instead. Which is a shame because while the Doctor was still trying to work out what was going on, I was enjoying the play. The Toymaker has never been one of my favourite foes however and The Magic Mousetrap does little to improve my opinion. And I’m mildly disappointed because you’d think that Seven vs a notorious trickster would be a very good matchup, but for me it never quite lights up as it ought to.

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