Roots: Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain (the title is also a play on this, as well as a hangover of an earlier version of the play which was based around the disappearance of Agatha Christie), Charlie's Aunt ("where the nuts go to") part of the Toymaker's earlier fate is likened to that of the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass. What Dreams May Come (an adventure lived out in a realised painting). Games adapted and referred to in this story include Musical chairs, Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders, Cluedo (Doctor Black), Happy Families and Chess - Ludovic also recalls 'electric shock' Tiddly-Winks and 'poison-tipped' Pin the Tail on the Donkey - he later attempts to play Blind Man's Bluff alone. Ludovic's abbreviated name may be a pun on the board game Ludo. Lola is likely based on the character Lola Lola from The Blue Angel (Ms Luna refers to a club of the same name), by Thomas Mann's brother Heinrich Mann. The Doctor quotes Chumbawumba's Tubthumping ("I get knocked down, then I get up again")
Intertextuality: The Toymaker's earlier fate of being turned into a mandarin is a nod to the (capitalised) alias given to him in Graham Williams' novelisation of The Nightmare Fair. The Doctor's question-mark pyjamas may be a reference to Mike Tucker's Short Trips story of the same name.
Dialogue Triumphs: Ace: "burning stuff never resolved anything, Queenie - trust me, I should know"
Double Entendres: Lola (playing Happy Families) "I am pleased to say he is not among my Bunns"
Continuity: Holbruk is a sanatorium run by Doctor Ludovic Comfort, and alienist and Freudian psychologist treating his patients for a number of ailments, including tuberculosis. It is situated in the Swiss Alps above Davos. The Holbruk of this story is illusory, an environment contained within a painting, presumably located within the Celestial Toymaker's realm, despite the belief of the Toymaker's would-be wardens. It appears to maintain a connection with the 'real-world' Holbruk, however.
The Toymaker is a hyperdimensional being; he has a sliver of reality which he calls his domain, and he occasionally slips out of it to abduct his playthings, but can't remain outside for too long due to 'the rules set down for him in the childhood of the Universe'. The Doctor describes the Celestial Toymaker as "a spirit of mischief from the infancy of the Universe", and claims that the Toymaker cannot exist outside of his realm for very long, which is the plan contrived by the patients present. Four weeks ago according to Ace and Hex's timeline the residents of Holbruk trapped the Toymaker, ensnaring him in his own game of cards (although the Toymaker later claims he willingly allowed it to experience what it was to lose). With his body reduced to that of a ventriloquist's dummy his consciousness was transformed into a mandarin which was then divided among his opponents and eaten, with the result that each would have a segment of the Toymaker inside them. Returning to the hospital they - with the exception of Ace and Hex, resumed their roles, reporting for regular doses of ECT therapy to induce memory lapses lest the dormant aspects of the Toymaker resurface among them. Ludo had the building charged with electricity to prevent escape and intrusion, and a further illusion of another, vague game of Cluedo and its mysterious death of a 'Doctor Black' is put in place to distract the patients. Ludo recalls being in the Toymaker's realm for nearly ten years.
The Doctor is wearing his beige coat and has his umbrella, but does not have his hat. During his stay at the clinic he wears question-mark pyjamas, but can't recall where they came from [likely Ace supplied them from the TARDIS wardrobe].
Links: The Celestial Toymaker (there are no direct links to The Nightmare Fair, but see 'Intertextuality'). Ace's 'burning stuff' line is a reference to her burning down Gabriel Chase (Ghost Light) Harry and Lola's song about the Doctor refers to his beating the Gods of Ragnarok (The Greatest Show in the Galaxy)
Location: Switzerland, 1926.
The Bottom Line: "I played against myself?" "And lost!"
Entertaining, puzzling and, if you're lucky, quite surprising too. The first two episodes, featuring a Doctor who has no idea where he is, less idea of who he is and who is manipulating him, are light and fun, and all the more intriguing for setting up his companions as the orchestrators of his own lost plan. Once the Toymaker appears it's business as usual, though Sweet's characters rise from being the apparent stereotypes initially created to being a match for their tormentor - possibly to the detriment of Hex and Ace, but not the story. A sinister diversion, and well worth your time.