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In part three of the 2023 Doctor Who 60th Anniversary specials, The Giggle, we see Doctors 14 and 15 face off against the Toymaker on the roof of UNIT HQ. The only way to defeat the Toymaker seems to be to beat them at a game. They choose the following:

Fifteenth Doctor: You said it. The first game ever.
Fourteenth Doctor: The ball.
The Toymaker: Catch? Of course, before we begin, there is one thing to remember. It's a simple game, really, but I think... if you drop it, you lose.

Now, despite a proclivity (and might I say flair) for mayhem, the Toymaker is indicated to strictly honour fairness within the set bounds of a game. Earlier in the episode we have the following exchange (regarding a simple game of highest card wins):

Donna: But he'll cheat.
The Doctor: No.
The Toymaker: No! Shame.
The Doctor: That's the one thing he won't do.
Donna: But they're his cards. It's all tricks. Of course he'll cheat!
The Doctor: The only rules the Toymaker follows are the rules of the game. They bind his entire existence. I win or I lose, and that's it.

The game of catch that leads to the Toymaker's defeat seems to have only one rule bound by the players involved; if you drop the ball, you lose. This makes me wonder - how on earth did they lose?

The Toymaker's dialogue is punctuated at several points during the episode with claims of how they have defeated many very powerful beings while present in our universe. Even if those claims are false, we see many fist hand demonstrations of their power to alter reality at a whim throughout the episode, displaying time travel, space travel, matter alteration, and mind manipulation, not to mention a fine mastery of vaudeville. I don't see how a being who can turn bullets into rose petals and, to quote the Doctor, "can get from 1925 to now like stepping through a door", doesn't have absolute eye-hand coordination. The Doctor themself(selves in this case) possess superhuman reflexes/speed, surely the Toymaker's abilities are beyond even those?

How is it possible that the Toymaker lost in a simple game of catch when the only rule was not to drop the ball?

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  • All I see when watching it (again) is the new doctor establishing his chops by outclassing him with a throw, no special in-whoniverse reason. Dec 12, 2023 at 2:43
  • I mean, the rule isn't "don't drop the ball", the rule is "if you drop the ball, you lose". There's a huge difference.
    – IloneSP
    Dec 12, 2023 at 11:14
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    I don't think this is going to be explained. It's just a bit odd that he wasn't outsmarted, but simply lost a basic game.
    – OrangeDog
    Dec 12, 2023 at 11:29
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    I assume that the "no cheating" rule means he can't use any of the powers he demonstrated in the dance sequence, ie to instantly appear anywhere. It would have been good if this had been stated explicitly. Dec 12, 2023 at 11:54
  • Two ways. Gradually and then suddenly. Dec 12, 2023 at 17:17

2 Answers 2

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The official novelisation gives us a bit more insight. In short, the Toymaker was expecting the Doctor to throw him the ball. Instead, the Doctor passed the ball to the New Doctor who threw it unexpectedly fast.

How did he get that ball - Surely the other one was still fumbling
with

No, don't look away.

Look back at the New Doctor
Keep your eyes on the ball
Where was the
ball?

Oh. Damn.
I missed
it.

enter image description here

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  • I note in passing that, in the TV version, DT was definitely not playing the 14th Doctor as having a "weak and tired body". Decidedly acrobatic. Dec 23, 2023 at 10:42
  • Interesting to have first-person narration from the villain. I assume the whole book isn't like that, or then how does it do the ending?
    – OrangeDog
    Dec 23, 2023 at 11:06
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    @OrangeDog - Much of the book is from the Toymaker's perspective. Some of it (including the ending) is third-person narrated. - "He waited for the two of them to come out of the TARDIS before he played his move. The thrilled newborn, jumping from one foot to another in UNIT HQ, flapping a giant hammer like a paper aeroplane. He was aware of what he could be, what he could do. He was the Doctor", etc.
    – Valorum
    Dec 23, 2023 at 12:11
  • Fantastic! I still think it daft that the Toymaker, powerful as they are, lost on a dropped ball, or couldn't keep track of it's location, but well an answer is an answer
    – Ongo
    Dec 24, 2023 at 23:53
  • @Ongo - That was the point the Doctor was making. It's a game and his schtick is that the Toymaker can't avoid the rules of the game once he's agreed to play.
    – Valorum
    Dec 25, 2023 at 7:51
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He missed catching the ball.

It's no more complex than that.

The initial game, the TriLogic Board (a variant of the Tower of Hanoi puzzle) was very complex and required a great amount of intelligence to win, and the Toymaker did not expect The Doctor to be able to beat it. But he did not cheat.

The second game, cutting cards, was entirely chance-based, if you accept that, again, The Toymaker did not cheat. So The Doctor lost the cut.

The third game is entirely physical, with skill and dexterity required. If you again accept that The Toymaker does not cheat (use his amazing abilities to automatically catch the ball, make copies of himself, etc) Then he simply missed, as he allowed himself to be affected by physics and the rules of the universe.

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    And while this is all likely, can you provide any evidence to back this up?
    – Valorum
    Dec 18, 2023 at 19:23
  • The point of the TriLogic game was that even if the Doctor won, he would still "lose" and be trapped. It was him finding a loophole and making his move from inside the Tardis that saved the day.
    – OrangeDog
    Dec 18, 2023 at 22:43

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