Wednesday, 25 November 2015
The first issue with running a Torchwood game turned out to be the nature of the last two campaigns the group has run - with me as a player, rather than GM. Most recently, we've done Primeval, and before that, Supernatural. There is, let's be honest, a certain theme here, although it wasn't one that was particularly intentional (we'd done Call of Cthulhu and HeroQuest before that). The fact that they're all based on TV shows isn't really an issue, but I felt that the fact that they were all investigators running around the modern world might be if I made it three-in-a-row.
Doctor Who wouldn't have had this problem - alien planets, space stations, trips into history, it's all rather different. But Torchwood ran the risk of, in particular, being Primeval with aliens instead of dinosaurs. It's set in modern Britain, you're agents of at least some sort of vaguely official agency, and so on. Yes, we could have the characters be entirely unofficial remnants of the disbanded organisation, but that makes it more like Supernatural (only set in Britain), so it still didn't feel different enough to me.
Monday, 4 May 2015
But it had, of course, regenerated into a form notably changed from its former self. This was "Nu Who", and, fandom being what it is, there are still some who haven't got over that fact. Nonetheless, we are now in an era of the show more familiar to younger viewers, and, indeed, to many Americans. Having said which, while the series was an instant hit in the UK, it was another season or so before it really took off in the US, which means that the Ninth Doctor Sourcebook could well be less popular than the two volumes that will follow it.
Popularity aside, this book does have a couple of more immediate problems to cope with. The first, which has already been faced by volumes Six and Seven, is the small number of stories there are in this era. Indeed, there are only ten, less than that of any previous incarnation save the Eighth, and most of them are only about half the length of what had been the standard for much of the classic show. The second problem is the relatively tight story arc of the season, at least in terms of character development (rather than the superficially more obvious Bad Wolf thing). This makes it somewhat difficult to fit new stories into the era without it feeling more of a squeeze, something reflected in the content of this book.
But what do we have? Well, we start, as always, with an examination of the Doctor and his companions. Rose, and arguably Captain Jack, are the only real companions here, of course, and the book acknowledges that. However, Jackie and Mickey are included as important supporting characters, and there's a discussion later on in the book (in the Aliens of London entry) on how these sorts of characters can be used in campaigns - something that hadn't really been seen at all in the classic show, even during the UNIT era. Adam also gets a write-up, with the obvious caveat that he's exactly the sort of character you shouldn't be playing, just as his function in the series is to be the "failed companion" that helps to highlight the significance of the real ones.
Monday, 2 March 2015
The rule I am going to adopt in listing them here is similar to that I've used for the individual posts on actual companions. In order to count, they have to be contemporary with the series at the time, rather than being added in new stories featuring old Doctors after the fact. In this case, since we're considering companions of the 8th Doctor, that means that they have to have appeared between 1996, when the TV movie aired, and 2005, when the new series did. It's arbitrary, but I have to draw the line somewhere, and that's where I've drawn it so far, so let's keep it that way.
Leaving the comics to one side for the moment, the novels re-launched in 1997, now under the auspices of BBC Worldwide. Unable to use Grace Holloway for legal reasons, they had to invent a new companion. Apparently deciding that since the people who watched Doctor Who in the '70s and '80s had largely been teenagers, and they surely weren't likely to have aged since (right?), they settled on Generic Teenage Girl as their model for the companion. So, first appearing in the universally derided 1997 novel The Eight Doctors, we have Samantha Jones, better known as "Sam".
Monday, 23 February 2015
One of the first things you note about the sourcebook is that the cover image, and most of the larger stills inside, come from The Night of the Doctor, not from the much longer TV movie. This is, it has to be said, reflected in a lot of the content, too, where the author shows far more interest in those seven minutes than in anything that happened in the other 85. He may not be alone among fans in that respect, mind you, and it's not as if the TV movie fits terribly well into the overall picture of Doctor Who...
In fact, the book spends just 30 pages on the the actual subject of the 8th Doctor and his adventures. And, frankly, it needs a bit of padding to get that far. The book opens with a chapter on the Doctor and his companions, and here we see the first problem that the authors had to contend with: the 8th Doctor doesn't really have any televised companions. True, Grace fills that role in the TV movie, but she doesn't travel with him at the end of it, so she's really no more a companion than Ray in Delta and the Bannermen or Christina de Souza in Planet of the Dead. Still, for lack of anybody else, the book treats her as if she is a companion, and throws in Chang Lee and Cass (from The Night of the Doctor) for good measure. It makes an effort to explain how the latter could become a companion in an alternate timeline (for legal reasons, it can't do the same for Grace), but in the end, it has to concede that none of them really count.
Monday, 16 February 2015
Sorry, what? You were expecting Grace Holloway, or Rose, or somebody? You're wondering who the heck I'm on about? Ah, right. Well, in that case, I suppose I'd better explain. (And if you weren't wondering anything of the sort - and many of you probably weren't - you can skip the next four paragraphs).
The classic series of Doctor Who was cancelled in December, 1989. For the first time in over a quarter of a century, there were no new DW stories coming out, and no prospect of any more soon, if ever. On television, at least. Because, of course, this left the door open to what I've been referring to in these posts as the "spin-off media", as the only venue for new material. Well, there's Dimensions in Time, too, if you're not trying to block that from your memory, but why wouldn't you?
Monday, 9 February 2015
So, having reached the last companion of the classic era, now it's time to look back over that decade, as I did with the '60s and '70s, and look at some characters from the show that weren't companions, but could be in our own RPGs. One of the rules I'm using here is that the character in question should have survived whatever story they appeared in, so that it's possible for some PC group to turn up and collect them afterwards. This, unfortunately, rules out the only decent candidate I could find from the Sixth Doctor's era, namely Orcini from Revelation of the Daleks. Indeed, three of my four main examples are going to turn out to be from the Seventh Doctor's run. (Which, probably not coincidentally, lines up nicely with Andrew Cartmel's run as script editor, rather than Eric Saward's).
Monday, 2 February 2015
After vacillating between two characters that broadly fit this concept, she settles on Dorothy McShane, almost universally known by her nickname of 'Ace'.
Ace is an immediate change from her predecessors, and is, along with Leela, one of only two female Action Hero companions. (Well, okay, one of three, if you count Sara Kingdom). On the character sheet, this is reflected with some decent skills in brawling and the use of simple hand weapons. Ace is clearly physically fit, and probably reasonably strong with it, if likely not in quite the same league as Leela. Most memorably, of course, she demonstrates this by attacking a dalek with a super-charged baseball bat, but there are a number of other scenes in which she comes off best in a fight. Her athletic ability also extends to swimming, as we see in Battlefield.