Monday, 26 August 2013

The Companions That Weren't: the '60s

In Doctor Who stories, it's not unusual for there to be a character who takes on a companion-like role, but who does not, in the end, join the TARDIS crew. Granted, this is often at least partly because they've just died, and many wouldn't make great player characters anyway. But there are some exceptions, who can, if nothing else, give us inspiration for character ideas that fit with the setting.

I'm going to start on the Third Doctor's era shortly after the relevant sourcebook comes out, but that leaves me with a slight gap. So today I'm going to look at four characters from the show's first six seasons who either came close to being actual companions, or are particularly suited for it.

First up, and my only choice from the Hartnell era, is Jenny, from The Dalek Invasion of Earth. She's a resistance fighter against the Daleks and their robomen, and, from the dates given on screen, therefore hails from the 2170s, or thereabouts. She appears on my list because the character was seriously considered as an ongoing companion, replacing Susan, who left in that story. In the event, the writers decided they wanted somebody younger, and introduced Vicki in The Rescue, but it could have been otherwise.

She isn't given a surname, nor do we know how, exactly, she joined the resistance. Unlike the menfolk, she doesn't really do any fighting, although it's hard to imagine that she can't if it comes to it. Her main roles in the resistance are organisational, including such things as manning the communications system. But, given that she's been living in a post-apocalyptic world for ten years, it's also a fair assumption that she has good survival and stealth skills.

Monday, 12 August 2013

DW Companions as PCs: Zoe Heriot

As has become almost traditional for companions by this point, Victoria leaves in the penultimate story of a season - in her case, the fifth. Having concluded the story arc of Victoria's desire for a normal life eventually getting the better of her, her player comes up with a character that, in some ways, breaks the mould: Zoe Heriot.

Apart from the mumsy Barbara, all the female companions on the show so far have been, to a greater or lesser extent, Peril Monkeys, whose primary function is to be menaced by the monsters. It's true that this does happen to Zoe, too - for example, she spends a couple of episodes of The Invasion drugged and locked in a trunk while the bad guys use her to lure Jamie and the Doctor into a trap. But that's combined with the fact that she's a technical and scientific genius.

In a sense, we've been here before: both Susan and Vicki could be described in this way. But Vicki's skills only rarely saved the day, and Susan might as well not have had any, for all she used them after the first episode. Zoe, on the other hand, does so frequently, making her a competent scientific specialist - a Science Geek, whose player has maxed out on Intelligence and science skills. In DWAITAS, she has to take two levels of 'Experienced' to justify her skills, and, she's obviously had plenty of boosts over the course of her adventures, since she's over-powered even for that.

(In fairness, this is also true of Ben, while Jamie appears to be under-powered, and might justifiably get three extra story points to compensate).

Monday, 5 August 2013

DW Companions as PCs: Victoria Waterfield

Ben and Polly leave in the penultimate episode of the fourth season. With Jamie already filling the 'action hero' role, it's only Polly that needs to be replaced.

If we're honest, it's been hard to really see Doctor Who as the account of a role-playing game since The Dalek Invasion of Earth, or thereabouts. That's because it's about that time that the Doctor really becomes the hero of the show, and the other regular characters 'just' his companions. In the first season, he may have been the title character, and, to some extent, the focal point, but he was still more or less evenly balanced with Ian and Barbara, if not Susan.

But, from the second season onwards, he's much more obviously the hero, and that becomes even more the case once Troughton takes over and the mythology of the Doctor really starts to build. This works well in a TV show, but having most of the PCs be in the shadow of one of the others isn't such a good recipe for an RPG. The stories arguably also diverge from a 'gaming' look as they become more tightly plotted, again, from about the second season onwards.

Nonetheless, I'm going to stick with the analogy, at least for now. Because, why not?