Monday, 23 February 2015

DWAITAS: 8th Doctor Sourcebook

The Eighth Doctor Sourcebook was always going to be the hardest of the series to write, and the one that was going to be least like all the others. The problem is obvious: at the time it was commissioned, the 8th Doctor only had one televised story, namely the 1996 TV movie. Since then, we have also had the seven minute webcast The Night of the Doctor, but that leaves a grand total of one-and-a-half stories to cover, neither of which give us much to extrapolate from.

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

DW Companions as PCs: Bernice Summerfield

The series is cancelled at the end of the twenty sixth season. Some time after, a new player joins the group. Deciding that everyone is getting a bit too old to still be playing teenage girls, she decides...

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

The Companions That Weren't: the '80s

The year 1980 saw a major change in the production of Doctor Who, as John Nathan-Turner took over as producer. Although this was the top job on the show, it's probably fair to say that the actual nature of the stories was more affected by his script editors than by he himself - the modern "showrunner" job description being shared between the two roles in those days. Nonetheless, 1980 was a break-point in the show's history that was more than simply a change in decade, and since the next truly major change came in December 1989, with the cancellation, "'80s Doctor Who" is very clearly a distinct thing.

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

DW Companions as PCs: Ace

Mel leaves at the end of the twenty-fourth season. (Yes: twenty-fourth... suck on that, Supernatural). It didn't take long for the player to tire of her prissy and irritating former character, and she has already decided that her next one will be a teenager, yet one quite different from those in the early days of the game. This one will be aggressive and tough, injecting a bit of life into a campaign that's getting a bit long in the tooth.

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.