“Hello, hello rubbish robots from the dawn of time.”

dw 8x01_4658Deep Breath’ is a tangential sequel to ‘The Girl In The Fireplace’. At some point the 51st century ship SS Marie Antoinette (sister ship to the SS Madame de Pompadour) travels back in time to at least the age of the dinosaurs.

In ‘The Girl In The Fireplace’ the ships engines were powerful enough to punch through time, allowing the clockwork droids to create windows into the past. They cannibalised the crew for spare parts but needed Madame de Pompadour to ‘mature’ to use her for the final components.

The situation is different here, with the ship itself travelling into the past. Did any of the crew survive? Were any able to escape before the droids turned on them? Did they make contact with the Silurians and possibly reveal what the future held?

What is interesting here is two separate incidents in which this model of 51st century ship was used for time travel and this particular type of droid almost immediately starts using organic components to effect repairs.

Are there any other occasions in which this happened? Was this a known design floor that had to be rectified? This could lead to an adventure in the 51st century as this type of ship and their droids are recalled. What if someone programmed the droids to do this?

One of the differences in ‘Deep Breath’ is that the droids not only repaired their ship with organic parts but began to modify themselves as well. While their control node, the Half Face man, still has robotic parts visible the others appear mostly human.

The Doctor indicates that some of the metal works appears Roman, suggesting that they have been repairing and replacing their metal components. Presumably they’d always have to keep their computer brains to still be them.

This behaviour could be attributed to the length of time that they were stranded. We can assume that the SS Madame de Pompadour wasn’t stranded for long and thus the droids hadn’t begun to breakdown. Here the droids components would begin to wear out and need replacing.

The sheer amount of time they’ve spent on Earth means that the PCs could encounter them in and around the area that will become London over a vast number eras. Individual droids might be sent out to capture rare organic components.

Their targets could include exotic animals (mammoths, sabre tooth tigers or later species brought to England from overseas).  They might also single out historical figures, believing that part of what makes them special can be attributed to unique organs.

Consider the events of ‘The Girl In The Fireplace’ they could be very motivated to capture Marie Antoinette (1755 – 1793). This could lead into a more direct sequel to that episode, taking place within the same region.

We’ve previously seen that the droids can blend in (before using masks to conceal their true nature). They take this a stage further, wearing the faces of dead people and their clothing to appear human.

While they can converse with others (at least the Half Face man can) they give away their nature quickly. Indeed, they don’t have a great deal of intelligence, becoming confused whether someone is a living person if they simply hold their breath.

This makes these droids able to blend in only if they keep their distance and minimise their interaction with others. This could be enough for them to go out in public to either capture new donors or stalk PCs.

The droids on the SS Madame de Pompadour were entirely dedicated to repairing the ship. Once the Doctor convinced them they were no longer able to get in contact with their ship (having cut of the time windows) they all deactivated.

In ‘Deep Breath’ their mission is different. Here they are driven to survive so that they might reach the promised land. The Doctor attributes this to the humanity that the droids have picked up but it could be that not only do they need to the ship to be repaired they need to get to a specific destination which became their mythical promised land.

In all likelihood if the Doctor had never discovered the activities of the droids they would never be able to repair the ship completely on organic parts alone. As technology advanced they might have been able to get further (which could be the basis for UNIT era adventures) but considered this is 51st century technology it could be a long time before they found anything compatible.

We’ve seen previously that the Cybermen seem to be an inevitability. First they appear on Mondas and then they also occur on a parallel Earth. These droids could be a variation of that theme, with robots becoming human.

The Doctor suggests that the Half Face man has implanted so much organic material into himself that he has gained some humanity, able to appreciate beauty and possibly sacrifice himself to prevent further death.

Could these droids eventually find true humanity? Would they reach a stage where they seek other means to survive without killing others? Would the ends justify the means or would they need to be punished for their past actions?

Due to their nature an adventure based around these type of droids (if not these exact ones from this episode) encountering true Cybermen could be interesting. These droids might want to use the remaining organic components of the Cybermen for themselves. They might fully transform the Cybermen into robots to do so.

They could also form an alliance, working together to capture humans. The droids can then take the organic components the Cybermen remove for themselves. In this scenario both sides of the alliance benefits.

Posted in 12th Doctor, Deep Breath | Leave a comment

“You Never Answer Your Phone.”

paperI’ve discussed before the idea of the Doctor being on call here but we also know that the Doctor can be very difficult to get hold of, even if you have his phone number. River Song has to graffiti the oldest cliff face in the universe to get is attention and the Ponds have to write his name in a corn field.

So just why is this?

After all the Doctor, for the most part, seems eager to fill his time. We have frequently seen him respond to distress calls and even investigating mysterious messages that appear on the psychic paper. Why then does he ignore certain calls?

In the case of the Ponds the Doctor is in the process of tracking down the baby Melody, knowing that she will become River. He isn’t having much luck and is reluctant to face Amy and Rory until he has good news.

What then is the reason for him not to answer River Song’s phone call? At that point he’d recently seen her during the events of the fall of the Byzantium and knew that he’d met her again at the Pandorica, something he considered to be a fairy tale. She is trying to call him to tell him about Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of the TARDIS that reveals the location of the Pandorica.

The answer could be that the Doctor is still reluctant to deal with River Song. He know he doesn’t have the advantage when she is around and has already embarrassed him in front of Amy. He also knows that she’ll is responsible for killing a good man, which he might suspect might be him.

His reluctance could also be connected to the Pandorica. He knows that when he next meets River Song it’ll involve this legend that can’t be real. For the Doctor the nature of the Pandorica is an unknown, so might not be ready to face it.

The ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ prequel shows the Doctor listening to the message from Amy. It is probable that he didn’t listen to a message from River Song, since he has no idea what she wants to see him about.

For a time traveller listening to a phone call has important ramifications. The contents of the message become a fixed point, where as if he ignores it he doesn’t know what is involved and the facts are still in flux.

This has an impact on whether the Doctor answers the phone. By delaying listening to River Song’s message there is still the possibility for him to get involved at a later date. In contrast his phone call in ‘The Wedding of River Song’ with the Brigadier’s nurse establishes his death and the fact that he never came to visit, closing the door on that eventuality.

In your own campaigns a ringing phone offers an important decision for the PCs. If they answer it they may learn something important or receive a call for help but it also establishes facts they can’t alter. If they don’t answer they risk missing vital information but prevent events being set in stone.

There is also the possibility that the Doctor misses a phone call because he is busy in another adventure and might not even be in the TARDIS. This can be a good cliff hanger for PCs returning to their TARDIS only to find there was a missed call. Who was it and what did they want? If they have an answer machine dare they listen to it?

In both ‘The Pandorica Opens‘ and ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ the Doctor faces the consequences of ignoring phone calls. He is at least partially responsible for the vandalism to time by forcing those who need him to go to great lengths to get his attention.

This can be an adventure in itself, with the PCs responding to some anomaly only to find out it was someone who they’ve been avoiding. How will they react and can they explain why they’ve been ignoring their call.

You could also explore what happens when the Doctor ignores a call and he is now too late to help his friends. What if someone died just because he wouldn’t pick up the phone? Could he forgive himself?

If the Doctor is an NPC in your campaign he might bestow the PCs with his phone number, should they need him. His behaviour discussed above gives you a perfect explanation for why he doesn’t respond when they call him. This can make things awkward when they meet him again.

The Doctor can be distant and isolate himself. We don’t know how long he lived alone between ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ and ‘The Snowmen’ but we can safely assume he wasn’t answering his phone then.

This can add much needed mystery to the Doctor. The PCs could find that he isn’t reachable for extended periods. This can be effective when they don’t have their own time machine, for example in a UNIT or Torchwood campaign.

If there is no response when they phone the Doctor does it mean that he is ignoring their call, occupied, dead, in semi-retirement or about to appear at some later point because he got the co-ordinates wrong.

This can not only force the PCs to deal with a situation themselves but introducing growing dread into a campaign, at least until they can get in contact with him again. The Doctor’s apparent death in ‘The Wedding of River Song’ and the discovery of Trenazalore in ‘The Name of The Doctor’ could make it look increasingly likely that the PCs will never hear from him again.

If the PCs do get an answer they might be surprised when the man on the other side of the phone has a very different voice.

Posted in 11th Doctor, Let's Kill Hitler, Pandorica Opens | Leave a comment

WHAT I LEARNED FROM: THE WRONG DOCTORS

wrongdoctorsThe Wrong Doctors’, written by Matt Fitton, tries to resolve the mystery of how the Doctor first met Melanie Bush. Having being pulled from his future he attempts to drop her off at Pease Pottage just as a slightly older version of himself (post-Evelyn) arrives to met her for the first time.

Now there are 2 Doctors and 2 Mel Bushs. No wonder time is tying itself in knots as dinosaurs and the long dead members of the community intermingle. To make matters worse the alien Mardux have come to drill up the rare mineral Phalanxium from the village golf course.

It is to the credit of Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford that they are able to play two versions of the same character and make their voices distinct enough you can tell who is talking, even when they are talking to themselves.

The plot moves at a brisk pace, exploring the sheer peculiarities of time travel. Things get a little hectic in the final act but everything falls nicely into place.

Spoilers From Here On In!

YOU CAN HAVE MULTI-DOCTOR ADVENTURES WITH THE SAME DOCTOR

This isn’t the only story to have the same incarnation of the Doctor interacting with himself but it is probably one of the best. It shows the exciting possibilities, especially if several players want to play the same Doctor.

To make each Doctor distinct it is best to select them from dramatic points in their lives, so there is some difference between them. The older Doctor feels that he has matured and is nowhere near as bombastic as his earlier self.

Similarly the two Mel’s are very different. Mel the younger has yet to explore the world (or the universe) or develop her skills. In fact her lack of ability is part of the mystery of the adventure.

Adventures featuring a newly regenerated Third Doctor, still trapped on Earth, and an older version who has regained his freedom could be very interesting for example. A young 5th Doctor meeting a later version still fresh from the death of Adric also has dramatic potential.

Such crossing of personal time streams can ensure that neither incarnation remembers the encounter once the adventure is complete. While still intermingled older incarnations can remember events that occur to their younger selves.

TIME TRAVEL MAKES COMPANIONS VULNERABLE

Part of the reason that Pease Pottage attracts a self-confessed Time Demon is due to the Doctor bringing Mel to the wrong point in her history. It is possible that similar vulnerabilities could develop if a companion affects their own timeline.

Peri and the Piscon Paradox’ would suggest that Peri could be vulnerable in such a manner. Ace, by her very nature as a wolf of Fenric, and her interactions with grandmother and mother in ‘Curse of Fenric’ opens her up to further manipulation. Rose’s actions in ‘Father’s Day’ could have lasting consequences, although this might have been averted when the damage was repaired. River Song and her mother could be affected due to the twists in their timelines.

This is the kind damage that can accumulate. The more adventures they have where PCs interact with their past the more likely and frequently beings from outside time will attempt to use them, weakening reality around them.

THE TIME TRAP

While the Church of Kovarian fell into the trap of predestination the Time Demon exploits it here. He ensures that his followers are responsible for their own freedom, thus ensuring that the loop has to be closed.

The Mardux fall prey to this, with the elusive mineral they tracked to Earth revealed to be their own fossilised bodies moving backwards through time. This is a deadly paradox, as the very presence of the mineral is what will kill them.

A devilish opponent can set similar traps for PCs. Events can be set in motion that they must ensure happen to prevent a paradox, even if it will further the villains plan. Worse still it might lead to their own deaths.

PAST INCARNATIONS AREN’T SAFE

Beings that are able to move outside the normal flow of time, like a Time Demon, can be very dangerous to a time traveller. For a nasty moment it seems like he’ll kill the 6th Doctor and ponders what will happen to his future selves and future companions.

This is a good way to remind PCs that the fate of their character isn’t secure, even if they are playing a ‘Past’ Doctor. If they were to die the future would be rewritten, possibly throwing the universe into chaos.

Of course if they were to die there is a chance a future incarnation (or incarnations) could undo the damage before the changes catch up to them.

TIME POCKETS CAN BE USED TO RECREATE COMPANIONS

The mystery of Mel the younger is solved when she apparently dies. The Doctor realises that within the time pocket created around Pease Pottage the TARDIS can reconstruct her, shifting through time to put together the Mel he remembers.

PCs could do something similar to resurrect characters within time pockets. This could be one way to bring back Amy and Rory, since the Weeping Angels and their subsequent elimination could have created similar time pocket.

This would open up the debate of whether they are the real person or just a very good copy. Is there a difference? Should the recreated companion be told of their true nature or is it best kept a secret?

THE FIRST MEETING OF THE DOCTOR AND MEL

At the conclusion of this story a reconstructed Mel is put in the proper place in time. The younger 6th Doctor heads of, looking forward to when he meets her again. This ‘first’ encounter will presumably let his personal history proceed correctly.

This can be the basis for an adventure, finally exploring the circumstance which led to Mel joining the Doctor on his travels. Will the 6th Doctor sense when this is the right moment? Will there be any more complications caused by past and future adventures?

Posted in 6th Doctor, Big Finish, Wrong Doctors | Leave a comment

WHAT I LEARNED FROM: TALES FROM THE VAULT

talesfromthevaultTales From The Vault’, written by Jonathan Morris, is unusual for a Companion Chronicle in that it is pretty much a full production with 6 voice actors. The main actors are Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso, not reprising their roles from the 8th Doctor movie but playing UNIT soldiers Captain Ruth Matheson and Warrant Officer Charlie Sato.

They work at the Vault, a facility not unlike The Black Archive (which I examined here), which houses dangerous alien artefacts that comes into UNITs possession. Researching the background of several exhibits reveals an on going threat that involves Jo Grant, Steven Taylor, Zoe Heriot and Romana (mark 1).

It is an enjoyable premise which gives a small taste of what the other Companion Chronicles are like. It is also interesting that this came out before ‘The Day Of The Doctor’ and shows what a great premise a UNIT based show could be.

There is plenty of material that could be useful for running your own adventures centred in or around the Vault.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN!

THE FRAMEWORK OF AN ANTHOLOGY

A campaign could be based upon those working at the Vault. Their study of various artefacts can shift the adventure back in time, where the players now take the roles of the different incarnations of the Doctor and his various companions.

Not only does this provide variety it allows you to explore large stretches of time. The discoveries made by those in the past will be revealed to the the UNIT soldiers in the Vault.

You can take the approach shown here, with several mini adventures building into a larger plot arc. It doesn’t always have to relate to something in their present, it could be that the UNIT personnel are just carrying out some research.

A STORY DECADES IN THE MAKING

From the perspective of the UNIT staff the events they uncover span from 1900 to the modern day. To the Doctor they take place even longer as they run from his 1st to 4th incarnation, which means it could be several hundred years.

This shows the advantage of skipping around the personal timeline of a Time Lord. You can show events over many decades or centuries. Only a time travel can really appreciate how individual incidents interrelate and be around to see their consequences.

You can be subtle about this, slowly revealing that what appeared to be a series of stand alone adventures were actually interconnected. This is perfect for explaining apparent plot holes from previous adventures are revealing what caused events to be put in motion.

THE TIME CAPSULES

The Vault would receive time capsules, containing artefacts or messages only to be opened on certain dates. This could be to prevent future knowledge (for example details about the 90s should only be read once the 9os have arrived) or to allow enough time for an artefact to be neutralised.

In this case the message enclosed from Steven Taylor is pertinent to what is happening on that date. Captain Matheson suggests that the Doctor read her report on what happened and then went back in time to make sure the message reached her at the appropriate moment.

This does mean that there is always the potential for a new time capsule to spark a new adventure. This could keep life interesting for those working at the Vault but could also involve outsiders, particularly if the contents of the time capsule relate to them.

PCs might make use of the time capsules in their own time travelling. It is an easy way to get a message to those in the future along ‘the slow path’ as long as you are confident that the time capsule will remain secure.

ZOE THE DIAMOND

The 2nd Doctor encountered an alien diamond that could rob people of their memories. After recovering it from a group of bank robbers it was placed into the custody of UNIT. Zoe allowed the diamond to create a copy of her mind to act as a sort of user manual.

By the 21st century the diamond, with Zoe’s mind inside, is still active within the Vault. With her future knowledge and experiences with the Doctor PCs and UNIT might use the diamond for more than just its memory erasing powers. This can be an unusual way for PCs to encounter a classic companion.

PCs could encounter similar alien devices, creating back up copies of their minds. Long after they’ve left the Doctor or died others could encounter one of these recordings, allowing their character to return in some form without changing the fate of the original.

THE PAINTING OF DEATH

Another artefact in the Vault is a painting that shows the viewer how they will die. This frequently leads to madness as the viewer is tormented by the knowledge of their own, inevitable demise.

All that is known is that the 4th Doctor says it was stolen from the Braxiatel collection. There is certainly an adventure to be had around its theft and how it ended up on Earth. Why did someone want it and why was it on sale.

One possibility is that it was a trap for the 4th Doctor (maybe planted by the Master). If he hadn’t averted his gaze he might have seen how he died. Maybe he did explaining how his death was prepared for.

There is certainly an element of time travel in the painting, in that it shows the viewer his future. Since each viewer sees something different there is also a psionic element, with the painting just acting as a reflective surface for a subject to see their own biodata.

UNIT THINK OF EVERYTHING

As with the Black Archive UNIT is quite prepared to wipe the memories of those who work for them. Here Charlie Soto is tricked into consuming a drug that will erase his memory of being offered a job at the Vault unless he accepts.

It could be that those who work for UNIT understand that from time to time their memories will be erased. Others might find the idea disturbing. This could be made even worse if they find out that they’ve already had memories taken away from them.

An adventure could begin with the PCs, whether they work for UNIT or not, realising that someone has erased their memories. Will they go against UNIT to recover what was lost or trust that it was the greater good?

Posted in 1st Doctor, 2nd Doctor, 3rd Doctor, 4th Doctor, Big Finish, Tales From The Vault | Leave a comment

WHAT I LEARNED FROM: THE FORBIDDEN TIME

forbiddentimeThe Forbidden Time’, written by David Lock, is a companion chronicle narrated by Anneke Wills as Polly and Frazer Hines as Jamie. It is a atmospheric tale in which a species who can walk through time, the Vist, cordon off a section of the 1970s and issue dire penalties for anyone who dare enter the forbidden time.

After the public receives a telepathic warning Polly, years after her travels with the Doctor, explains how she, the Doctor, Ben and Jamie have already become involved in these events.

The adventure is suitably weird, with the time travellers caught in a shadow Earth and facing a race with abilities far beyond they’ve encounter before. Anneke Wills gives a good performance, full of yarning for days gone past and a very good impression of the 2nd Doctor.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN!

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO COLLIDE WITH OTHER OBJECTS IN THE VORTEX

The Doctor asserts that nothing within the Vortex really exists since it is nowhere and nowhen. This is obviously not quite true as the TARDIS collides with the Time Wall erected by the the Vist. It is possible that its presence caused an eddy, like a pull of gravity.

This titbit of knowledge means that the Vortex can be a good way to avoid colliding with others, particularly if their TARDIS is about to be time rammed. The Time Wyrm uses this tactic to avoid the 7th Doctor’s attempt to time ram her in ‘Timewyrm: Genesys’.

THE VIST CAN WALK THROUGH TIME

The alien race in this story are particularly interesting. They can move through time as simply as others can move through space. This is an entirely natural ability as they are perplexed by the TARDIS.

They perceive time different, able to see the past and future as if they are in the distance. The Doctor explains that they can use landmarks to navigate but have to transverse the geography in time, which can lead to dead ends. In short they can’t go directly to any point in history, they have to find the proper route there.

The Vist appear to have spent most of their time being nomadic, harvesting energy from different periods of time. Fed up of other races leaching these resources they decide to fence of this section of Earth history, unaware that other races can simply skip past this forbidden time but when the Doctor explains they don’t care.

The story ends with the Vist being tricked into travelling back to the start of time where the Doctor anticipates they will become stuck, trapped for all eternity. It is unclear how long it will take the Vist to travel that far so PCs might encounter them on their way there.

It is reasonable to believe that there might be other species with the ability to move in time. Possibly the Time Lords would hunt these races as potential threats. They could be rare enough that the PCs will be the first to encounter them and must decide what to do with them.

YOU CAN CAST SHADOWS IN TIME

When the Vist create their wall it casts a shadow, creating a parallel Earth sideways in time. This might be something akin to the pocket dimension encountered in ‘Hide’. Everything appears to be in black and white. Composed of an ash like substance it is easy to pass through most solid objects. No living creatures are duplicated.

PCs could encounter these shadow dimensions and need to find what is blocking time. These dimensions could be desirable for storage or a way to hide, leading races to specifically create things to cast the shadow across time.

Such barriers are only temporary without maintenance as they are eroded by the time winds.

THE TIME LORDS WEREN’T THE FIRST RACE TO EVOLVE

The Doctor admits to Polly that the Time Lords weren’t the first race to evolve so that leaves the question of which species did. The Doctor claimed to the Vist that the first race would have the right to declare ownership of space and time.

A race that discovers that they were the first might make such a claim. This could threaten the position of races like the Time Lords, especially if the race have the power to enforce their claim.

Of course there are more than a few species who crossed over from the previous universe. These races (often godlike in power) could challenge such claims of ownership. The PCs might be caught in the middle of this dispute.

BEN AND POLLY PEAK AT THE FUTURE

During their travels Ben reads car magazines and Polly glances through fashion magazines. While trivial this obviously gives them some foreknowledge of what is to come. There is no indication that they’ve abused this knowledge but potentially a crafty companion could exploit this, for example investing wisely or staying one step ahead of the current trends.

This could be a subtle way for PCs to demonstrate their own interests. When they arrive in their own future do they have any hobbies or interests that they catch up on? This could be a way to explain how their character is familiar with certain aspects of their own future.

THE FUTURE CATCHES UP TO YOU

For Polly, narrating the story, she is aware of how events turn out with the Vist. She, and everyone else, are only now approaching the forbidden time but she knows her past self and her companions have dealt with the situation.

PCs who have several adventures in their near future can experience something similar when they return to their own time period. They know what is going to happen and can’t do anything about it without affecting their past selves.

While it is a relief in situations like this there are plenty of occasions where the Doctor and his companions arrive after terrible events have occurred. Some times these are minor, isolated incidents and in other situations they are full blown invasions.

For example what if a companion arrive 10 years into his future, where the Daleks have invaded London and been exterminating rebels for 5 years. When he returns to his own time period he knows that there will be 5 years of misery and death to survive through before his younger self and the Doctor arrive to deal with the situation. This could be a harrowing situation.

They might try to tip the odds in their favour, acting behind the scenes to secretly aide their younger selves without changing history. It could be that their youth incarnation led such a charmed existence because they were their own guardian angel.

Posted in 2nd Doctor, Forbidden Time | Leave a comment

WHAT I LEARNED FROM: PERI AND THE PISCON PARADOX

PerisandthePisconParadoxPeri and The Piscon Paradox’, written by Nev Fountain, is a very entertaining Companion Chronicle. The 5th Doctor and Peri arrive in LA, 2009 to deal with a fish like alien only to bump into an older Peri. Making great use of the 2 hours the first part is told from the perspective of the young Peri while the other half is from the older Peri’s point of view. While relating the same events nothing is as it seems and there are plenty of surprises the second time round.

I highly recommend this audio. Nicola Bryant gives a great performance playing not only the two Peris but some addition characters. There is also a special guest voice which is a real treat.

Once you’ve listened to it there are plenty of interesting sections you can incorporate into your own game.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN!

 THE FUTURE IS NOW

Peri is stunned by how different things are in 2009. When her older self claims to be from Homeland security the young Peri wonders what could have happened to the US that made them so afraid.

Looking at the adverts of models and movie actresses Peri considers them to be anorexic. She rationalises that there must have been a terrible disaster and these malnourished women are the best they can get.

These are all examples of how you can set an adventure in a semi-contemporary setting but still make it full of wonder for PCs that are native to the time period. This would work well with the majority of the classic Doctor Who companions.

CHANGE, CHANGE AND CHANGE AGAIN

One of the central mysteries is the nature of the older Peri who doesn’t remember anything about her adventures with the Doctor past their first encounter. The 6th Doctor knows she doesn’t end up on Earth and the blinovitich limitation effect doesn’t occur when the two Peris touch.

It is eventually explained by a Time Lord that Peri originally did change during ‘Mindwarp’ but history was altered so she ended up marrying King Yrcanos. A later administration changed this again, returning her to Earth and wiping her memories, as they had done with Jamie and Zoe. Due to the Doctor crossing his own timeline on more than one occasion this accidentally created duplicate Peris, so that there are currently 5 in existence.

This illustrates an extra wrinkle to time alteration. Presumably the plan was that the revisions to Peris timeline would leave only one version. It would appear that each time the Doctor crossed his timeline it created a temporary alternative timeline, which resulted in an additional Peri. Had she not been snatched away likely the original timelines would have merged back together.

PCs who have a similar fate befall them could encounter multiple future versions of themselves, each with a different history. Which one will become ‘their’ future, if any.

It also shows that the CIA will change events repeatedly, especially under new administration. PCs could find themselves affected by new changes or they could be part of the new administration, looking back through CIA files and trying to make amends.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

Memory plays an important part in this story. Specifically the older Peri doesn’t remember her adventures with the Doctor and the 6th Doctor only has vague memories of the adventure.

When PCs cross their own timelines this can explain away inconsistences and keep the surprise. A similar tactic was used in ‘The Day Of The Doctor’, with the 11th Doctor failing to remember the adventure, despite having lived through it as the 10th.

PCs can be very perplexed when they meet their younger selves, having no memory of the encounter. They could doubt that their earlier incarnation is who they appear to be because of this. Memory wipes help make everything make sense.

The Doctor having trouble with his memories between regenerations can also be handy if you regularly switch between different incarnations of Time Lord PCs. Any continuity errors (such as the Time Lord meeting NPCs for the 1st time in one adventure only to meet them in an earlier incarnation in a later adventure) can be explained away by these gaps in their memory.

“THAT’S THE TROUBLE WITH REGENERATION. YOU NEVER QUITE KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO GET.”

The 5th Doctor reveals that he envies human’s ability to have a personality that grows and develops over their life. When he regenerates he has no control over the type of person he’ll become. He dreads the prospect of meeting future incarnations.

This reinforces that regeneration does have a huge downside. As the 10th & 11th Doctor indicated the person he is dies and a new man takes his place. The Doctor could spend all his life being a good man only for the next incarnation to be irredeemably evil or a raving lunatic.

Time Lord PCs should understand this and treat their own regeneration and future incarnations with similar dread. They have to make the most of their current life because who knows what the next version will be like?

CHANGE IN TONE

For the most part ‘Peri and Piscon Paradox’ is very amusing. That makes the dramatic moments have so much more impact. To suddenly some tragic moments of the older Peri’s life is all the more shocking because we’ve been laughing only moments before.

Handled well this can work well in any adventure. It can help remind the PCs that this isn’t a comedy. That the stakes are real and there is evil in the world that takes human form and leave scars that never heal.

Posted in 5th Doctor, 6th Doctor, Peri and the Piscon Paradox | Leave a comment

“Oh, you’ve been eliminating yourself from history. You know you could be reconstructed by the hole you left.”

holeinhistoryIn ‘Nightmare In Silver’ Mr Clever (the cyber planner Doctor) correctly identifies that the Doctor has been deleting himself from databanks (including those of the cyberiad) but that his absence from the information would allow someone to work out that he existed.

In other words the Doctor had removed himself without replacing his role in historical records. There was no one to take responsibility or credit for the things that he did. If someone was able to see the pattern they’d be able to discover that someone was making a habit of saving worlds throughout history.

The Doctor admits that it is a good point and that he’ll have to do something about it. We never see this onscreen but there are enough gaps suggested during ‘The Name of The Doctor’, ‘Day of The Doctor’ and ‘Time of The Doctor’ for this to occur.

It is no longer enough for the Doctor to simply delete any mention of him, he now has to fabricate false accounts to attribute his actions to someone else. There are various approaches he could have taken that can impact upon a campaign.

Weaving History

The simplest route is to make it seem as if those involved in those events did more than they actually did. This can seem more natural, although it could inflate the legend of the participants but since these would be alterations to historical records there should be little impact on those people’s lives during their lifetime.

This could complicate things for other time travellers who expect more from historical figures. PCs might find that the famous NPCs they met don’t live up to their legend and that the Doctor was actually responsible for their great deeds (and the Doctor frequently claims to be responsible for the triumphs of historical figures anyway).

An advantage might be that time is harder to sabotage because attacking or hindering historical figures won’t prevent major events happening because the Doctor was the actual reason things occurred.

The Companions

The Doctor gives all the credit to his companions, since there would be documented evidence of their presence it would be simple enough to suggest that they were the ones that saved the day.

The Doctor might see this as a fitting tribute to his old friends, a way to thank them for their support. On countless alien worlds people would celebrate his companions without their ever knowing.

This could be interesting for former companions to discover, either finding themselves travelling to other planets once again or receiving visitors from distant regions of the universe.

The greatest danger is that just as enemies of the Doctor used to seek him out his companions might now be targets. Once they leave his company they will be more vulnerable, sitting targets stuck on a single planet and time zone.

The well-meaning actions of the Doctor could force them to go on the run  (possibly banding together). A campaign could be based around former companions escape those who want revenge or around the Doctor trying to protect his friends.

The Myth

If the Doctor doesn’t want to put anyone in danger he might invent a person to take credit for his actions. This could be different for each adventure he is rewriting or the same larger than life hero across several exploits.

This would be a good opportunity to see how the Doctor’s mind works. What kind of hero does he think could stand in for him without being to much like him? Just how imaginative is he?

You might use this as an excuse to re-tell existing Doctor Who stories with the PCs taking the role of the fictional heroes that the Doctor is using to cover his tracks. They could each represent some facet of his personality.

In the ‘real world’ the PCs might begin to hear tales of the fictional character that the Doctor has created. The PCs might want to seek him out, only to find mounting evidence that he doesn’t exist. How long would it be before they discovered the truth?

The audio ‘The One Doctor’ demonstrated that there are unscrupulous people who are willing to take credit for the Doctors actions. Equally there might be those who seize upon the legendary figure he creates and play that role themselves.

This could be the basis for an adventure for the Doctor. How does he react when he encounters the person he made-up? Would he wonder if he unconsciously had heard or met the person before? If he knows they aren’t who they say they are how does he expose them without revealing the legend is fiction?

The Recruits

The Doctor could seek out others who could fill his shoes. By collaborating with potential heroes he would ensure that they knew what was happening, were able to defend themselves and potentially use the reputation he would be creating for them to do some good.

This would be a good way for original PCs to have a head start. Presumably they’d have done something impressive for the Doctor to consider them but even though their adventures were just starting people would already consider them great heroes.

While this could ensure co-operation from authorities and adulation of fans it also gives them a lot to live up to. Can they convince people that they did all the amazing things that the Doctor did?

They’ll also have to watch out as all the Doctor’s old enemies would now have them in their targets but then isn’t that what they signed up for?

You might also decide that the Doctor would recruit old friends, who have proven ability. This could lead to a group of previous companions that would act to maintain his legend. Possible candidates include Captain Jack Harkness, Ace, River Song and Madame Vestra (possibly with Jenny and Strax in tow). The Doctor could find a way to provide them with their own time machine.

There Is No Doctor

For the ultimate twist there never was a Doctor. He is simply the fiction that your PCs have used to cover their own tracks.

Posted in 11th Doctor, Nightmare In Silver | Leave a comment

“I’ve been renewed! It’s part of the TARDIS. Without it, I couldn’t survive.”

1stdoctorregenerationIt is commonly accepted that any Time Lord can regenerate due to an inherent biological process but in ‘The Power Of The Daleks’ the Doctor indicates that this is possible thanks to the TARDIS.

This theory is mostly supported by the Doctors regenerations. The 1st, 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th and 11th all regenerate within the TARDIS itself. The 3rd Doctor was already dying from radiation sickness when he emerges from the TARDIS, suggesting that the process had already begun.

The 2nd Doctor regenerates off screen but does arrive in ‘Spearhead From Space’ apparently recently having changed (he is wearing his old clothes and collapses). It is also important to note that the Time Lords, despite having exiled him, leave him his TARDIS. This could indicate that they knew he would need it to regenerate if he were to be seriously injured and taking it away would be a death sentence.

The 4th Doctor regenerates outside of the TARDIS but only after the Watcher merges with him. It could be that this future version of the Doctor only appears during this regeneration specifically because the Doctor wasn’t in the TARDIS and so needed the ‘kickstart’ to begin the process. Once his companions are able to get the 5th Doctor into his ship the process can be completed.

The 7th Doctor regenerates in a morgue, leaving the 8th Doctor confused and unstable until he is able to return to the TARDIS. It is possible that if this didn’t happen his regeneration would have failed.

In ‘Turn Left’ Donna witnesses a reality in which the 10th Doctor drowns and doesn’t regenerate. The theory given is that the flood happened too fast for his body to regenerate but it could be that it was because he didn’t get to his TARDIS in time.

Human Nature’ establishes that the TARDIS has a Chameleon Arch that can change a Time Lord into a human. Since this obviously involves altering the subjects body it makes sense if this same technology is part of the regeneration process (and could mean that the TARDIS itself has some part to play in what the Doctor looks like and even what type of person he becomes).

There are exceptions, particularly with other Time Lords. In particular in ‘Last of the Time Lords’ the Doctor begs the Master to regenerate, without any concern for getting him into a TARDIS. Rather than the Master simply refusing to regenerate out of spite he physically couldn’t.

From the evidence provided in the series then there is an argument that Time Lord PCs can only regenerate if they are able to get into a TARDIS to start or stabilise the change. This makes their ship much more important.

If seriously injured they must get to the TARDIS. Story points can be spent to begin the transformation (regenerating as normal) but they will still need to get to their ship in order to stabilise. They should suffer physical and mental complications until they do.

Being unable to access the TARDIS isn’t just an inconvenience, it is potentially lethal. Not only can the Time Lord and his companions not leave but should he be injured there will be no chance of a successful regeneration.

Obtaining a TARDIS can therefore become important motivation for PCs and Time Lord NPCs stranded without one. Rogues and exiles would be haunted by the knowledge that while they have the potential to regenerate that they would still die without their own ship.

There are alternatives. It wouldn’t make sense if this were the only way for a Time Lord to regenerate as the impression given pre-Time War is that few actually had their own TARDIS or left the planet.

Rather than having to have one on stand-by for emergencies it makes more sense that the part of the TARDIS that is responsible for aiding regenerations could be built separately. This technology could then be kept in the home or in hospitals.

What this means post-Time War is that a Time Lord could build the vital, life-saving technology if they don’t have their own TARDIS. This should be a piece of portable technology (otherwise all Time Lords would carry it around with them) and should ideally be time consuming to build with some parts being hard to obtain.

This can give Time Lords characters a long term objective, especially those who are stranded. This makes it appropriate for a Time Lord PC in a UNIT campaign. It could also be the source of an adventure featuring a evil Time Lord, such as the Master, who might be obtaining parts for his own machine any way they can.

There are larger ramifications to this that will affect non-Time Lords. ‘Doctor Who The Movie’ shows the TARDIS bringing Grace and Chang Lee back to life, which could be part of being in temporal orbit but could equally be part of the same process that helps regeneration.

Potentially the same technology could be used to resurrect other characters. To restrict the use of this process the GM could require a Time Lord PC to sacrifice some of their regeneration energy (in much the same way that the Doctor heals River Song and she later saves him using the same process).

An adventure could be based around a race using a captured Time Lord to power their own Resurrection Machine. The PCs could rescue the Time Lord but could they accept the responsibility of bringing death back to the world?

Emphasising that a Time Lord can not regenerate on their own can make PCs far less blasé about dying. No longer can they sacrifice themselves without first thinking about whether they can get back to their TARDIS in time.

Posted in 2nd Doctor, Power Of The Daleks | Leave a comment

“I met you once, in the Gamma Forests. You don’t remember me.”

rememberIn ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ we are introduced to Lorna Bucket. Having once met the Doctor she joined the Church so that she might meet him again. When she does she is dying and realises the Doctor doesn’t recognise her. The Doctor denies this claiming that he remembers everyone but after she dies admits that he doesn’t know who she was.

This is a sad, touching scene highlighting that the companions we see on screen are the lucky ones. They are the ones that get the Doctor’s attention and for the most part survive.

Characters like Lorna, Katarina (‘The Myth Makers’ to ‘The Dalek’s Master Plan’), Lynda (‘Bad Wolf/Parting Of The Ways’) and Rita (‘The God Complex’) are the unlucky ones who could have been a companion but the Doctor either failed or forgot about them.

There are several ways that this scene can be interpreted.

THE DOCTOR LIES

The Doctor did meet Lorna but really doesn’t remember her. The fact that Lorna almost instantly knows that he doesn’t recognise her could be because it wasn’t the 11th Doctor she met. Knowing that he has since regenerated she understands that their encounter could be in his distant past.

The Doctor has had many adventures and met so many people that it is understandable that he doesn’t recall them all. For them it could have been the most important day of their life while for the Doctor it could be an average day for him.

This does allow original PCs to be paired up with past Doctors. They might consider themselves a true companion but if they were to meet a later incarnation that Doctor might not remember them at all.

IT HASN’T HAPPENED YET

Rather than an encounter in the past some incarnation after the 11th will eventually find themselves in the Gamma Forest and meet a young Lorna. This adventure would have shades of his relationship with River Song, where he knows her eventual fate.

This could be an interesting adventure to revisit how the universe views the Doctor. Lorna’s people considered the Doctor a mighty warrior. Would the incarnation that arrives there live up to his legend or try to change their perception of him?

Lorna says that she only met the Doctor once but she might still end up travelling with him, only to have her memory wiped (just as the Time Lords made Zoe and Jamie forget everything but their first adventure with the 2nd Doctor).

UNIVERSE REBOOT

By this point the universe has already been rewritten multiple times (more if the Kovarian Chapter did succeed in subtly altering history) so the Doctor that Lorna met might not be this version of the Doctor (that is he hasn’t experienced those events).

Some Time Lords might not concern themselves with such continuity problems, concentrating on moving forward, but what if they decide to look back? Would this Doctor be satisfied that this alternative past version of himself did the best he could? Might he travel back along his own timeline to check?

This also means that time travellers might encounter those who claim to have a past history with them when they actually met a different version of them. This could be the first clue a PC gets that reality has been rewritten.

LORNA IS LYING

Remember that this episode revealed that the Church were carrying out a very long plan to turn Amy’s daughter, Melody, into an assassin to kill the Doctor. Lorna could have been just another part of their plan.

Rory quite rightly points out that Lorna is part of an organisation dedicated to eliminating the Doctor, reason enough not to trust her.  Lorna could be brainwashed or have memories implanted to appear loyal to the Doctor, hoping that he’d take her in (where she could either betray him or destroy the TARDIS itself).

Something went wrong and she ended up sacrificing herself. You might play out an alternative version of events where she survives (just as Strax did) only for her true nature to be revealed at a later point.

The Church might attempt to do the same thing again, planting a potential companion in the Doctor’s path who also claims to have a past history with him. If the Church didn’t vary their cover story this plant might tip their hand by claiming this also occurred in the Gamma Forest.

CLARA MARK II

Lorna has a significant impact on the events of this story. Due to her betrayal of the Church she saves the Doctor’s companions and arguably the Doctor himself as a consequence. She even gives River Song her name thanks to the quirk of her language.

Here she dies to save the Doctor but what if the Doctor were to meet another Lorna on another world? One that has no memory of the Doctor but ends up saving his life at the cost of her own?

This could mean that she is in a similar situation to Clara. At some point in the future she too will enter the Doctor’s timeline, saving multiple incarnations. Since ‘The Name Of The Doctor’ might have been altered due to the events of ‘The Time Of The Doctor’ Lorna could take Clara’s place in the new version.

It also stands to reason that the Doctor will have to die permanently at some point, leaving a time scar. As history is changed and the date and circumstances of this certainty keep altering there could be a continual influx of guardian angels protecting the Doctor throughout his life.

THEY’RE ALWAYS BRAVE

One truth that we can take away from this is that all of the Doctor’s companions (whether it be a single adventure or more) show courage. He might not remember them but he can still hold them in high esteem.

Davros accused the Doctor of turning his companions into weapons but it could be argued that he makes them brave. It doesn’t matter if they do ever encounter him again, they were still heroes.

Lorna dies here but her character and her actions suggest this isn’t the first time she helped others. There could be countless people like her, who only met the Doctor once, but have been saving the world ever since.

This could be a good way to link characters together in a campaign that doesn’t include the Doctor or other Time Lord. The fact that each one has previously met the Doctor means that they have the qualities needed to carry on his work, alone or together.

Posted in 11th Doctor, A Good Man Goes To War | Leave a comment

“So the official history says, but there are many rumours and legends to the contrary.”

towerIn ‘The Five Doctors’ the 2nd Doctor tries to explain the contradictory history of Rassilon. He is generally accepted as a great figure but rumour indicates that he was also cruel, causing the Time Lords to rebel against him, locking him in his tower.

Confusingly the Death Zone was used before Rassilon yet the practice is known as the Game of Rassilon (although this could refer to the later attempts to get past his traps and reach the tower to acquire immortality).

The ghostly Rassilon who appears at the end of the story gives the impression that he was in some ways good since he had the wisdom to see that true immorality was a curse and that anyone who wanted it should be removed.

Yet when he is reborn in ‘The End of Time’ he is clearly evil. This is also how he is presented in the ‘Divergent Universe’ arc in the 8th Doctor audio adventures. Earlier than that the New Adventure books indicated that Rassilon used time travel to erase any rival races from history.

Something to consider is that we don’t have to necessarily restrict ourselves to one version being true. By now we’ve seen that it is possible for the universe to be revised and for future events to impact on the past.

The reason that the Dark Ages of Gallifrey have so many contradictions is that it experienced a period of frequent revisions. There could have been two or more versions of Rassilon, influencing events.

With the discovery of time travel it would stand to reason that the first thing a Gallifreyan would do would be to try and influence their own planets history. They might consider introducing time travel prior to its discovery.

For example the sacrifice of Omega could make time travel possible, allowing Rassilon to travel into the past and give the technology to earlier Gallifreyans (still powered by the Eye of Harmony in the ‘present’).

These proto-Time Lords abuse the technology to create the Death Zone. The decadent society they create might also lead to an incarnation of Rassilon who is equally evil. The original Rassilon could stop the games and try to reform society, confining his alternative self to the tower.

It is possible that there were several alterations until the perfect society was established. The knowledge of this process could be kept secret out of shame or the confusion about what happened could be because few remember the original history.

The forbidden knowledge of the black scrolls could contain this information. The consequences of this meddling could have far reaching consequences for the rest of the universe, if their history was also affected by these changes.

The 5th Doctor was keen to read the scrolls before they were destroyed. Might he have followed up on this later and learnt the truth? Could this be the secret knowledge he refers to in ‘The Rings of Akhaten’?

Travelling in the past of Gallifrey is rarely done but ‘Time Of The Doctor’ showed that it is possible. The Dark Times could another exception, allowing PCs to travel back and get involved in this difficult period.

They might not be the only visitors from the future. There could be Time Lords from many different futures. Futures where they rule the universe with an iron grip, a version where they are enlightened beings of peace, Time Lords who are vampires or cyborgs. There might be versions where different alien races become the Time Lords or win the Time War.

The PCs could be vital to ensuring that their version of Gallifrey comes into existence (maybe requiring them to put Time Locks in place to keep that version of events in place). This could be a lengthy process and until it is resolved the future (that is the period after the Dark Times) could be in flux.

This could be a good period for the Doctor to get involved in and might explain the 7th Doctor’s references to being involved with his peoples early history. You could have multiple incarnations of the Doctor all working together in this impossible time in history.

The Time Lords policy of non-interference could be a direct result of these problems (even if the public isn’t aware of the truth). They have learnt how fragile history is and do what they can to prevent any other potential futures coming into existence.

You don’t have to restrict yourself just to this moment in Doctor Who history. Post Time War a similar event could occur on other planets upon the discovery of time travel. This will probably resonate with the players best if you focus on Earth but other alien planets give you more possible futures to explore.

The revision of history and resulting contradictions can cause complications for the PCs. They might run into versions of themselves that have been changed by the universe rebooting or have to face the consequences of their alternative selves.

These alternative versions needn’t be evil. They might actually be better, kinder versions of the PCs from versions of the universe that are equally improved. Would the PCs be willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good?

Another consequence of the universe being rewritten is the rumours and legends left behind. They could exist retroactively, so that the PCs were aware of them before they became involved in events.

This could mean that they are the legendary heroes they always inspired to be (becoming something of a self-fulfilling prophecy).  This applies equally to their enemies, so they witness their opposition gaining the stature of stories that frightened them as children.

This kind of temporal damage and resulting complications can make the very nature of reality more exotic. Time travellers would have a unique view of the way things came to be that others would find difficult to comprehend.

The PCs will also have learnt an important lesson that there is no single truth. Anything is possible, anything could have happened. Their actions will not only determine what will happen but what did.

Posted in 2nd Doctor, 5th Doctor, Five Doctors | Leave a comment