“It’s impossible. I hate it. It’s evil. It’s astonishing. I want to kiss it to death.”

ghostsUnder The Lake’, by Toby Whithouse, is set in the Drum, an underwater mining facility located at the bottom of a Scottish lake in the year 2119. The crew have located an alien craft and are soon haunted by ghosts. Each time someone dies a new spectre joins their ranks. This is exactly the type of adventure Clara wished for but she may soon regret it.

This is a classic ‘Base Under Siege’ story with all the claustrophobia and tension that brings with it. The 2 part format is used well, with a reasonably brisk pace. With less introspection it can spend more time giving the Doctor a mystery worth solving.

Spoilers From Here On In!

Toby Whithouse has a strong history with Doctor Who, with his best previous episode being ‘The God Complex’ (which I reviewed here.) This episode shares many of the same traits which made that story great. A group of people are trapped in a maze of corridors, menaced by an apparently supernatural threat. It is a race against time to work out the rules and understand their situation as their numbers are reduced one by one. Like ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ this is a formula that works well for Doctor Who.

After the opening introduces us to the situation and the crew (each given a brief defining trait) the Doctor and Clara arrive via the TARDIS. The Doctor is apprehensive  from the start (mainly as the TARDIS is unhappy at their destination) while Clara is eager to get the adventure started. This is a nice way to show their contrasting approach and why the Doctor later becomes concerned about Clara travelling with him.

Their first encounter with two ghosts is well handled. While creepy the Doctor is willing to give them a chance to communicate. The incorporeal phantoms are well designed. Grey, eyeless and silently mouthing words. After leading the time travellers to the spaceship they prove they are a threat, being able to wield metallic axes and spear guns.

In their flight from the ghosts the Doctor and Clara run into the remaining crew, seeking shelter in the faraday cage that protects them during the night. This is the first of several rules about the ghosts we learn, as it is quickly revealed that the spectres retreat during the artificial day cycle of the station. Once the lights go back on the crew happily emerge, unwilling to leave until the mystery is solved and any resources gathered.

This is where the twelfth Doctor is in his element. While originally dismissing the idea that ghosts could be real he is now giddy at the prospect. This leads to a neat scene in which Clara refers the Doctor to prompt cards so he can appear more sensitive to the crews situation.

The crew are well depicted. Now that their former commander Moran (played by Colin McFarlane) is a ghost, Cass (Sophie Stone) is charge. Interestingly she is deaf, with Lunn (played by Zaqi Ismail) acting as her translator. Her deafness does become a plot point (as she can lip read the ghosts) but it still nice to see that she is a strong character rather than just a plot device.

O’Donnell (played by Morven Christie) is the Doctor fan girl and technical wizard while Bennet (played by Arsher Ali) is the scientist who admires UNIT but feels he lacks the courage to join them. The final member is Pritchard (played by Steven Robertson), representing the interests of the oil company who run the base.

With the exception of Pritchard all of the crew come across as likeable, which adds more tension to the episode. When Pritchard is drowned by the ghosts opening an airlock the audience knows that these characters could be killed at any moment.

With the approach of a rescue submarine the crew could escape but since none of them sent the distress signal the Doctor realises that is what the ghosts want. Instead they come up with a plan to get some answers. This leads to a thrilling sequence in which the crew work together, herding the ghosts into the faraday cage. Unable to pass through the walls they are imprisoned.

The sonic glasses, introduced last story, are put to good use here. They allow the Doctor come face to face with the ghosts, projecting what he is seeing back to the rest of the crew to allow Cass to work out what they are trying to communicate.

The mystifying message “the dark, the sword, the forsaken, the temple” appears at first to be gibberish until the Doctor works out they are directions. The ghosts are artificially created to lead people to a sunken village, where a suspended animation booth from the alien craft is hidden.

Recovering the booth and find it is locked the Doctor decides that he needs to go back in time to before the village was submerged and work out what happened when the alien ship landed. Before he can do so the group is split in two when a section of the base is flooded.

Clara tries to keep her group spirits up, saying that the Doctor will be back in no time, having solved the problem only to spot the Time Lord’s ghost floating outside the base. A suitably ghoulish cliff hanger to end on.

Director Daniel O’Hara does a good job making the base atmospheric. During the day cycle it is bright and futuristic while at night it is filled with shadows and the shimmering light from the water is more apparent. Of particular note are the sequences in we get a close up of people’s eyes upon reading the runes on the alien ships walls. It felt like ‘The God Complex’, with a curse being placed upon those seeing the runes.

There were just a few parts where I thought it was unfortunate that we couldn’t clearly see Cass signing. While Lunn was there to translate since that was her only means to communicate it would have been nice if the audience could see her, even if they can’t understand her.

Similarly there were a few shots early on where it appears that the ghosts are speaking but it is just that the Doctor has his back to the camera while talking and the ghosts are just silently mouthing their own message.

As previously mentioned the ghosts are well-executed. Paul Kaye as the Tivolian (the cowardly mole aliens from ‘The God Complex’) is dressed like an undertaker. I didn’t initially realise he was supposed to be an alien until it was pointed out, as the distorted nature of the ghosts could have allowed him to pass as someone from the drowned village.

With another part to go to resolve this story it is difficult to comment on the story. There are lots of questions unanswered but that only makes things more exciting for ‘Before The Flood’. So far it has been strong, with each new scene adding to the story.

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“This is evil refined as engineering.”

802_004250As the title suggests in ‘Into The Dalek’ the Doctor gets closer to one of his oldest enemies than ever before. The viewer is effectively given a guide tour to what makes a Dalek tick.

While it is unlikely (but not impossible) that your own PCs will ever need to enter the interior of a Dalek it is still useful to know more about the species. It can provide valuable information and maybe suggest sources of vulnerability.

Firstly the eyestalk is hollow, allowing the shrunken medical team to enter the Dalek. There appears to be a barrier that creates strange distortions as the Doctor and Clara enter, warping both time and space. This could be some form of forcefield that prevents small objects (such as dust particles) from entering the stalk.

Once past this area the group are able to proceed along the eyestalk, pulsing lights represent visual impulses, heading towards the brain. What appears to be dry ice can be seen on the floor (and was also visible swirling in the distortion field). This gas could cool the stalk or possibly act as a decontaminant.

This leads to the cranial ledge, located in the upper dome of the Dalek’s head. This allows them to look down upon the Kaled mutant, linked to the machine through wires and tentacles.

Also located within the cranial ledge is a cortex vault. This is an electronic brain, serving as a memory bank. Further more, by repressing certain memories it maintains the Dalek’s hate.

This proves to be a major plot point for the episode. This Dalek saw a star being born and had an epiphany that life would always return. Once repaired the cortex suppresses that memory, returning it to its old ways.

We can presume that this Dalek isn’t unique and others of its kind have similar experiences that would otherwise sway it from its mission to eradicate all life. Targeting the Cortex vault might therefore be the greatest vulnerability of a Dalek.

Preventing it from suppressing the memories would cause other Daleks to gain freewill, allowing their experiences to influence their decisions. Taking this a step further new memories could be implanted, effectively brainwashing the Dalek.

The Cortex vault could be reprogrammed to suppress violent or hate filled memories, making the Dalek a productive and peaceful member of society. Some could take advantage of this, abusing the Dalek knowing it would forget soon after.

This is probably how the Daleks were made to forget the Doctor, their cortex vault suppressing their memories of him. Could such a feat be achieved for a whole species? For example could the Daleks be made to forget humanity?

The soldier Ross learns to his peril that the interior of the Dalek is very sensitive. By firing a grappling hook into the metal it causes the Dalek pain and despatches floating orbs that act as antibodies.

The orbs are equipped with a powerful disintegration beam, that turn Ross to dust in seconds. It then sucks the remains up (its blue light turning red upon completion) and deposits the remains in an organic disposal unit.

Due to their small size it is unlikely that they could do much harm to a full sized human but cause some irritation. This might be a nasty surprise for those who are able to destroy a Dalek, only for a swarm of antibodies to attack them with their tiny disintegration beams.

The organic disposal unit contains green fluid. The Doctor explains that a Dalek needs protean and will harvest it from victims. It isn’t clear how it does this, as unlike the antibodies beam, their death ray leaves victims intact. Possibly the Daleks will convert dead bodies but we’ve never seen this on screen and presumably they could get protean from any organic source. It could be that they are conditioned to eat people to motivate them to kill.

Decontamination tubes lead from the organic disposal unit, which can get hot. This presumably prevents infection spreading through the rest of the Dalek interior. Following these tubes takes the group into the lower section of the Dalek (its skirt).

After passing through some circuitry they reach its trionic power cells. A breach in this cell releases near lethal levels of radiation. Destroying a Dalek, and thus rupturing these cells, could expose areas to similar dangerous levels of radiation.

In the centre of the Dalek is the mutant. Wired into the rest of the machine the mutant is presented with a holographic screen. This allows it to see not only the exterior but observe events within its own body.

It is also possible to display memories on these holographic screens as Clara demonstrates when she unsuppresses one of its memories. Potentially it might be possible to make a Dalek believe that a memory is happening in the present.

By crossing some wires the Doctor is able to share his own memories with the Dalek. While the Doctor is doing this willingly the Daleks themselves might use a similar technique to gather information from prisoners. Certainly this demonstrates they have the technology to link their own minds with others via wires (whether they would permit themselves to be contaminanted in this way is another question).

Filled with the Doctor’s hatred Rusty the Dalek almost single handily wipes out the invading Daleks. This shows that their shell isn’t resistant to their own weapons. The capture of Dalek weapons could therefore give rebels a great advantage.

Finally the Daleks appear surprised to be attacked by their own kind. This would indicate that it has been long time since there has been any division amongst the Daleks. If rebels aren’t able to convert a Dalek then they might still gain a tactical advantage by disguising themselves as one, just so they can take them by surprise.

These details of the Dalek interior only apply to the current model. In theory earlier models might be quite different, with the features seen here developed over time. Whether that is the case of not the Doctor is an obvious expert, able to identify every part they see.

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Presented here are a selection of adventure ideas that require some investigation. They work best with the Doctor and his companions but can easily be converted for your own characters.


The TARDIS has landed on the planet of Kraosos. The population are a peaceful, pleasant race but also empathic. They sense a great darkness within the Doctor and demand he stand trial before the Stones Of Judgement.

The Stones have the ability to determine the guilt of any set before them. If found guilty the accused will be changed into stone. Members of the planets council will act as witnesses to the trial.

While his companions might want to prove the Doctor innocent the Time Lord knows that he isn’t. He has done some terrible things and sometimes he has trouble living with that. Escape is a possibility but isn’t it time that he be held accountable for what he has done?

Yet the Stones of Judgement are not what they seem. Long ago they were used as a means to place people into hibernation during long space journeys. The population are not native to the world, having colonised it hundreds of years ago.

While the council believe that the Stones of Judgement have ancient wisdom it actually is triggered by the subconscious desire of the accused and the witnesses. If the majority wish the transformation to take place the accused is transformed.

Companions can discover the truth and then persuade the Doctor and the council that he doesn’t deserve this fate. Even if he is transformed someone with a strong desire can trigger the Stones of Judgement to reverse the process.

With the purpose of the Stones of Judgement discovered they can set about freeing those who were placed into hibernation long ago and never reawakened.

SUGGESTED DOCTORS: The 5th Doctor (guilty over the recent death of Adric), The 9th, 10th and 11th (guilt over his actions in the Time War) and the 12th (still trying to determine if he is a good man).


Years ago the Doctor and his companions saved the planet Idela from alien invasion. Now it has happening again and a different incarnation of the Doctor has arrived to save them again.

This adventure allows cutting back and fore between two different time periods, illustrating how events during the invasions keep repeating (the same horrific attacks, the same heroic sacrifices, the same lucky breaks that swing things in the heroes favour).

Companions learn about their predecessors actions and relationship with the Doctor, maybe evoking some jealousy. They might also question whether there is a point to this, since any world the Doctor saves will only be in danger in the future.

The Doctor, meanwhile, is focused on a bigger puzzle. Idela, while being a very pleasant planet, doesn’t offer much value to the alien invaders. Their real goal is the secret to the planets long periods of peace, a Time Gem.

This lost technology (possibly stolen from the Time Lords) sets up a modified time loop. The same 20 to 30 years repeat endlessly. All you have to do is loop the best decades over and over again.

The alien invaders want the gem for their own purposes but have now become part of the loop. Worse still so has the Doctor. Even if he is successful in saving the world the invasion will occur again in a few decades and he’ll find himself back there.

Finding and destroying the Time Gem causes the two time periods to briefly merge, allowing different Doctors and their companions to meet. Can they work together to put a stop to this once and for all and will the planet survive their released time winds?

SUGGESTED DOCTORS: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Doctor for the first time period with 10th Doctor (with Rose, fresh from learning that she wasn’t the first companion) or 11th Doctor (with Amy who fears that she is easily replaceable) for the latter period.


Seemingly unconnected murders in London get UNITs attention when the victims all turn out to be aliens in disguise. Investigation reveals that they were separate races, living in peace amongst humanity. They were apparently killed just because they were alien.

While the upper brass mark the case as a low priority those close to the Doctor call in the Time Lords help. Some of the victims were exiles, with no choice to be in London. This should hit close to home for the Doctor.

A scrawled symbol (in the aliens blood) can be traced to a radical political party called ‘Pure’. Companions might have to infiltrate, if they can stomach the groups radical stance that Britain should be purified of outsiders.

They discover that they are learning the identities and locations of the disguised aliens from a captured alien smuggler. He is being held and tortured in a remote location, owned by UNIT. It appears he is held by a UNIT soldier, badly scarred (both mentally and physically) by a previous alien attack.

From the perspective of this solider he is just following the mission of UNIT. Can he be reached or is he too far gone? The Doctor, his companions and UNIT need to act fast as the soldier has helped Pure obtain poison gas which they plan to release at an emergency meeting held by the community of hidden aliens.

SUGGESTED DOCTORS: 3rd, 4th, 5th and 11th Doctors


With his companions badly injured and beyond the help of the TARDIS medical bay the Doctor rushes them to renowned medical space station of Edana. While their physical bodies are repaired  with advanced technology their minds can rest and recuperate in a virtual garden of Eden.

Within this peace realm they discover their fellow patients are being brainwashed by a ‘serpent’. At first this appears to be the Master but he claims to be trapped in the virtual realm, betrayed by the cybermen. The true threat is the Mara, which is hoping to use the patients to bring itself into the physical world.

The Doctor has his hands full as the Cybermen reveal their presence, converting the staff before moving on to the patients. Can he keep his companions out of their hands and dare he awaken the slumbering Master to help him?

At the same time his companions must organise the patients to defend themselves from the influence of the Mara. The Master seems keen to aide them, using his hypnotism to free the patients minds but is he planning to turn them into his own slaves?

SUGGESTED DOCTORS: 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th Doctors

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“Of course the real question is where did I get the cup of tea? Answer? I’m the Doctor. Just accept it.”

teaThe Witch’s Familiar’, written by Steven Moffat, finds the Doctor still at the heart of the Dalek Empire. With one of his oldest enemies dying will the Doctor choose to destroy or save him? Meanwhile Missy and Clara (not dead, big surprise) form an uneasy alliance to save the Time Lord from himself.

With all the setup established in ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ this episode can concentrate on scenes of drama, action and horror scenes that make for a great story. While there are still some minor issues with padding ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ is memorable for its vastly enjoyable return of Davros.

Spoilers From Here On In!

Since the return of the Doctor Who series the universe has increasingly been portrayed as revolving around the titular Time Lord. Everything is a consequence of his actions. This can serve as a great way to examine a character, by showing a dark reflection to compare and contrast.

For the Doctor that reflection is Davros. Both have prolonged their lives beyond their limit. Both lost worlds and people. Both can be manipulative and both wonder if they are good men. The back and fore between the two men, as they debate their choices and the nature of compassion, are some the best written dialogue and acting the series has seen. The two part story could be boiled down to just those scenes in Davros’ chamber and still be one of the best Doctor Who stories.

Peter Capaldi and Julian Bleach make those scenes riveting to watch. While we later learn that Davros was manipulating the Doctor in order to steal his regeneration energy to rejuvenate himself and his Daleks I like to think that at least some of those scenes were genuine.

A particular stand out is where Davros learns that the Doctor has restored Gallifrey. His heartfelt congratulations and belief that a man should have a race, a people and an allegiance. That a man should have a place.

For the first time I thought about how Davros lost his world and people. How the Daleks may be his children but he doesn’t belong with them and how the people of Skaro are long gone. While much of this is his doing (although it is arguable how much of a future his world of perpetual war had) Justin Bleach conveyed the unspeakable loneliness and regret that Davros must feel.

The simple act of Davros looking upon the Doctor with his own true eyes was heartbreaking. The viewer and the Doctor can at last see him as a person. The Doctor can even share a laugh with him as Davros makes a joke about the Doctor’s inability to see just how close to death he is.

It makes it completely believable that the Doctor would do his best to try and grant Davros’ wish to see the sunrise just one last time (not unlike his last moments with Handles in ‘The Time Of The Doctor’). If everything had been just as it seemed this would have been a wonderfully crafted end to Davros.

The shadow of ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ still looms over the scenes, particularly in the invocation of the ‘Do I have the right?’ scene from that classic story. Once again the Doctor is presented with wires and offered a choice that will mean life or death for the Daleks.

Just as entertaining was the double act between Clara and Missy. It is nice that not only do we get an explanation for how they escaped at the end of last episode but how Missy survived ‘Death In Heaven’. In both cases an energy blast powered the vortex manipulator, allowing them to teleport to safety. A trick that Missy learned from the Doctor (in a lovely flashback that shows us glimpses of the 4th and 1st Doctor as Missy doesn’t bother to specify who actually experienced this unseen adventure).

In some ways they also serve as a reflection of each other. Both of their lives revolve around the Doctor and both are able to get out of situations by thinking what the Doctor would do. ‘Dark Water’ certainly demonstrated that Clara is willing to put the Doctor in danger to get what she wants.

Yet Clara comes out much better here than in the previous episode. She shows great courage in standing up to Missy, putting aside her obvious fears to save a friend. Clara can see the good points of the Doctor and use them to her advantage while still recognising his bad parts which motives her to save him from himself.

For her part Missy makes a good stand-in for the Doctor, showing some affection for Clara if only because she needs bait. While she puts Clara in danger she also saves her. One suspects as well that Missy wouldn’t have as much fun if she didn’t have someone to show off to.

Missy convincing Clara to pretend to be a Dalek is very well crafted. The audience well remembers that this is the situation that we first encountered Clara in (or at least a version of her) even if the character doesn’t know that. Jenna Coleman does a good job of conveying the claustrophobia and panic Clara feels as she is sealed inside the metal shell and her every word is twisted.

The insight into the inner workings of the Dalek, particularly how their vocabulary is filtered, is just one of the many nice additions to the mythos. The journey through the sewer, filled with the rotting slime of the still living Daleks is horrific. As with Davros, for all their terrible acts, we can pity for any Dalek who has to endure that fate.

Everything converges back at the Dalek city. In trying to hook Davros up to the wires that feed him life from the Daleks the Doctor has fallen into a trap. His compassion means that his own regeneration energy will make the Daleks even stronger, turning them into hybrid Time Lords.

For all their points of similarity the Doctor proves that he is smarter than Davros. He knew it was a trap and what the mad scientist planned yet he saw the flaw and Davros didn’t. Renewed the Dalek slime escape the sewers and overwhelm the Daleks in the city.

In the process of escaping the Doctor runs into Clara, still trapped within her Dalek shell. This appears to have been Missy’s end game as she urges the Doctor to kill the very Dalek that exterminated his companion. Clara is only saved because the Dalek had the word ‘mercy’ in its vocabulary bank (as we saw in ‘The Big Bang’).

Missy tries to laugh the whole thing of as another lesson she was trying to teach the Doctor about the nature of friends and enemies but wisely takes his advice to run. The incident does, however, make the Doctor realise that for the Daleks to understand the concept of mercy it must have come from their creator.

This turns the end scene of last episode on its head. The Doctor returns to the battlefields of Skaro not to kill the young Davros, and in so doing wipe the Daleks from time, but to show him compassion. In a touching scene he fulfils the elder Davros wish that they’d been on the same side, if only once, by explaining that friend and enemy doesn’t matter as long as there is mercy.

This brings the two part story full circle. The young Davros was surrounded by hands that would have dragged him down into dark oblivion, like so many soldiers on the battlefield. Instead the Doctor gave him his hand, offering him salvation. The two walking hand in hand into the swirling fog was a great visual to end the episode on.

Not that everything was perfect (but then what is?). Colony Sarff was mostly regulated to a bystander (except for one scene) and his existence was never really explored. At the moment he was a nice concept that was shoehorned into a Dalek story but really we needed to know more about him to justify his presence.

There was a little padding. Missy and Clara escaped the Dalek City only to have to return and the Doctor escaped from Davros’ chamber only to be returned shortly afterwards (although it is a treat to see him whooshing about in Davros’ stolen chair).

I really hope the supposed prophecy about a hybrid is only Davros’ idle speculation and not the actual reason the Doctor left Gallifrey (and as a half human he is already a hybrid). It would be a shame to dilute the central mystery of the series to vague mystical nonsense.

I’ll reserve judgement on the abandonment of the sonic screwdriver for sonic sunglasses until we see them used in further stories.

These minor points aside I felt this one of the stronger Dalek-centric episodes in recent years. It certainly better than ‘Into The Dalek’ which tried to explore the same material but failed due to a troubling definition of ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar’ found a way to pay tribute to the shows past while building upon it. This is a promising sign and I hope we get more explorations and integration of Doctor Who’s long history.

The biggest mystery that remains (other than what is on the confession dial) is who the two episode  titles refer to. Presumably it is a reference to Clara, with the Doctor being the magician and the Witch being Missy. While apt the story isn’t about her with her relationship to the two mostly regulated to a subplot. It therefore comes across as a little generic.

It would be stretch to say the title refers to Davros but he truly is the centre of the story. Since in many ways this an examination of how the Doctor made the mad scientist the two part tale might be called ‘The Genesis of Davros’.

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“It’s not real, of course.”

dw 8x01_1120A common theme in Doctor Who is that no matter how  public and wide spread the existence of aliens and other strange elements the status quo is maintained. Within a few months they are always written off as a hoax, mass hysteria or ret-conned away by cracks in time.

This is useful to make sure that the Earth of Doctor Who matches our own. This allows the viewer (or player) to find it believable. It also doesn’t require the writers to think about how the society of the 21st century would be altered by frequent alien invasions dating back decades, if not centuries.

In ‘Deep Breath’ a giant dinosaur is on display for all to see. One witness, Alf, proclaims that it must be fake. It is his opinion that the government is responsible for it. While Alf himself doesn’t survive for much longer we can assume that he isn’t the only one to share this opinion and this is why history isn’t greatly altered by its arrival.

This theory could prove to be the basis of an adventure. PCs would expect the unusual things they encounter to be real but what if they weren’t? ‘Aliens of London/World War III’ took this approach, with the ship and pig-like alien that apparently heralded Earth’s first contact with aliens revealed to be fake (although created by real aliens).

The Talons of Weng Chiang’ similarly touched upon this, with holographic technology used to create ghosts. The other aberrations in the story can all be traced back to the actions of a time traveller.

PCs could find themselves in the role of sceptics, trying to find the truth. The question of any such adventure is what the perpetrators of the hoax hope to achieve. ‘Scooby Doo’ is the obvious source of inspiration, as the apparent presence of the supernatural was always the cover for criminal activities.

It could be that the hoax is intended to frighten people away. Using ‘Deep Breath’ as an example no one would dare go near the Thames with giant dinosaur prowling around. This could allow smugglers to move undetected down the waterway or allow others to enter the House of Commons or Big Ben.

The hoax could act as a distraction. Again using the same example while everyone is looking towards the dinosaur something could be happening right behind them. Aliens could use a fake overt invasion to carry out a covert invasion.

The hoax could be intended to manipulate the public. In the Outer Limits episode ‘Architects of Fear’ scientists surgically alter a man to inspire fear of an alien invasion and so cause countries to unite against the threat.

It could be that the hoax is intended to send a message. While we learn later that the droids were responsible for killing the dinosaur what is the British military had apparently destroyed the beast? It would have sent an impressive message about their ability to conquer even monsters across the world.

The government or other organisations might create a hoax, intending it be exposed (although not that they were responsible for its creation). This would make people much less likely to believe any other unnatural elements they encounter are real.

Once the PCs do learn the truth there is the question whether they let the public know about it. If the hoax is protecting the public or preventing history from being altered then maybe the PCs should keep quiet.

Knowing the truth could put the PCs in danger from those responsible for the hoax. Even if the PCs don’t intend to reveal the secret there could still be those who wish to silence them.

UNIT would have a much easier time covering up alien incursions if they could persuade them that it was just another hoax. They could even falsify evidence for people to discover that would confirm this.

This being the Doctor Who universe the truth behind the hoax could be far more interesting than the lie. For added confusion there could be multiple layers to a hoax. For example it might appear that the trolls in the London underground are actually robots created by aliens but then those aliens are revealed to be members of a cult of time travellers.

There could be a widespread organisation that creates these hoaxes and cover up the truth. The PCs could encounter them again and again, foiling their plans and revealing what is real.

Alternatively the PCs might be part of such a group or just have similar aims. To protect the integrity of history they not only have to defeat the bad guys but make sure the public never learn of their existence.

A whole campaign could be based around PCs revealing hoaxes. For this to work the majority of weird encounters should have some form of rational explanation (rational within the world of Doctor Who anyway).

This allows you to have adventures with a gritty, paranoid tone. The players will never know just what is lurking in the shadows and the real reason for why things are happening (at least until the end of the adventure).

You might use this format to revisit or re-examine established Doctor Who adventures. Could the Doctor have been fooled by a hoax? Might some alien races be nothing more than a fiction? It could be up to the PCs to reveal that one of the Doctors greatest enemies is nothing more than a man in a costume.

If you are ready to take some risks you can have several adventures in a row have a mundane (but still exciting) explanation. It can make it all the more thrilling for the PCs when they finally encounter a real alien after finding so many before have just been special effects.

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“OK, cutting to the chase. Not dead, back, big surprise, never mind.”

missy In ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’, written by Steven Moffat, the Daleks and Missy are back but the Doctor is nowhere to be found.

This  is a promising start to the current series of Doctor Who, steeped in Classic Series lore. The only requirement to enjoy it (besides an extensive knowledge of the back story) is not to ask questions.

Spoilers From Here On In!

Early in episode it is revealed that Missy is back, freezing all of the worlds planes in order to get Clara’s attention. It is never explained how she escaped death in ‘Death In Heaven’ and Missy urges her audience not to mind this and just cut to the chase.

This perfectly summarises the episode itself. Things happen and we are not supposed to question how they have occurred or look too closely at the logic behind them. Just enjoy the individual scenes because it is a tv show and you shouldn’t take things so seriously. Luckily they are very good moments.

The opening is very effective and provides a good example of why Doctor Who is such a delight. As soldiers a muddy battlefield flee a bi-plane above them the audience asks themselves where and when are we? The first guess would be World War 1 but the soldiers are using bows and arrows and the bi-plane is firing lasers. Is it the future or an alien world?

There are few shows that give you that excitement and sense of discovery.

A young boy is put in peril, stumbling into a hand mine field. Hand mines resemble human hands with eyes in their palms that drag you down under the mud. A would-be rescuer falls victim to a hand mine demonstrating just how much peril the boy is in.

Lucky for him the Doctor has arrived, having taken a wrong turn on the way to a bookshop. The Doctor fills the boy with confidence, convincing the audience as well that he’ll get this child out of this dire situation.

Things are turned on the head when the boy reveals that he is Davros.

This is Skaro and the Doctor has just promised he is going to save his arch-enemy. The Doctor is frozen as the opening titles begin and we are left with the question whether the Doctor will respect the sanctity of time by saving the creator of the Daleks or make the choice he failed to make in his 4th incarnation.

Making a semi-sequel to ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ is probably the best decision of this episode. Last season we had a comparison between the Doctor and the Daleks but this episode dives right into the issues of that classic story to look at how the Time Lord has parallels with Davros.

In ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ the Doctor gives Davros the benefit of his knowledge of the future. He warns Davros about the evil the Daleks will bring and urges him to reconsider. Davros refuses because he believes that good will come from them, that they will end war.

In the same story the Doctor has an opportunity to end the Daleks before they begin by touching two wires together. Knowing everything he does he still hesitates. Does he have the right to change history when  some things might be better with them? While he later changes his mind his hesitation allows the Daleks to exist and it could be argued partly his responsibility.

Both men knew the outcome of their actions, both refused to change events.

These ideas are explored again here, putting the Doctor face to face with the hypothetical situation he proposed to Sarah Jane Smith. Last series appeared to address the question of whether the 12th Doctor was a good man but once again we see that isn’t such an easy thing to answer.

For much of ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ the Doctor is hiding, ashamed of his decision of Skaro with the young Davros. Summoned before Davros by his agent, Colony Sarff, the truth is revealed.

The Doctor fled, leaving the child to his fate. Whether the Doctor had decided not to interfere in history or believed that the boy would die is left up to debate but the consequence is that Davros is now dying and he remembers that fateful encounter (shades of Kazran Sardick remembering the 11th Doctor’s alterations to his past after they happen in ‘A Christmas Carol’.)

Believing that he’ll die if he goes the Doctor nonetheless agrees to the meeting, to answer for his crimes. The scenes between the Doctor and Davros are the highlight of the episode.

Peter Capaldi conveys the Doctor’s shame and Julian Bleach weariness as Davros’ death approaches. Both are tired and near the end, reminiscing about the past and where it all went so wrong. The sense of history is underlined using audio clips from previous Doctors and playing archive footage from ‘Genesis of the Daleks’.

Cheekily Davros believes the Doctor looks like him in his current incarnation. Is this the answer to the question raised in ‘Deep Breath’ around his new appearance? Was that the message he was trying to send himself?

In many ways the Daleks are the children of both men. They allowed them to come into existence and shaped who they became. Neither has any control over them. Due to the decisions they made the Doctor watches his friends and time machine destroyed in front of him.

The episode concludes with Davros demanding the Doctor admit that compassion is wrong. We return to war-torn Skaro where the young Davros is once again face to face with the 12th Doctor apparently from the future armed with a Dalek gun, preparing to exterminate his mistake.

This plot thread is the saving grace of the episode and demonstrates how effective the classic serial format was, leaving us with an exciting cliff-hanger. Unfortunately the episode is filled with a lot of padding.

Michelle Gomez returns as Missy and is fantastic as always. Her character is nuanced, crazy and thoroughly evil. Although she now declares her friendship to the Doctor she readily kills innocent UNIT agents, knowing full well they have families, just to prove she hasn’t become good.

She almost takes the Doctor’s place in the story, with Clara as her companion. It is she that whisks Clara through time, delivers the exposition and engineers their (momentary) escape from captivity. The actress has expressed her desire to play the role for a long time, something I fully support.

Jenna Coleman is back as Clara, who is just as insufferable as she became last series (the character not the actress). In order to make Clara exciting and special now the mystery of the impossible girl has been solved she has become a leather jacket wearing, motorbike riding school teacher and part-time expert on the Doctor for UNIT.

In one of many cringe-worthy scenes Clara upstages the UNIT scientific boffins trying to work out why planes have frozen in midair. Her confidence comes across as arrogance and makes everyone else look stupid.

Colony Sarff, played by Jami Reid-Quarrell, is an interesting creation, gliding around in his robes searching for the Doctor on Davros’ behalf. The reveal that he was actually a mass of snakes coiled together in humanoid form was nicely done.

His existence is just one of many questionable things about the story. It isn’t like Davros to make use of non-Dalek henchmen. Later episodes might reveal why the democratic group of snakes are working for him but it doesn’t seem likely.

Colony Sarff’s method of searching also doesn’t seem very effective. While it was nice to see some of the locations the Doctor has been (The Maldovarium, the Shadow Proclamation and Karn) it doesn’t seem a very good way to find someone would could literally be anywhere and anywhen. It is miracle that he happened to be on Karn the same time as the Doctor at all.

Presumably Colony Sarff ship can travel in time (unless he visited all those locations during the Middle age) but that just gives him more places and moments to search and yell the Doctor’s name.

There is a continued sense that all of space-time in the Doctor Who universe isn’t that big after all. UNIT can apparently know use a computer program to work out where the Doctor is in history at any moment. So much for the Time Lord’s attempts to remove his presence from history.

Not that the 12th Doctor is making it hard for people, riding tanks while playing electric guitars in the Middle Ages. The Doctor might be partying for 3 weeks before his ‘death’ but these anachronistic introductions to the web of time seem very out of character. It is hard to imagine his earlier incarnations behaving in a similar manner, let alone allowing someone else to do so.  We must also question how and why he took the tank to the middle ages in the first place.

The Doctor seems to support Missy’s claim that they are friends. His tolerance of someone so evil and who kills whenever she pleases is very disturbing but not out of character given his friendship with Madam Vastra discussed here. It is just another indication that the moral centre of the Doctor has become very questionable.

Making Skaro invisible is a neat idea but has little impact. The presence of the Daleks is hardly a surprise and raises questions about when this is taking place. The implication from Missy is that the planet was hidden because it was the home of the Daleks which makes sense during the Time War but ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ begins on a visible Skaro. It could be this is after the planet was supposed to be destroyed in ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ and they were hiding the fact it survived. We don’t have enough information to guess because we don’t know if Colony Sarff ship moved in time (they only refer to coming out of hyperspace).

Also as they approached the ‘hospital’ containing Davros it is clearly rotating. This doesn’t make sense if it isn’t in space unless this was also an illusion.

Surrounded by a nice mix of Daleks Missy offers to give them the secrets of the TARDIS, suggesting that this would give them more worlds to conquer. This is treated as a big deal despite the fact that the Daleks have long had the power to time travel so I don’t know why this would have any weight.

Similarly the extermination of Missy and Clara has no impact because we know that Missy doesn’t need an explanation to return from the dead. The cliff hanger also implies that all of this could be undone by changing the past.

What makes all this tolerable, aside from its strong central idea, is the direction of Hetti MacDonald. She makes everything look cinematic, with some striking images and screenwipes that recall ‘Star Wars’ (particularly apt for the cantina scene.)

In conclusion I enjoyed the majority of the episode but I just wish I didn’t seem to be giving more thought to how this all makes sense than the writer of the show. If you can overlook the inconsistencies and not take it too seriously ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ is a confident, self-assured series opener celebrating the history of the central character.

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“Dinosaurs were mostly this size.”

bigAt some point between Trenzalore and Victorian London the TARDIS was swallowed by a giant dinosaur, resembling a tyrannosaurs rex. This beast was accidentally deposited on Earth in ‘Deep Breath’.

Its size is mentioned by both Jenny and the Doctor (who calls it a giant dinosaur). Madame Vastra asserts that most dinosaurs were the same size and she should know as she was there.

This isn’t explored further during the episode but there is something unusual about this. Not only do we have real world evidence of dinosaurs true size (and Jenny mentions the fossils that had been found) but dinosaurs have also appeared in the show before such as ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ and ‘Dinosaurs On A Spaceship’.

What could the explanation be for the difference in size?

Deciding on an answer is important as time travellers will likely encounter dinosaurs at some point.


We only have Vastra’s word that other dinosaurs were a similar size. It could be that she doesn’t remember her past (aside from a few details) or never encountered a dinosaur (it could be that she never went into the wild).

It would not be out of character for her to lie to make herself appear more knowledgeable but she could be unaware that it isn’t true. The memory could have been implanted or she could believe that they were much bigger than they were because she was smaller at the time (suggesting she was only a small child when she witnessed a dinosaur).


If dinosaurs were really this size where did the much smaller fossils come from? Could someone have created and planted them to hide the truth? Who would do such a thing and why?

A time travelling race like the Time Lords might have done it so that mankind would learn about the existence of dinosaurs without being terrified of them. This might be so their quest for knowledge isn’t stunted by fear or to prepare them for meeting other species.

Rather than being done for benevolent reasons another race might have obtained their own giant dinosaurs and preserved them. The fossils were planted so humanity knew what they were dealing with but were overwhelmed at the sight of a true dinosaur, once they were unleashed.

Now Vastra has revealed the truth about dinosaurs time travellers might want to investigate this cover up and find out who was responsible.


It could be that there is a whole breed of dinosaurs which were much larger versions of the species that we know. This breed is the one that Silurians are familiar with. To encounter other dinosaurs of similar size only requires a time traveller to arrive at the right period.

The question would remain whether the dinosaurs we know came before or after these giant versions. Did they shrink or did they grow to the size depicted here? If they shrunk it could suggest either their bodies became more efficient or they had to cope with diminished resources. If they grew it could indicate that their species was flourishing and could have could have grown larger if not wiped out.


We know that Mondas was a parallel to Earth and in Cybermen the Mondasians were sometimes described as being giants. It would stand to reason that parallel evolution would allow the existence of dinosaurs similar to our own just on a bigger scale.

This would indicate that Silurians also come from Mondas, rather than Earth. ‘Dinosaurs On A Spaceship’ revealed that the Silurians were capable of space travel. Could it be that they were moved off planet while in hibernation?

Awakening they only think this is their planet. The difference in size of the dinosaurs coudl tip Vastra off to the fact that this isn’t her world after all. If other Silurians learnt this it could completely change their stance that Earth is rightfully theirs.


Possibly the difference in size is due to the dinosaur swallowing the TARDIS. It could be that the time ship shrunk itself to prevent the dinosaur from choking (not wanting to accidentally kill the beast). When it re-materialised in Victorian London it returned to its normal size but in the process the dinosaur also grew larger.

This would indicate that the TARDIS can share its dimensional shifting abilities with beings clinging to its exterior. PCs might bear this in mind if their own TARDIS comes under attack by a monster. If they travel while it is still grappling the exterior they could make it a much bigger problem.

Had the dinosaur survived the process could possibly be reversed but would the Doctor be up to the challenge of piloting the time ship into its maw? Could they find a way to make the dinosaur swallow the TARDIS?

A similar distortion could have occurred due to the time travel technology in ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’. Similarly the Silurians might have shrunk the dinosaurs to make them easier to transport in ‘Dinosaurs In A Spaceship’.


The dinosaur is the same size as it has always been, it is the rest of the universe that is shrinking. It could be that the TARDIS adjusts its passengers to fit the scale of the rest of the universe where ever it travels but the dinosaur, on the exterior, retained its size.

If this were the case then this could be the start of a major crisis. Could the universe shrink down so small that would eventually vanish? Would it throw off the gravitational pull of entire galaxies?

Those travelling into the past without the aide of a TARDIS could find they are apparently shrinking the further into the past they travel. This might be what happened in ‘Planet of the Giants’ (which would indicate the universe is shrinking at an alarming rate).

Conversely travelling into the future would turn them into giants. Primitive time travellers could find that this compensates for finding themselves in the technologically advanced future. This could lead to a interesting scenario in which the PCs are perceived by locals as giant monsters and must find a way to resolve the situation before the military find them.

The Master’s tissue compressor could actually be a device that accelerates the process, rapidly turning victims into doll sized versions of themselves. This wouldn’t be too dissimilar to what he does to the Doctor in ‘The Sound of Drums’ where the Doctor is not only aged but shrunk.

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“Is it still the same broom? Answer? No, of course it isn’t.”

dw 8x01_5829In ‘Deep Breath’ the Doctor encounters a droid that has replaced so many parts of itself with both organic and inorganic parts that there is almost nothing left of the original. He highlights this with an analogy of a broom only to realise that it applies equally to him.

With his whole body and mind regenerating and changing is there anything left of the original man who called himself the Doctor?

This might be the reason that a limit was placed on Time Lord regenerations. It was not a concern of having a race of immortals but that after 12 regenerations there is nothing of the original left.

Prior to the first regeneration a Time Lord has a body and personality shaped by their genetics and environment. They are a natural part of the universe and regeneration simply extends their presence in it.

Each regeneration make some changes but it is still built on the basis of a real person. The concern here is that what they look like and who they are as a person is completely unnatural.

Just as a paradox can bring information or things into existence within a loop a regeneration creates a person who wouldn’t have come into existence otherwise. Worse still the result of a regeneration could be random, meaning you wouldn’t know who you end up with.

In this light we can understand some of the Doctor’s post-regeneration behaviour from a new perspective. The 5th Doctor’s shifting through former personas, the 6th Doctor’s murderous rage and paranoia and the 12th Doctor’s confusion of identity and simple concepts like bedrooms. All indicate a mind in turmoil, attempting to establish itself. No wonder the 10th Doctor spent so long asleep and emerged with his personality in place.

The telepathic circuits of the TARDIS can help with the formation of the new personality (and may ensure that stored imprints of the Doctor’s mind are integrated). The chameleon arch, rather than being a means to disguise themselves as another species, could have been installed in TARDISes so that their post-regeneration genetic integrity could be re-established. However there is only so much it can do.

If the Time Lords had been allowed to regenerate endlessly their identities would degrade. Who knows how they might have degenerated as a species and a culture? Their eternal life would be meaningless because their original identities would have been erased long ago.

What would it mean for a particularly long lived Time Lord PC? It could mean it is time to re-evaluate their identity. Just as the 11th Doctor realised that his actions meant he was no longer the healer he had named himself for a Time Lord PC might have to take stock of who they are.

They could come to the conclusion that they are the equivalent of a grand child of the original incarnation. While owing their genetic stock and history to them they are far removed and an individual in their own right.

If they feel they’ve drifted to far from the original would they decide that they will be the last incarnation (even if they have some remaining regenerations?) Might they travel back along their time stream to refresh themselves (maybe borrowing some memories and genetic DNA from earlier incarnations)?

There could be consequence for a Time Lord who is so different from his earlier self. It might be that he is different enough that he could enter into his own time stream without ill-effect. His earlier self might not even recognise him as a future version, they are so different.

This could provide the framework in which a Time Lord spends an extended period exploring his own past, trying to remember who he was. All the while he has to hide his true nature from his past incarnations.

In a campaign using the Doctor this can be a good opportunity to do something that couldn’t be achieved on screen and have the 1st Doctor encounter the 12th Doctor. How would such a meeting play out and what would they learn from it?

What if a Time Lord found that his bond with his TARDIS was lost after his most recent regeneration? He is quite literally not the man he was and his time ship now considers him a stranger. What could he do to re-establish that bond?

Enemies as well might not recognise the new Time Lord. Those species that perform DNA scans could recognise that they are the same species as their old enemy but find no other similarity. This may or may not work to the Time Lords advantage.

This works both ways and Time Lord enemies might regenerate into those who could be considered entirely innocent of their earlier incarnations actions or even friends. A scenario could exist in which a good and evil Time Lord swap places after several regenerations.

Just as the Doctor and Clara ponders where the 12th Doctor’s face comes from we might also consider where the personalities of new regenerations come from once they are so far removed from the original incarnation.

It could be that the universe itself imprints upon these fresh minds the people that it needs to exist. If it were lazy they might be copies of existing people in time and space. They could also be hosts for people were removed from time or lost in time scars (such as Clara).

In the Doctor’s analogy it doesn’t matter that the broom isn’t the same as the original, as long as it can do the same job. This can comfort Time Lords experiencing this type of existential crisis.

They might be very different people from the original Time Lord but it doesn’t matter as long as they still have the same goal. In the Doctor’s case that is helping people and saving the day.

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“Probably best to stay out of the larder. It’ll get a bit noisy in there later.”

dw 8x01_2225Since ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ Madam Vastra has been portrayed as one of the Doctors closest allies. She is still a Silurian, first encountered by the Doctor slaughtering tunnel workers and commuters.

Although married to her human, Jenny, Vastra still eats humans. So far they’ve all been criminals (Jack the Ripper and a child poisoner) but she is still deciding to take the law into her own hand, not only killing sentient beings but eating them as well.

No matter how well meaning her intentions Vastra is a murderer. Not only that but Jenny, Clara, Strax and the Doctor are all complicit in her actions. They seem untroubled by her behaviour.

Previous incarnations of the Doctor have frowned on using violence and particularly murder. The 3rd Doctor constantly tried to persuade the Brigadier to avoid violent confrontation,  4th Doctor disapproved of Leela’s Janus thorns, 10th Doctor claimed he was the man who never would. In ‘Deep Breath’ the 12th Doctor knows he will probably have to kill the Half Face man but doesn’t relish the thought.

There have certainly been times in which the Doctor has killed but it is not something he sets out to do. Jenny makes it clear to Clara that Vastra will be eating the child poisoner after she is finished questioning him. They are both at ease with the situation.

We might suppose that it was the 11th Doctor who became friends with Vastra. That incarnation wrestled with the ethics of killing. That in letting your opponents live you are indirectly responsible for whatever pain and suffering they cause later. We see this especially in ‘A Town Called Mercy’.

Other incarnations of the Doctor might not find it so easy to tolerate the actions of Vastra. It is easy to imagine an adventure in which an earlier incarnation of the Doctor and his companions stumble across a Silurian and Sontaran working together with the aide of their maid to kill and eat criminals. The 3rd Doctor would be particularly suited for this.

You can rationalise this as how Madam Vastra always ended her career as a detective. When the 11th Doctor found her he realised how she’d come to be a detective in Victorian London and simply ensured that she fulfilled her destiny, all the while knowing his earlier self would defeat her.

There could be other consequences for Vastra’s actions. What if she were to act as judge and executioner on a suspected criminal only to find evidence that proved his innocence after she’d eaten him?

While Strax might not have a problem with this Jenny might. It would call into question everything they’ve been doing. It could be that Vastra isn’t that great a detective and has been ignoring the facts simply so that she can justify eating the human meat she hungers for.

Would Vastra stop if asked? Would her cravings cause her to turn on Jenny? We’ve seen her become more animalistic in ‘The Name Of The Doctor’ (when time was being rewritten) but we might see this happen again.

Inspector Gregson is shown to be a bit of a joke but what if a more competent member of the police worked with Vastra? He might object to her devouring of suspects or the knowledge could be made public.

Vastra could find herself under arrest and the courts would be unlikely to go easy on someone whose ‘disfigurement’ make her appear to be a monster. If Vastra defended herself she could make the situation worse but she’d likely face the death penalty for her crimes.

Jenny and Strax might turn to the Doctor for help (if they can reach him) but would he? They could try to rescue Vastra but if they succeeded they’d be wanted criminals, forced to go on the run.

If through some miracle they avoided detection there is also the question of their future. We don’t know how long Silurians live but there is a good chance Vastra will outlive Jenny. How would she cope without a human she’d considered a friend? Might she once again think of them as monkeys and decide that it was okay to eat who she pleased?

This could lead to a UNIT or Torchwood adventure. By the ‘modern’ day Vastra has lost much of her humanity, dwelling on her memories of her lost love and past triumphs while sating her hunger.

To the PCs she might appear as nothing more than a monster. If they learn of her good deeds will that change the fact she has eaten so many people and likely to kill again in the future? The choice for UNIT might be simple, while a Torchwood team might recruit her (if for nothing more than to keep an eye on her.)

This raises the question of whether PCs are allowed to murder in your own campaigns. This can seriously affect the tone of your games and also influence the decisions that they make.

For a harmonious game the GM and the players should come to a decision. This can lead to discussion about when it is and isn’t okay for them to kill the bad guys. When do they give them a chance to surrender and when do they take their lives?

This can be influence by the era and framework of your campaign. Mercy and justice could be important to your Time Lord PC and his campaigns while a group of UNIT soldiers will do what must be done to protect the world.

If your group enjoy drama not all of the PCs have to agree on the same approach. Some might want to capture their enemies so they can face justice while others might want to eliminate the threat forever. Both sides should have chance to argue their case and the ramifications of their decisions should play out throughout the campaign.

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“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.

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