“Touch me, Doctor, and you’ll be looking at yourself. I am alone.”

mutantTime Heist’ introduces Saibra, a shape-shifting mutant. The existence of mutants allows you to mix Doctor Who and X-Men into a single setting. Mutations are a good way to give human characters interesting powers.

There are many different ways in which these mutations might occur. It could be a natural evolution, with humanity reaching a stage where these powers manifest in new generations with increasing frequency.

This stage need not be restricted to the far future. They could occur throughout history. Certain periods could have a ‘boom’ of mutations which might eventually reduce if their blood lines don’t continue. PCs might be part of this current boom, their powers bringing them together. This could allow you to link the Doctor Who universe to the setting of the Tomorrow People.

There could be outside factors that artificially create mutations. This could be a side effect of designer genes, futuristic medicine or the result of radiation from spaceship engines or living on alien worlds. The question would be whether anyone is held accountable for these genetic mutations.

Interbreeding with aliens might also result in children inheriting abilities. Alien genes might be recessive, only activating several generations later. The mutant might not be aware of their inhuman heritage.

You could have several explanations for the mutations. People might not know why they are different, it only matters that they are. How they react to this will depend on the society they live in.

Mutants might be treated with fear and suspicion. Saibra certainly doesn’t see her powers as a gift and this might stem from a society which views her as an aberration. This kind of setting can serve as the backdrop for an adventure that explores tolerance.

Other societies might revere mutants and envy their powers. Mutants could form the elite of society, maybe even the ruling class. Mutants could use their powers to help and protect others, making them similar to superheroes.

Of course an open minded society might not treat mutants differently at all. They could just be an accepted part of society. Such a society could seem ideal for those mutants who live under oppression.

Mutants and how they treated could be an important political and religious issue. It could ally some galactic communities or ignite war. Changing opinions can help shape the galactic map over the years.

How a society reacts to mutants could depend on what powers a mutant can manifest. They could be low key (able to change hair colour at will, be triple jointed, an extra finger, etc), monstrous (natural armour, the ability to spit acid, burning touch, etc) or godlike (invulnerability, super strength, control weather, etc).

Mutant gifts often have a tragic element to them. Saibra can shape shift but can’t control it. She considers herself forever alone because she assumes the form of anyone she tries to get close to.

If you wanted to keep this theme there should always be a downside to the mutant power. It could be that a mutant can fly but their bones are also much lighter, making them brittle. Their super speed or strength could require them to replace their lost energy by eating large amounts of food. With PCs this can help balance their extraordinary abilities and for enemy NPCs it can provide a weakness for the PCs to exploit.

A Time Lord PC could take it upon himself to rescue and protect mutants. This could be because he is one himself or maybe he is directly or indirectly responsible for creating mutants.

This can be a good excuse to take the Time Lord to a variety of planets, as he hunts down rumours of mutants. Along the way he can challenge prejudice, with those he takes under his wing serving as his companions. Each new mutants abilities could be the source of further adventures as they learn to use them.

UNIT and Torchwood could encounter mutants during their investigations. It is easy to imagine that their unusual abilities might at first be attributed to aliens. Once the organisations realise what they are and that more exist how would they react?

If you wanted to make mutants a hostile force then they could all be driven to replace humanity. It could be that mutant powers are always linked to some form of psychotic or homicidal behaviour. Evil mutants could be rogue monsters or a secret society living amongst normal humans while plotting their downfall.

Mutants could be powerful allies, especially in the face of alien invasion. With extraordinary abilities and powerful natural weapons they could turn the tide in humanities favour.

UNIT might organise a special mutant squad to deal with their most difficult missions. An adventure set during the Dalek invasion of Earth could see survivors seeking out mutants amongst the rubble of London to repel the invaders.

Other species might have mutations of their own. The Daleks, with their desire for genetic purity, would probably exterminate any mutants but some might be able to hide their powers. Their mutation might also manifest as a way to think different, opening the possibility of a ‘good’ Dalek.

Mondasian Cybermen, if they are genetically similar to humans, could develop their own mutants. They might also convert human mutants, strengthening their ranks with their gifts.

As a clone race a mutant Sontaran could result in his entire clone batch being eliminated. If a mutant Sontaran was to prove his worth in battle his DNA would likely be used as the source for subsequent clones, resulting in more mutants with similar powers.

Their identity as mutants could allow different species to come together. This could result in an evil mutant empire or a progressive society that shows that universal peace is possible.

Posted in 12th Doctor, Setting, Time Heist | Leave a comment

ANNOUNCEMENT: THE LONG NIGHT

knighttrees After years of providing free roleplaying content I’ve written a Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition adventure called ‘The Long Night’ available to buy The Dungeon Masters Guild here.

If you’ve enjoyed my work on this blog please consider giving this a look.

‘The Long Night’ is designed to be a fun scenario to introduce players to the game and the setting of the Forgotten Realms.

Based in Dalelands the PCs are in a village celebrating Festival of Song: a series of Evenings with the Poets. Prepared by the author of “Salad for the Solitary” ... (F. Saunders). With ... pictures by Members of the National Academy of Design. Engraved by Bobbett and Hooper the annual Midsummer festival, which culminates with maidens entering the woods to be hunted by their suitors.

When neither the maidens or the suitors return the villagers turn to the PCs for help. They must venture into the woods to find that there is an unwelcome guest to the festivities.

Encouraging problem solving over hack & slash (although there is the potential for several fights) and a focus on interaction with those involved this can serve as a side adventure or the start of a whole campaign.

If you enjoy it let me know!

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“I am Clara Oswald, human. I have agreed to this memory wipe of my own free will. Do I really have to touch that worm thing?”

wormsI’ve discussed the use of the Memory Worm here but ‘Time Heist’ presents another way to use them in your campaign. One moment the Doctor and Clara are on Earth when the phone rings and when they answer they are suddenly on an alien world the memory of everything in between having been erased by the memory worms.

This is a great way to start an adventure, dropping the PCs straight into the action. Not only do they have to deal with whatever the current threat is they have to work out how they came to be in this situation.

You can use this as a way to force a group of different characters to work together. The fact that they are in the same situation will hopefully encourage them to bond and force them to work together.

Part of the new situation the PCs find themselves in could be dealing with their normal resources missing. For example in ‘Time Heist’ the Doctor finds that the TARDIS is missing. Recovering these items could be part of a larger quest, as they try to locate what is missing.

It is natural for PCs to resist this setup and rebel against any instructions they’ve been given. ‘Time Heist’ gets around this by having each member of the heist leave a recorded message saying that they agreed to this. This puts the idea in their heads that they must have had some cause to go along with what is being request of them.

When it is eventually revealed what happened during the missing time it is important that there is a convincing reason why the PCs agreed to have their memories deleted. It helps if they are given a reward for taking part, much as each member of the heist received something they wanted in the vault.

One possible, devious twist is that the PCs didn’t agree. The recorded message could easily be falsified. Be warned that if you do they will be less likely to accept the same scenario on good faith ever again.

So this the only time that the Doctor and Clara have found themselves in this type of situation but it could be a much more regular occurrence for a different group of characters. It could even be the basis for a campaign.

Each adventure could begin with a ragtag group awakening together, no memory of how they got there. Briefed on their mission by their mysterious employer they have to learn to trust each other and work out where they are. Once the mission is complete the employer drugs them, possibly removing their memories until the next mission.

You could intersperse these missions with scenes with the PCs living their own lives. If they come from different planets and time periods their employer obviously has some way to collect them and bring them together. Do they have fleeting memories of their missions between missions? Do they appear as dreams which could seem fantastical compared to their normal lives?

The identity of their employer could be an on going mystery, his identity slowly revealed over several adventures. The paranoid amongst the group might wonder if one of the other PCs is the employer. No one is above suspicion.

The group might not be bothered about who is doing this if the rewards are worthwhile. This works best if each character has a long term goal that they are trying to achieve. They could have a disease that they are trying to cure, a loved one they are trying to locate or simply want to be rich.

If they get a step closer to their goal at the completion of each mission then they will continue to participate. If they do reach their goal there could be other things that they want that their employer can help them achieve.

With this in mind the PCs could be ‘Suicide Squad’ style team. Each might be a dangerous criminal, promised that sentence will be reduced for each successfully completed mission. To keep them guessing knowledge of their actual crimes could have been erased, leaving them to wonder just what they did and how many years they have to work off.

Sooner or later you’ll have to answer the question of why the PCs are having their memories wiped. In ‘Time Heist’ it was so that they could avoid detection by the Teller by having very little guilt. Similarly the PCs could involve psychics who could access valuable information the PCs have in their heads, if it hadn’t been deleted.

The employer could be doing it to maintain secrecy. If the PCs are captured they’ll be unable to lead anyone to their employer. If their employer was trying to keep a low profile this would be a good way to minimise contact.

The memory wipes could be to ensure that the PCs can’t affect history by learning things they shouldn’t. This would justify the involvement of characters from history. No matter how much advanced technology their encounter or what they learn about their future they won’t be able to take this knowledge back with them.

This could be a good way to avoid continuity problems, allowing characters to encounter each other out of order without worrying about revealing too much about each others future relationships.

You don’t need to use memory worms for this premise. Hypnotism would work equally well (and could suggest the involvement of the Master or other Time Lord). Various different technology could be used to erase memories such as that used by the Time Lords on Jamie and Zoe (and could indicate that this is a CIA operation). Drugs could be used to induce amnesia (the same kind that Torchwood used).

The deletion of memory could be cover for a bigger switch. The players could be playing the roles of clones, copied from their original PCs. This would explain the gaps in their memory, to cover their artificial creation.

The original PCs might have consented, since they themselves would not be put in danger. Clones could be grown from genetic samples and memories selectively downloaded from the donor.

The cloned PCs might not be aware of the nature at first. If you want to give them clues they might note that they don’t have any scars or if they usually dye their hair they’ll find it is back to its natural colour. Similarly any tattoos or piercings could be gone. If you don’t want to be that obvious the clones’ new body could be suitably adjusted before they awake.

This means that if a clone does die during a mission a new one can be grown from the next mission. The other clones could recall their team mates death and realise that something isn’t right about the situation. What do they do once they work out they’ve been used by the originals?

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“If you ever need help with another bank heist…”

callmeHaving successfully masterminded a bank robbery in ‘Time Heist’ the Doctor does seem keen to team up with Psi on a future caper. This pursuit would appeal to his anti-authoritarian, anarchist streak not to mention he would relish the opportunity to match his wits against various security experts.

You could explore this in your own campaigns, either with the Doctor or your own PCs. There are plenty of sources of inspiration, from the ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ series of films and tv series such as ‘Hustle’ and ‘Leverage’.

The main characters in Doctor who aren’t usually motivated by financial gain but there are other reasons that they might rob a bank. ‘Time Heist’ illustrates how banks can also contain valuable items that the PCs or their allies might need.

The PCs could take the Robin Hood approach, stealing the money to give to the poor. This makes their actions less selfish. It is up to the PCs to decide how they reallocate the funds they have stolen.

The removal of funds from a bank could bankrupt government and criminal organisations or inconvenience villains. This is is similar to the James Bond movie ‘Casino Royale’ in which the secret agent attempts to beat a financier of a criminal organisation at poker so that he will have no choice but seek sanctuary with the intelligence service. This illustrates that if PCs want to depose fascist governments or stall alien invasions they could always try hitting them where it hurts, in their bank account.

Once they’ve decided to be bank robbers they have to select a target. The GM can design an adventure around a specific bank, or if they have time, present several possible targets. The bank’s security measures and where it is located should all present a challenge for the PCs.

Doctor Who characters shouldn’t be encouraged to use violence so simply raiding the bank shouldn’t be possible. This could be because the security guards are too well-armed or that the treasure is protected by security systems they can’t just destroy.

The bank of Karabraxos only allowed people access to the system if their movements were monitored, authenticated DNA and used breath to identify clients. Failure to pass these checks led to incineration. Further more the vaults were only accessible via drop boxes which were atomically sealed. The final safe guard was the Teller, able to psychically detect guilt.

Other banks may have similarly tight security using advanced technology. For example vaults might be kept out of phase with reality, protected by constantly patrolling robots or swarms of nanoprobes ready to disassemble intruders. Sensors could sweep all restricted areas for the slightest change in temperature or air displacement. Vaults could be kept constantly moving through a deadly labyrinth only accessible for limited periods.

Whatever security the bank has the PCs shouldn’t be able to defeat it simply by materialising their TARDIS in the vault. Either their piloting skills make this impossible or the security systems include something that make it TARDIS proof.

Their time machine could still be useful for the bank heist. As in ‘Time Heist’ it could allow them to be at the bank when it is most vulnerable. A natural disaster could know certain security systems off line, there could be a glitch in a newly installed system that was swiftly discovered but give the time travellers a window of opportunity to exploit or they could arrive during another bank robbery, using the distraction to cover their own heist.

If the PCs don’t have the necessary skills they could recruit others to help them. This could be a good way for a Time Lord PC to gain new companions. The Doctor at least seems to have a database he can access of people who might be useful.

One or more of the recruits could work inside the bank. The advantages of time travel allows the PCs to gain the loyalty of someone in the past, so that during the heist they will aide them. They could even plant someone, having them work at the bank for years just for this one job.

They could travel into the future, after the bank they’ve targeted has been closed. People might be more willing to reveal details of how the bank operated if they think no one can rob it now. Design schematics and other details of the bank could be matters of public record, giving the PCs everything they need to get in.

During the heist there should be complications. Something the PCs thought they knew could turn out to be wrong, there could be an unexpected event at the bank that requires the PCs to rethink their plan on the fly or a new time limit imposed (maybe an unexpected bank inspection right where the PCs are hiding).

This prevents things from becoming too predictable and illustrates that no matter how much plan and preparation the PCs they still have to be on their toes during the actual heist.

Banks aren’t the only targets the PCs might set their sights on. Casinos, art galleries and science labs all have high security and valuable items that sticky fingers characters might want to get their hands on.

To put a face to the opposition there could be one or more investigators or security experts who might discover the presence of the PCs and attempt to thwart their plans. This can raise the stakes, especially if the PCs know that they are being watched but their ego demands they go through with the heist anyway.

A classic cliché of the bank heists is when things appear to go wrong only for it to be retroactively revealed that the PCs planned for this eventuality. ‘Time Heist’ does something similar with the resurrection of Psi and Saibra.

This can be neatly simulated using Story Points. With a suitable explanation PCs can get out of a difficult situation to explain how they’ve prepared for this event. For example just as guards grab them it is revealed the PCs earlier programmed the power to shut down earlier, allowing them to escape as the lights turn off or it turns out that the PCs arranged for shapeshifters to pose as them and that is who the guards have grabbed.

If the PCs do get away with their target there could still be some loose ends. Someone they recruited could get greedy and attempt to steal the valuables or they could be compromised and reveal the PCs location to the authorities. The PCs might have to find a way to fence the stolen items or need to rescue anyone who got captured.

You can always play these scenarios from the other side, with the PCs having to stop a robbery. This can be challenging enough but what if they have to deal with a renegade Time Lord who makes theft his specialty?

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“The Teselecta. A Doctor in a Doctor suit.”

doctorinadoctorsuitIn ‘The Wedding of River Song’ The Doctor knows that history says he dies by the Lake of Silencio. It is a fixed point but he really doesn’t want to die. So the Doctor cheats history.

Borrowing the shapeshifting Teselecta from ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ he allows the suit to be shot by River Song, while he is safely inside, shrunken down and with the TARDIS ready to whisk him away before they give the suit a viking funeral.

What we don’t see if what happens between the Doctor acquiring the suit and his trip to Utah. While he had possession of the teselecta it would be a shame not to make use of it. Not only does it give him some degree of protection but it can shapeshift.

In theory this allows the Doctor to pose as an earlier incarnation. This would allow him to go back and visit some old companions wearing a face they would recognise and avoid any possible problems of them meeting a later incarnation out of order.

This could lead to adventures in which the Doctor has to pretend to be an earlier incarnation. Can he remember how he used to behave? Meanwhile his companions might realise that something is different about ‘their’ Doctor. Will they discover the truth?

The Doctor could cross his own time stream to try and tie up some loose ends on his existing adventures. All he need do is wait until his past incarnation has stepped away and take their place for a short time, perhaps recruiting the aide of the current companions. Just as ‘Time of the Angels’ had a future incarnation of the 11th Doctor briefly appear this might be almost seamless.

One such loose end might be to familiarise River Song with his previous incarnations. He knows he met her during his 10th incarnation and at this point knows that this is his last incarnation (or so he thinks). The 11th Doctor must therefore think that in order for her to know other versions of himself she must need to meet earlier incarnations but that would disrupt his personal timeline.

With the Teselecta all he has to do is retrieve her from the Storm Cage wearing his past faces. As long as River doesn’t look too closely into his eyes she can have adventures with his earlier incarnations.

A later incarnation of the Doctor might get the same idea. This could explain the presence of the curator in ‘Day of The Doctor’ and his talk of revisiting a few favourite faces, hence why he looks like an older 4th incarnation.

It should be remembered as well that the Doctor isn’t restricted to impersonating himself. He could assume the form of a companion or other ally, aiding his younger self in adventures while carrying out his own agenda.

The Teselecta could allow him to engage in missions behind enemy lines, where his appearance would not normally allow him to go. He could gain valuable information about Ice Warriors, Sontarans, Cybermen, Draconians and more and sabotage their plans without their knowing.

Again the Doctor might decide to give his earlier incarnations some help. The 11th Doctor had already decided he was going to cheat history so why not see how far he can push his luck? He could be the apparently incompetent guard or henchmen that made it possible to steal vital components, escape prisons and infiltrate secret headquarters.

What if the Justice Department or other agencies learnt what the Doctor had done? The Doctor has a near legendary status and anyone who looked like him could benefit from that.

Players could take the role of crewing a Teselecta designed to adopt the various incarnations of the Doctor. It might take multiple people to pull off the sheer agility, genius and charm that the Time Lord possess.

Multiple Teselectas could travel together, taking the form of companions appropriate to the Doctor the other Teselecta is impersonating. This would help reinforce their story, as the ‘companions’ can convince others that it really is the Doctor.

This allows players to take the role of the Doctor and his companions without playing the characters themselves. Further more they can change identities from adventure to adventure, based on what is most appropriate.

This could further increase the legend of the Doctor. To the galactic community it could really seem as if the Doctor is everywhere and every when, always ready to save the day. This could explain why some enemies believe they’ve met the Doctor when he has no knowledge of this encounter (such as the cybermen believing they met the Doctor and Jamie on Planet 14 in ‘The Invasion’).

It might be necessary for someone to try this ploy if it seems as if the Doctor has really died. To prevent evil in the universe exploiting his absence brave pilots may volunteer to convince everyone that he is still alive. This mission could be classified, forcing them to give up their own identities forever.

An interesting idea for a character is one that always stays inside the Teselecta. It would provide them with a degree of protection and their companions would always wonder what they really look like.

A malfunction could prevent the Teselecta from changing shape or changing into a new random appearance each time they arrive in a new time period (which may or may not help them blend in). Damage that would have killed the person, if not for their Teselecta, could trigger a physical transformation. This could convince others that they are a Time Lord.

The pilot might have no choice but to remain in the Teselecta. With limited supplies and energy resources they know that the suit will be their tomb. Do they spend time trying to find a way out or do they accept their fate and make the best of the time they have left?

All of these ideas can be switched around so that the PCs are the ones who encounter a disguised Teselecta. The odd behaviour of the ‘Doctor’ could tip them off that something isn’t right but is the user of the Teselecta doing it for the right reasons?

Posted in 11th Doctor, The Wedding of River Song | Leave a comment

“What if there was nothing? What if there never was anything?”

handThe twist at the end of ‘Listen’ is that there never was a mysterious unknown race. Having spent too long travelling alone the Doctor invented monsters to explain his fear of the dark. It is probably important to note that this is only Clara’s theory and the Doctor never confirms this.

The Doctor might have come to the wrong conclusion but there are still some odd things here that could be the basis for further investigations or adventures.

The Doctor’s dream of a hand reaching out from under the bed is eventually revealed to be due to Clara. He retains just enough memory of this incident and so linked it to the historical records of other people having the same dream.

Clara states that everyone has that dream and the Doctor wants to know why. This question is never answered. If only the Doctor’s dream has a source in reality why does everyone else experience the same thing?

One possible, but silly, answer is that it is Clara every time. We know that she was fragmented, spread throughout history. This was supposed to be so that she could save the Doctor at various points in his life and that sometimes she’d spend a whole lifetime in that period, so she’d be in the right place at the right time, or there only for brief moments.

If Clara’s potential future was already within her then brief fragments might have materialised, reaching out from under the bed. Once she’d carried out this act the fragment would vanish, leaving very confused people.

An important fact might be that these incidents occur throughout human history. It could be that the monster under the bed is being recalled from race memory. This means that that somewhere in humanities past this really did happen. Finding this could be the source of a new adventure.

Being half-human the Doctor might really have had the same dream. Thanks to time travel his relating this event to Clara and seeking its source leads to a closed time loop. In short he creates his own explanation.

Could it be that the Doctor is the source of the nightmares? We know that he is mildly telepathic and the TARDIS has shown it is able to interact with minds around it. What if the Doctor was spreading his nightmare to every time period that he travels to? This would explain why it happens throughout history.

The nightmare might still be part of a race memory, if the Doctor is some how the progenitor of the human race. Humanity could literally be his children, which would explain his affection and protectiveness of them. This could be something that occurred in the youthful past of his 1st incarnation or something that will happen later.

While this could come about the old fashioned way ‘Evolution of the Daleks’ indicates it is possible for the Doctor to share his Time Lord DNA with humans. It is therefore not much of a leap to think he could share his Human DNA with primitive man, perhaps ensuring that humanity would develop as time demanded.

Giving how advanced Time Lords are is it possible that the Doctor is responsible for creating humans? Could they be some form of Matrix simulation brought into reality or an extension of the Land of Fiction? The Doctor might have used himself as a template for their design, explaining why they look Gallifreyan and share his nightmare.

If the Doctor is responsible for creating Earth then it would be a perfect place for him to hide from his people. They’d have no record of it and there would plenty for him to explore. It would also mean that everything humanity does is a direct result of his actions.

The other angle to explore, since there wasn’t a monster, is who wrote the message ‘Listen’ in the TARDIS? Clara’s theory is that the Doctor wrote it and forgot about it, which she indicates is not out of character for him. If this is true it is worrying.

Deep Breath’ had the Doctor postulating that his new face was a way for his mind to send him a message. ‘Beast Below’ similarly indicated that sometimes his mind moves so quickly he has trouble keeping up and understanding his own actions.

All this indicates that while there is a surface personality there is something deeper going on. A core Doctor who makes connections, carrying out plans and performing actions without the surface personality knowing.

This could explain why each incarnation of the Doctor seems more and more absent-minded. The core barely needs to keep the surface personality aware of what is happening. It is only the companions presence, questioning what is happening, that requires the information to be filtered to the surface personality.

When the Doctor is alone this personality could sleep. This might explain several times in which the Doctor is unaware of how much time has passed since he has last saw his companion. The only explanation he can give is that he was ‘distracted’.

Into the Dalek’ gives further evidence that the 12th Doctor is not always aware of what is reality and what is fantasy. He introduces Colonel Morgan Blue as Journey Blue’s uncle but can’t remember if that is something that he just made up.

The impression given is that the 12th Doctor is just try to make sense of what is happening. His core mind ensures that he is doing what is needed and is processing what is happening but the personality just floats on the periphery.

This would explain why the Doctor doesn’t plan much or at least can’t explain what his plan is. He can only say that he’ll do something very clever. This is because he is dimly aware that his mind is doing all the hard work, requiring little input from ‘him’.

If this process does continue to escalate or the Doctor spends extended periods alone would his personality shutdown altogether? Could subsequent incarnations just be mute drones saving the universe using a mind far in advance of any other life form but with no discernable personality?

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“He can’t just run away crying all the time if he wants to join the army.”

barnAfter the previous episode ‘Robot of Sherwood’ gave us a mythical version of the Doctor’s origin ‘Listen’ gives us a much more humble glimpse at the early life of the Time Lord.

Due to the safe guards being removed Clara manages to pilot the TARDIS to the same barn seen in ‘Day of The Doctor’ but at a much earlier point. Here the child who will one day be the Doctor cries in the night.

Two adults enter, a man and a woman. The man has no sympathy for the child while the woman tells him that he doesn’t have to be alone and he can come inside with the other children.

There is much that is left unclear in this scene. The only thing that is confirmed is that this is the same barn that the War Doctor will activate the Moment in. I touched briefly on the possible location of the barn here and my feeling that it wasn’t on Gallifrey.

At the time the sky was swarming with Daleks, where as the War Doctor takes some time to walk to the barn. The colour of the sky also is different to what we’ve seen of Gallifrey. It could still be very close to the home world, explaining both why the Doctor might be there as a child and why the War Doctor would choose to use it to activate the Moment.

With the earlier visit to a children’s home it is hard not to get the impression that the Doctor was at an orphanage, especially with the reference to other boys. This would explain the unknown man’s lack of patience with the boy.

This wouldn’t quite fit with what we know of the Doctor’s family. The 2nd Doctor says that they sleep in his mind and various Doctor’s have made references to aunts not to mention the books and audios that give him cousins and brothers.

It could be that the 2nd Doctor was referencing his own children and grand children when he mentioned family. Mentions of other family members could just be the Doctor being fanciful or referring to people at the orphanage who he thought of as family.

The 7th Doctor in ‘The Curse Of Fenric’ seems to be uncertain if he has family. It could be that he was abandoned as an infant and taken into care, leaving him to wonder about his origins. Later they might have analysed his DNA and found he was half-human, further adding to the mystery.

Alternatively something could have happened to his family, requiring the Doctor to go to the orphanage. In the book ‘Lungbarrow’ his entire family is placed into suspended animation and the house closed off. While what is shown here doesn’t match the events in this episode something similar could have happened.

It doesn’t need to be an orphanage however. This could be the point in the Doctor’s life where he has been taken from his parents so that his training can begin. It would make sense for them to determine which children were best suited for being a Time Lord and who would join the military. The adults could therefore be teachers and carers.

They might also be servants and the barn is just outside the Doctor’s house. If he has a large family the boys could simply be a reference to his many brothers. Another possibility is that the mysterious adults were the Doctor’s parents.

At this point in the Doctor’s life it appears as if it is quite common for him to run away, crying. The cause of his tears is implied to be fear. The reason given for his exile is that he doesn’t want the others to hear him suggesting he feels shame about what he is experiencing.

The idea of the Doctor running away would seem to foreshadow the Doctor’s later escape from his world. As opposed to the noble reason given in ‘Robot of Sherwood’ what if the Doctor fled because he was afraid? Was it something on Gallifrey that scared him or because of something that he knew would happen there (maybe he foresaw the events of the Time War)?

Clara’s speech to the Doctor about fear is indicated to have a powerful effect on the Doctor. It could be that without her presence his life would have turned out very differently. For example he might have eventually fled into the wilderness never becoming a Time Lord.

Alternatively he might have joined the military, if that was the only life available to him. He might have given up thinking and feeling to numb the fear. It is likely that this alternative version of the Doctor would have received a proper name, for example Maxill. Could the officer we encounter by that name in ‘Arc of Infinity’ be the 6th incarnation of that Doctor?

Knowing that he doesn’t need to be ashamed of his fear we can presume that the Doctor buckled down and managed to become a Time Lord. It has previously been established the Doctor didn’t do very well academically so it isn’t surprising to find that it took a lot of effort just for him to scrape by.

We might also interpret this as a revelation that the boy that Clara would never have been a Time Lord. There have been previous incidents in which other Time Lords have claimed they are former class mates or teachers of the Doctor but what if that is impossible?

Could the Doctor have assumed the identity of Theta Sigma, maybe passing himself off as a new regeneration of the original to explain his different appearance. He might have had to do this to gain access to the Capital in order to steal the TARDIS.

This might be why the Doctor hides his true name. If the truth were to come out then he would loose everything. There could be a dark secret behind just how he did steal the identity of another Time Lord.

These speculations about the Doctor’s past can not only shape how you play the character but also give you ideas about new Timelord PCs and their backgrounds. Were they similarly given the choice between Time Lord or soldier? Did they get to decide or was the choice made for them?

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“Pioneer time traveller. Rode the first of the great time shots. They were supposed to fire him into the middle of next week.”

804_004736During their search for monsters under the bed in ‘Listen’ the Doctor and Clara encounter Orson Pink. A 100 years into Clara’s future he is a descendant of Danny Pink. The reason that they found him at the end of time is that he was part of a time travel experiment and he became stranded.

This gives us some hints at how humanity develops time travel. While an exact date isn’t given it must be around 2114. This puts this around the same time as ‘The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People’ and ‘Nightmare of Eden’.

This does seem very early for humanity to develop time travel but the key could be that the Doctor calls these time shots and that the aim was sending him into the next week. At this stage it is possible that they could only send someone forward in time.

Compared to the TARDIS this is much more simplistic and could just take advantage of the time dilation that occurs during space travel. From the design of Orson’s vessel it probably needed to propel itself through space.

The ship seems intact but not in a state to take off. This suggests that it needs to be moving to work. If it can only move forward in time then Orson would have no way to go home, again indicating why it was only supposed to be short jump.

Later Orson indicates that at least one of his great grandparents were time travellers. This means that this knowledge wasn’t kept secret. Could this ancestor be responsible for starting development on the time shot? Was Orson chosen for the mission based on this history or is it coincidental?

The fact that this is the first great time shots suggests that there would be more. We must first decide whether this was due to the Doctor’s intervention. Since the Doctor hadn’t yet rescued Orson it is likely that the time travel experiments continued regardless. Of course Orson’s rescue could have been a predestined part of the timeline and if they hadn’t returned him then the experiments would have stopped.

How did the world react when Orson didn’t appear on the target date? They must have waited, expecting him to appear at some point because they knew he was moving forward in time. How long before they gave up hope and what convinced them to try again?

We never learn why Orson overshot his target. Was it a miscalculation, sabotage or outside influence that caused him to hurtle so far forward into the future?

Were the subsequent time shot experiments any more successful? Was there always only one crewmember or did they send teams? If they did successfully reappear how did the public react? If they went missing as well where did they end up?

Hide’ also features a time travel pioneer, Hila Tacorian, from a few hundred years after 1974. A few would indicate it is later than at least 2074 so it could be around 2174 or later. This would place it after ‘The Dalek Invasion Of Earth’ which would explain the delay in the time shot experiments.

Orson makes it clear that he wants to go home. It isn’t entirely clear where the Doctor does drop him off, although Orson appears to be happy at his destination. Did he listen to Clara and avoid time travel or did he make his return known and prevent similar mistakes.

Would the Doctor want humanity to develop time travel at this early stage? Previously the Time Lords would restrict this type of technology and the Doctor is very familiar with how time travel technology could be misused. If he wanted to slow their progress he might not have taken Orson to the write era.

The Doctor does seem aware of the time shots so he might not take any steps to prevent it, as it is part of established history.

There is the question of what advantage moving forward in time can give you if you can’t go back. It could be that it is just for exploration or a desire to see what the future might bring. The pioneers ensure that they will  be alive to see things far ahead of their natural life span.

The technology could be useful to avoid periods of time. For example a time shot could have been used prior to ‘The Dalek Invasion Of Earth’ to hope that by the time they re-emerge the aliens would be defeated.

Since they have no idea what the future holds those using time shots could find themselves in the midst of an invasion. Their resources and relative lack of fatigue could be vital in ensuring the freedom of their planet.

The goal of the time shots might be to keep leaping forward until humanity has mastered the secret of travelling into the past. The pioneer can then return home, with the knowledge of how to progress their experiments.

This might result in a paradox, since the knowledge will change history and thus mean that the pioneer couldn’t have got the information in the first place. PCs might have to repair the damage that has been done.

Once they gain the ability to go backwards they can make the return trip, potentially landing in different eras. They could be persuaded by the Time Agency to prevent disruption to the past.

A campaign could be based around the exploits of a team of pioneers. They can travel in time but only going forward. Making short jumps they can find out what has happened in the intervening years, gather resources and ensure that everything is left in safe hands before they make their next big jump forward. What happens if these pioneers should bump into themselves coming the other way?

Once humanity has mastered time travel the PCs could help discover what happened to the missing pioneers. Orson and Hila are accounted for but what about the rest? They could still be out there, stranded and awaiting rescue.

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“Is this what you’re like when I not….?”

husbandspromoThe Husbands of River Song’, written by Steven Moffat, opens on Christmas day in the year 5343 on the planet Mendorax Dellora. Due to a case of mistaken identity the Doctor is summoned to save the life of King Hydroflax by his wife, River Song. For once River doesn’t recognise the Doctor and he is caught up in her scheme which involves assassination and a diamond heist.

This is a Christmas romp putting the Doctor in the unique position of being a sidekick in River’s adventure. There is plenty of danger provided by a giant robot body with a habit of stealing peoples’ heads and later a luxury space cruiser whose passengers and staff are all guilty of genocide with lots of laughs along the way.

Yet at its heart this is an examination of the relationship between River and the Doctor as he gets to see how she is when he isn’t around and what she really thinks of him.

Spoilers From Here On In!

River Song has, for the most part, had the upper hand in her relationship with the Doctor. She knew more about him and how to play him. Even in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ River had the Doctor at her mercy when she was programmed to kill him. In ‘The Husbands of River Song’ she is vulnerable because she doesn’t recognise the 12th Doctor.

He knew that she was a brilliant, determined woman before but here he gets to see a more ruthless side to her. As part of her plan to recover a precious diamond she has married King Hydroflax and paid a surgeon to decapitate him so she can make of with his head. The fact that King Hydroflax is dictator who literally eats his enemies alive doesn’t make her actions much better.

Shortly after the Doctor finds out River is also married to her handsome henchman Alphonse, although she wiped his memory of the wedding. River also mentions she has had wives in the past.

It becomes clear this is about the Doctor suspecting that River has just been using him. Their bizarre relationship, which has tied time into knots and warped reality, could all just be part of a confidence trick. Especially as he learns that River refers to him as the ‘Damsel’ because he needs rescuing so often and that she borrows his TARDIS without his knowing.

Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston play all of this brilliantly, with rapid fire exchanges that are reminiscent of the finest screwball comedies. Capaldi captures the Doctors dismay at not being recognised, uncomfortableness around River kissing her other husband and then his glee at playing dumb, particularly his over the top reaction to the interior of the TARDIS.

For her part Alex Kingston makes River incredibly competent and someone that is used to being the smartest one in the room. It is to her credit that she doesn’t make River look foolish when she doesn’t see that the Doctor is right in front of her (even when he tells her). As we see as far as River knew there were only 11 Doctors and no more. So confident was she in this information that she couldn’t predict that there would be more.

The supporting cast also elevates the story, with Greg Davies as a perfect pantomime villain even when he is reduced to just a head. Matt Lucas is also great as the bumbling Nardole who  ends up having his head put on the giant robot body by its onboard AI. This leads to a very funny gag in which it appears Nardole is pointing a gun at his head when it is in fact just the robot body threatening him.

The story moves at a quick pace, with the River and the Doctor escaping in the TARDIS with the starship Harmony and Redemption where genocide comes to relax. While they wait for the buyer of the diamond the Doctor notices Rivers sadness, which turns out to be because her diary is almost full signalling the approaching end of her life.

The buyers turn out to be worshippers of King Hydroflax putting River and the Doctor into deep water as the cultists fill the dining room. With the headless robot suit seeking the Doctor’s head as a replacement they plan to use River as bait to draw him out (unaware he is standing right next to her).

It is here we see another side to their relationship as River states that while she loves the Doctor she doesn’t believe that he loves her. She realises that he isn’t so small or ordinary that he could fall in love with a mortal, something which harks back to Missy’s speech in ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ about how Time Lords transcend simple concepts of love.

This is another stand out performance for Alex Kingston conveying the anguish and tragedy of River’s love for the Doctor but her utter defiance in the face of death. She is not dependent on him and has obviously lived through many perils where the Doctor didn’t rescue her and she doesn’t expect him to.

This leads to a beautiful moment in which, at the height at her rant that the Doctor doesn’t love her, that River sees the 12th Doctor for who he is. That recognition plays in silence until the Doctor acknowledges the connection between the two with a ‘hello sweetie.”

We get a reminder of just how brilliant River is when it is revealed the reason she set up the meeting on the starship was because she knew it was destined to be destroyed. Her foreknowledge is used perfectly and it explains just why she was happy to rub shoulders with world killers, because she knew they were all going to die.

After trying and failing to save the ship (and competing over who is going to sacrifice themselves) the time travellers use the TARDIS to escape to the planet Darillium, with its singing towers. Both the Doctor and River know that this is said to be where they spend their last night together (as revealed in ‘Silence In The Library’ and touched upon in the mini-episode ‘First Night/Last Night’).

Perhaps influenced by the events of ‘Hell Bent’ the 12th Doctor goes out of his way to ensure there is restaurant to take River to while she is unconscious. He even gives her the sonic screwdriver (to replace the sonic trowel she uses here) that will download her mind as time demands. This seems a conscious decision to bring their relationship to an end for the good of the web of time.

This is a very touching scene as the couple are serenaded by the singing towers. A geographical feature, unable to acknowledge their existence nonetheless provides something of beauty. In their presence the Doctor explains to River that there is no way around this moment. Her fate can’t be undone and there is no loop hole to exploit. This is their last night together.

However, on Darillium, a night lasts 24 years.

A caption assures the viewer that the Doctor and River lived happily ever after, implying that they spent the next 24 years together finally acknowledging the love they hold for each other now having reached a point in their respective timelines where they are equals.

This was a wonderful Christmas episode. The comedy was pitched just right with events being farcical but never becoming a parody. There was still a real danger to the characters and they used brilliance to come out on top but what made this so good was that it concluded the River Song story in a way that doesn’t take anything away from what has gone before (or after in this case).

Alex Kingston and Peter Capaldi have real chemistry. They convey so much of their character personal and emotional journey within the 60 minute span of the episode it is a shame that it is unlikely we’ll see more of this pairing. River has never seemed more perfectly matched than with the 12th Doctor and it is easy to imagine them spending 24 years together.

While not about Christmas the episode nonetheless captures the festive feel, opening on the snowy colony filled with carollers to the message of hope for the future. This is one of the best Christmas episodes for a while (although I have a soft spot for ‘A Christmas Carol’).

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“TARDIS telepathic interface. You’re in mental contact with the TARDIS. So don’t think anything rude.”

jellyListen’ introduces a new way to pilot the TARDIS. The Doctor exposes a section of the console, revealing a jellylike substance. This is the telepathic interface, allowing Clara to put her fingers into it and form a link with the TARDIS.

This allows the TARDIS to extrapolate her entire timeline, from her birth to death. The fact that will be able to work out her future, information that Clara doesn’t have, indicates that there is more involved in the process than just a telepathic link.

It could be that the TARDIS is getting a better idea about who Clara is and her decision making process. Being very advanced the TARDIS could run simulations involving its own knowledge of Earth’s future history to work out what path Clara’s life might take.

This allows a certain margin of error, as the TARDIS is just making an educated guess. If there are multiple possible timelines this interface would also decide which path is followed. For example Clara is currently romantically interested in Danny Pink. Her current path would seem to lead her to have children with him that would eventually lead to Orson Pink. Events after this might mean that timeline never comes into existence but for the moment the TARDIS can follow that outcome.

Alternatively this could be akin to biodata, where everyone has a complete record of their timeline stored within them. It could be that people do possess this knowledge but on a subconscious level which the telepathic link accesses. This could be how people predict the future or feel that they were ‘meant’ to do certain things.

The Doctor indicates that the telepathic link could display the thoughts of the subject on to the screens. It is therefore possible that a persons past and future could be displayed. Using extrapolation this needn’t be from the subjects POV, allowing the image to be more akin to film recording, showing the subject and the everything around them. If a subject does see their own future this could change their actions.

The next step is for the Doctor to remove safeguards and navigation. This is to allow the telepathic interface to make the decisions about where and when the TARDIS goes. Potentially this can take the TARDIS into dangerous or forbidden locations.

The TARDIS sounds different while flying in this manner. Likely the TARDIS is carrying out a lot of procedures automatically while navigating and following the safeguards. The flight is smooth and quick but potentially the TARDIS could get into difficult situations it would otherwise avoid.

On the first flight Clara gets distracted, her thoughts of Danny leading them to land to a West Country Children’s Home in Gloucester in the mid-90’s. Clara has never been to this building nor does she know that Danny Pink grew up there.

It would appear that not only can the TARDIS follow her own timeline but anyone whose timeline intersects with her. Potentially this could be used to follow the timeline of anyone who has ever met the subject or will do in the future.

While not able to pilot the TARDIS into her own past she did locate the event they were looking for, the monster under the bed. Again there is no way for her to known this and it isn’t clear how the TARDIS could extrapolate an event without having contact with Danny.

It is possible that the TARDIS is constantly scanning those in the vicinity when it lands. It could therefore get a sense of Danny’s history when the time ship landed in Coal Hill school. It might also be peeking ahead, to when it has access to Orson Pink, and using his timeline to find this event.

Another theory is that the monster under the bed is red herring since in one interpretation there never was anything there. The real reason it brings the Doctor and Clara here is because the encounter is necessary to put the idea in Rupert Pink’s mind to become Dan the soldier man so that he can eventually meet Clara.

Just as the TARDIS doesn’t always take the Doctor where he wants to go but rather where he needs to be this is another example of the vessel ignoring the pilot and doing what is best for them.

The next flight using the telepathic circuits is carried out by the Doctor when he is alone. He explains that Clara left a trace which brought him to Orson. This is even more impressive, since history would have no record of what happened to him (unless he revealed his fate when he’d been returned to his old time). In addition Clara isn’t present and a mere trace leads the Doctor to the end of time.

There are two possible reasons for this. It could be that the TARDIS is still fixated on Danny Pink’s timeline due to Clara’s distraction. It has extrapolated his future and his descendants. Secondly it is Clara’s timeline and the TARDIS knows that Orson is her great grand child.

In both scenarios it goes beyond the rules that were previously established. The TARDIS should have only calculated her timeline from birth to death, not anything beyond that. Either the Doctor was wrong or a 100 years into the future Clara is still alive, thus Orson falls within her own timeline (but then he doesn’t seem to know her).

It could be that meeting Orson is what changes Clara to form a relationship with Danny. Indeed she seems pretty sure that he is related to her, thus becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the final flight Clara manages to take the Doctor into his own past. It would appear that it is the safeguards that prevent the TARDIS from flying into Gallifrey’s past. Did the Doctor know this or could this have been a way for him to change the outcome of the Time War?

This flight is a lot more difficulty, possibly because of the destination or because the Doctor was unconscious (or both). Clara might have got luck and there was a greater chance that the TARDIS could have been destroyed going into its own past.

The telepathic interface means that non-Time Lords can fly the TARDIS, as long as they follow timelines. This could be akin to ‘Quantum Leap’ where the PCs explore different eras within their own lives. Occasionally they might encounter important moments in their life.

This method could also be used to explore the past and future of NPCs. This could be useful for investigations, where the NPCs isn’t talking or can’t remember. Rather than forcing the bad guy to tell them where he planted a bomb or who helped him escape a prison planet the PCs can use the telepathic interface to go see for themselves.

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