The Victorian era is a perfect match for Doctor Who. It is often said that the Doctor dresses in clothes that are reminiscent of that era, at least he did until his 9th incarnation (but even he dressed for the period as shown in one of the old photos Clive found), but so is his basic nature.
I observed earlier that the Doctor in this story is a good match for the investigators of the time, using his intelligence to ferret out evil. Heroes of the time were usually outsiders, the talents that set them apart from polite society also made them formidable opponents.
This fits the description of most Time Lords and their companions. Being from another era their behaviour might make them appear eccentric or uncivilised. Even aliens who are at least a little humanoid can pass as a native found in a distant corner of the Congo.
Much of the central ethos of Doctor Who can trace its routes to Victorian literature. The main characters face all challenges using their natural abilities. They might have honed their skills but they overcome adversity with the same qualities that all men might possess and do it with bravery and a sense of decency.
During this period science was held in high esteem. There was a great curiosity and excitement about what could be achieved. It is a golden age for mad scientists, trying to make their name by doing the impossible.
Adventures could be centred around new inventions and their uses. Evil geniuses might create death rays or armies of steam powered robots to threaten the public but even the most noble of scientists can find their inventions put to misuse, such as a stolen flying machine being used to bomb major cities.
It wasn’t just the scientific field that was being explored. Enlightened scholars were holding séances or examining photos of fairies taken by little girls. Spiritualism, a belief in the spirit world, gained peak membership as people wanted to believe that their was some thing more than the physical world that they could perceive.
This open mindedness can lead to some thrilling discoveries in the world of Who. Investigators could stumble across stranded aliens, monsters lurking in the shadows or open a gateway for creatures from the vortex.
Exploration was another area which captured the public imagination. Adventurers travelled to all corners of planet, determined to discover all there was to find. Large sections of the world were unknown, anything could have been found. This fits perfectly with the TARDIS taking the Doctor to new lands each week, never quite knowing what is outside the door.
You only have to look at Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Lost World’ for an example of how you can take advantage of this in Doctor Who. Remote locations are ideal to place otherworldly entities, the isolation both confining them and protecting the outside world.
Could the Silurians have kept a vault in the Amazon jungle, the dinosaurs kept inside escaping to once again walk the earth? Might aliens have established a colony in some remote part of Earth, only for an explorer to discover them? What will the aliens do to protect their secrets? How will mankind treat these strange beings?
Even without an actual alien threat explorers will encounter plenty of danger, both from natives of the area to conflicts with fame hungry rivals. What will they do to be the first to reach the summit of a mountain and the armour of a long dead Martian warrior as their own?
Let us not forget that HG Well’s ‘War of the Worlds’ occurred during the Victorian age. The fear of ‘foreign devils’ was common at the time and invaders from out of space just takes that one step further.
It is hard to think of any Dr Who monster that wouldn’t be right at home in the genre. Zygons lurking at Loch Ness, trying to cover up sightings of their Skarasen, the Cybermen using a human pawn to offer the miracles of conversion to veterans of the Crimean war, Orgons abducting ladies of the night off the foggy streets for their masters, the Daleks, to conduct their insane experiments.
London is the perfect home base for any adventures during this era. Ancient, bustling with people and shrouded in fog. Anything and everything could be happening along its waterways, back alleys and behind gentlemen club doors.
It is the perfect place for secrets. There are murders to investigate, conspiracies to uncover and inhuman things hiding in the shadows of the ancient city. Bill posters and the daily newspaper keeps characters abreast of general gossip but to know what is really going on they’ll need to maintain their own intelligence network of street urchins and beggars.
The rise and fall of the English Empire, along with the other major historical events of the time, are a good way to differentiate the periods that a time travel might visit. Player characters could have several adventures with a varied feel but still retaining that essentially Victorian atmosphere.
Those wishing for an extended visit could base a whole campaign in the era. Their time ship may have become stranded or a Time Lord might be exiled to the period, much as the Doctor was trapped in the 70s (or was it the 80s?)
A group could even run adventures without a time lord, focusing on a explorers club, its members running into every aspect of the Who mythos. Fans of the New series might like to chart the early days of the Torchwood organisation.
‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ shows how to combine the two genres. Focus of the Victorian genre and sprinkle it with elements of the science fiction. The origin of the villain and the source his power might be futuristic but the majority of the plot takes place within the confines of a Victorian adventure.