I’ve recently been reading Timelink, written by Jon Preddle and published by Telos publishing. Describing itself as an unofficial and unauthorised guide to Doctor Who continuity I think these two volumes would be an invaluable aide for anyone running a Doctor Who roleplaying guide.
I should state that this is not a replacement for other books that have set out to provide a time line for the series such as ‘AHistory’ by Mad Norwegian Press or BBC’s ‘Time Travellers Almanac.’
There is a time line in Volume One and is just under a hundred pages, covering the television series, the Sarah Jane Smith Adventures and Torchwood. The entries are brief but indicate which episode provided the date used.
The big draw is the various essays, untangling the continuity of the long running series. Chapters are dedicated to working out the order in which the Dalek and Cybermen stories occur but he tackles the big questions such as ‘What decade are the UNIT stories set in’ and ‘Is Susan really the Doctor’s grand daughter.’
Jon Preddle supports all of his arguments with lines of dialogue from the series itself. He explores every interpretation of what we are shown and what is said, offering up several possibilities before coming to his conclusions.
In doing so he has provided us with a clearer picture of some basic details of Doctor Who that everyone playing the game should know. Right from the start Chapter 1 collects all of the information provided in the series about how time and the universe works.
Examples are given of time loops, time blips, parallel time lines and the manipulation of time. There are lists of the various other dimensions that have been encountered or mentioned and a collection of every major galaxy, constellation, spatial region and nebula. Although only a few lines are given for each they are a great reminder of the diverse locations that adventures can be set in.
Gallifrey is explored, showing how their culture developed, the role that Rassilon played in shaping their culture and what being a Time Lord actually entails. He also does a good job of establishing ‘when’ Gallifrey existed.
One of the big draws will be the chapters relating to the Doctor himself. His age has fluctuated over the years, especially in the new series when he dropped himself back down to 900 years, and mentioned so many unseen adventures that this was always going to be tricky.
Using the information from the series Jon Preddle presents an interesting take on the Doctor, revealing how old he was when he first obtained the TARDIS, when he went into exile and more importantly, why.
While he certainly possess a lot if of imagination to tie everything together these aren’t flights of fancy. By using lines from the show itself his theories are not only convincing but plausible.
And that is just volume one.
Volume two is slightly bigger and deals with the continuity of each episode, up to ‘The Next Doctor’, although the last few 10th Doctor specials do get a brief of their continuity. These aren’t episode guides, if you want a run down of behind the scene information or details of the alien races encountered you should look to the excellent ‘About Time’ series of books from Mad Norwegian Publishing.
Instead Jon Preddle lavishes the same attention to continuity as he did in the essays of Volume One. Each episode break down provides us with all the important dates referred to, how language is used, observations and a time line for the events in the episode itself.
This gets particularly interesting in multiple Doctor episodes where Preddle attempts to work out where the story fits for each incarnation of the Doctor. He also does a good job of making sense of ‘Trial of the Timelord’, what with its future companions and Doctors.
I brought both volumes together and couldn’t imagine having to choose only one. Both books refer to each other throughout, whether is an essay directing you to an entry in volume two or an episode summary referring you back to an essay in volume one to show how the information was established.
If you are looking for a wealth of information about the various aspects of the Doctor Who universe you’ll want volume one. If you want to be able to quickly obtain the dates and times that occur in a particular episode you’ll want volume two. Chances are you’ll going to want both.
I have long been a supporter of the Doctor Who books, gleefully incorporating the information they provided about the Doctor, his past and Gallifrey itself into my personal canon. Timelinks has for the first time not only challenged what we should accept to be true in the Doctor Who universe but also provided plenty of new exciting ideas that were there all along.
One of my personal favourite pieces in the volume one is the theory that each Time Lord has their own unique ‘super power’ such as Romana’s ability to try on various forms before regenerating or K’Anpo, from ‘Planet of The Spiders’ ability to project an image of himself that he later regenerates into. Incorporating this idea into your game could lead to some interesting new traits.
Which is why I think Timelink is a great source for running a Doctor Who game. Not only does it give you accurate information about the times and places you can set adventures but the information and essays can spark hundreds of adventures.