After reading ‘Timelink’ I thought it might be useful to set out the various options you have when deciding the background of your own Doctor Who roleplaying game in the next few posts. It is up to you as, the games master, how many of these choices are made by the group or just yourself.
Some of these questions won’t hold much relevance in a game sent Post-Time War, as many of them relate to Gallifrey itself. Still, it is useful to know how things were before they were wiped out.
Gallifrey, Home or Away?
This question relates to whether Gallifrey, the planet, existed within the physical universe. The implications of the decision are far reaching. Timelink argues that there is no evidence to suggest that the Time Lords home world is any where other than the same universe that we live in, in the constellation of Kasterborous, some 250 million light years from Earth.
This means that the planet has a ‘now’, the era in which the Doctor left and explains why he some times considers time periods to be in the past or the future, because he has a time period to put them in context.
The Doctor Who books later suggest that the Gallifreyians removed their planet, and maybe even their solar system, from normal space, putting themselves outside of time using their technology.
In many ways this make sense. It explains why they can’t go into their past or future, because they are outside the normal passage of time. Any time active race wouldn’t be able to change their past and it ensures that Time Lords always remain in synch with each other, for preventing the fifth Doctor bumping into an earlier incarnation of the Master.
Lawrence Miles’ ‘Book of War’ details a time war, not the time war, where Gallifrey is able to observe the changes made to history as a tactical map, the size and position of planets changing to represent their significance in the new time line.
This would be impossible if Gallifrey was in normal space and time. Their own history would be rewritten to reflect these changes and so would go unnoticed. Since there are episodes of Dr Who were the Doctor and his people are aware of changes this suggests their own time line is not be affected by these alterations.
Later books even suggest that there are decoy copies of Gallifrey, that can be used to distract attackers and make them think they’ve destroyed the Time Lords home world. This means that destruction of Gallifrey in the New Series could just be a ruse.
The consequences of this choice determine just how god-like the Time Lords became using their technology. If they are outside normal time they are higher than other races who live in chronological order. They would look down on other races, able to step backwards or forwards as needed while safe in the knowledge that no one could do the same to them.
If they are inside time they are less distant and raise the possibility of meeting Time Lords from an earlier period in history, before the destruction of Gallifrey. How much would the player characters dare tell them about what is to come?
Every Time Lord is Gallifreyian but not every Gallifreyian is a Time Lord. Timelink does a good job of establishing that there are relatively few actual Time Lords, being a minority on their planet.
The question is how many alien traits that we associate with the Doctor and his people come from their status and how many come from their genetics?
What we do know is that they are able to bestow new regeneration cycles so is it possible that this is not something they are born with but something given once they attain the rank of Time Lord?
Susan could represent someone who is Gallifreyian but not a Time Lord. There is evidence to indicate that she is as young as she appears, a 16 year old teenage girl, and the Doctor expects her to be able to live with David Campbell on Earth so he must have thought they’d be compatible enough that they would share the same time span, aging and maybe having children. The only non-human characteristic she displays is a slight psionic capacity.
It is often mentioned that early examinations of the Doctor in his first incarnation only reveal one heart beat. It isn’t until the 3rd Doctor that we learn he has two heart beats. If we hold to the theory that regeneration is an artificial process it could very well be that it isn’t until the first regeneration that the body is not only renewed but also improved.
The reason that this is an important decision is because it raises the possibility of having player characters from Gallifrey but not being Time Lords or having most of their alien qualities. This allows a character to come from the same planet as the Doctor but not have to sacrifice the story points to gain the Time Lord trait.
They can still select the psychic trait but don’t need the alien trait since an examination wouldn’t reveal that they weren’t human. Of course they’d age as normal and wouldn’t regenerate upon death but then other characters survive without those traits.
The biggest effect of this would be games set pre-time war. Any visit to Gallifrey will find these character looked down on by the Time Lords. It is clear that they such people are viewed as peasants and if they lack the ability to regenerate then they might even be pitied for their short life span.
The upside is that this creates a lot of potential for stories about class and status set on one of the iconic worlds in the Doctor Who universe. Could your player characters trigger a social revolution?