‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ by Ben Aaronovitch, returns us to where the series originally started, Coal Hill School and Totters Lane junkyard. Any one wanting to write their own follow up to a Doctor Who story would do well to refer to this story to see how it is done.
Coal Hill school is an important location during this adventure, serving as the teleport station for the Daleks to beam down to, the scene of several confrontations and one of the pupils serves as the spooky child who knows far more than she should.
Totters Lane junkyard is only really seen in episode 1 but it is where the Daleks make their presence known, surviving an explosion and killing several soldiers. The Doctor is even able to put his familiarity with the yard to good use.
These are iconic places in the Doctor Who mythology, their use adding further impact to the story as a whole. Even small details, for example the book on the French revelation, are used to further establish the link to the past.
Luckily for any games master there are hundreds of locations that have been featured in Doctor Who over the years. Any one of them could serve as the setting for new adventures.
Player characters could investigate reports of ghosts and giant spiders at the monastery from ‘Planet of the Spiders’, discover who is broadcasting alien signals to the Pharos Project from ‘Logopolis’ or uncover ancient relics from the burned out wreckage of Gabriel Chase from ‘Ghost Light.’
Using these places, as opposed to original creations, in a game reinforces to the players that they are in the same universe as the television show. They are literally walking in the Doctor’s foot steps (if they aren’t playing the Doctor himself).
It can be a thrill to explore what happened in a location before or after a televised adventure. You also have the benefit that any player who has seen the story the location is from will be familiar with how it looks and the general lay out.
This adventure goes further than just using a familiar place, it puts a new perspective on ‘The Unearthly Child.’ It finally answers the question of just why the Doctor was in the London, long enough for Susan to start attending school.
‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ suggests that he was there hiding the Hand of Omega. This further ties the story to the very first episode, inviting us to imagine the 1st Doctor putting these events in motion and interacting with several characters we see, such as the funeral director and the owner of the cafe.
This new information does raise several questions, such as how he came into possession of the stellar manipulator and why no one on Gallifrey has ever mentioned that he took such an important artifact, but these questions were also answered in ‘Lungbarrow’ by Marc Platt.
What should be taken from this, and one of the main reasons for this blog, is that exciting stories can be created by simply taking an episode of Doctor Who and looking for questions that can be answered and gaps that can be filled.
This works for both games that use the Doctor and those that have completely original characters. If your game features the Doctor then plots that resolve unanswered questions are tying up some very personal loose ends. New player characters in the same adventures are doing something the Doctor didn’t have time to do, making them feel not only part of the Who universe but also slightly superior to the title character.
The easiest way to generate a prequel or sequel to a Doctor Who adventure is simply to ask what happened before or after the events shown on television. In this case we see what happened around Coal Hill School just after the Doctor abducted Barbara and Ian.
‘The Monster of Peladon’ is an on screen example of asking what happened after ‘The Curse of Peladon,’ as is the book ‘Legacy’ and the audios ‘The Bride of Peladon’ and ‘The Prisoner of Peladon.’
This can lead to an almost limitless source of inspiration. What happened to the crew and passengers of the SS Bernice from ‘Carnival of Monsters’ once they returned to their proper time and place? What kind of people lived in ‘Paradise Towers’ before war came and the remaining inhabitants fell into gang warfare and cannibalism?
Try to think of ideas that will benefit from their tie to the past and won’t contradict anything shown in the television episode. Although the player characters won’t be able to radically change a setting if they’re in the past of a televised story this does give the feeling of being in a ‘historical’ adventure. The player characters know that they have to preserve the flow of time, even if they are on alien world.
The original stories can also suggest areas to explore. ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ makes mention that a Rocket group are having some trouble at the same time as the events of this story while ‘Curse of Fenric’ features a scene where a Russian soldiers makes reference to another group encountering vampires. Let us not forget all the references the Doctor makes to unseen adventures with historical figures.
All of these small seeds could be grown into a full adventure. You just need to take the few details provided and develop them, thinking about what could have caused those events and how the player characters might get involved.
Even production mistakes in episodes can be the source of inspiration. For example in ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ the junk yard sign was misspelled ‘IM Forman’ instead of ‘IM Foreman.’ This was turned into the starting point for the BBC Book ‘The Algebra of Ice’, this error being the result of temporal disruptions to reality caused by a race of of aliens.
Not that these suggestions should be used for every adventure. Player characters should feel that they are having their own new, original adventures but every now and again it can make them feel special to be woven into the tapestry of the series.