In ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ we are introduced to the legend of the Corsair. The very idea of a Time Lord that the Doctor looked up to and might even has inspired him to follow the life he has led. The ‘Brilliant Book of Doctor Who 2012’ expands on this in an article adding to the mythology of the Corsair, providing plenty of material that can be adapted to an on-going campaign.
The existence of the Corsair is great for a roleplaying campaign. Firstly it confirms that there are other Time Lords having (or had) adventures like the Doctor. He is not unique in that regard. The player characters are not imitating the title character, rather following in a rich tradition.
Secondly the Doctor’s account of the Corsair gives us a little more information regarding regeneration, if he is telling the truth and not just teasing his two companions. Namely that Time Lords can change gender when they regenerate and the fact that the Corsair had to have a snake tattoo each incarnation suggests that any body modifications are erased when the body regenerates.
Speaking of the tattoo it is not merely a serpent but the symbol Ouroboros. It represented an entity re-creating itself, encompassing ideas of endless cycles and within time travel fiction often represents paradoxes.
Did the Corsair have the tattoo to represent his ability to regenerate (thus renewing himself) or was he hinting at a temporal paradox? That in some way his end and beginning were one and the same?
Lastly it demonstrates that there is a whole strata of mythology that hasn’t been tapped. At the top of the existing mythology we have the figures of Rassilon and Omega and on the bottom we have The Doctor and The Master.
Corsair occupies the gap in-between, doing that the job that the Doctor would go on to do. This is a rich period, especially if the Time Lords were in their ‘god-phase’ we saw during ‘The War Games’.
The word Corsair is the name given to privateers, given authority by their country to raid ships of rival nations. All evidence suggests that a Time Lord who adopts a title as a name is making some statement about their agenda (the Doctor is a wise man and healer, the Master wants to rule everyone) then it would appear that the Corsair was authorised by Gallifrey to attack other species.
‘Genesis of the Daleks’ has the Doctor sent on a mission by the Time Lords to prevent the creation of the Daleks. The Doctor Who novels expand on this idea by detailing several campaigns to eliminate other species that might rival their power.
It could very well be that this is the task set for the Corsair. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he was evil or that he was crushing enemies with superior technology. It is far more likely that he completed his goals in much the same way that the Doctor would go on to do.
The right person in the right place at the right time can make all the difference and with a time machine the Corsair could make sure he fitted all of that criteria. He could ensure that dictators never went into politics, convince an alien species to never think of expanding beyond their planet or help a civilisation abandon research into technology that would lead to destruction.
Failing that he could turn the enemies plans against them, send their ships into the sun, sabotage their machinery and reprogram their killer robots. Turning their own weapons against them seems more like poetic justice than an attack.
Several Time Lords might make a name for themselves by carrying out similar agendas. It is dangerous, lonely work but they are making the universe a safer place and ensuring Gallifrey retains its power.
The very reason for the Time Lords philosophy of ‘non-interference’ could have come about because they’d got the universe just how they wanted it. Just one change and the house of cards could collapse.
It wasn’t until the Doctor’s trial in ‘The War Games’ that they realised that there was still more work to be done and that further alterations could be made. The missions that they send the Third Doctor and Fourth Doctor (and Second if you believe in the mythical Season 6B) are a natural result of this shift in philosophy.
There are plenty of other missions that legendary Time Lords could have undertaken. Someone needed to be the first to explore different eras and different planets. Someone needed to make first contact with alien species and determine if they were friend or foe.
The Doctor has frequently consulted the TARDIS’s database but what about those who went before him? It would be from them that those pieces of information were first gained. Wouldn’t these scouts and explorers be hailed as heroes upon returning with this wealth of knowledge?
A campaign could be set during this era, exploring the legendary exploits of these Time Lords. They could have companions from other species but it seems to make more thematic sense to have individual Time Lords going out having adventures, only to return to Gallifrey and boast about their exploits.
Adventures could be framed around these meetings, the events told in flashback as the player character relates what happened to them. This allows the other player characters to lend their own commentary and try to out do each other.
This era can also add depth to games set ‘now’ to demonstrate the influence they have had on current Time Lord PCs. Did they inspire the character? Did they ever get to met their hero or do they still hope to meet them some day?
In their travels PCs might encounter the handiwork of one of these legendary heroes. Maybe the locals still talk about how they were saved from destruction or marvel at the technology that was left behind to protect them.
The lesson of the Corsair is that legendary exploits inspire others. Player characters may find that their actions have influenced younger Time Lords. Have they created a legacy to be proud of or have they led people down the wrong path?