Any movie that reimagines Doctor Who will have a hard time producing a storyline that could possibly capture the essential essence of the series. A games master has a much easier and exciting prospect.
Nearly fifty years of television, books and audio stories are available to act as inspiration. They can be run through as they appeared originally, combined with other stories or just have elements borrowed.
It is possible to run these adventures in a new order, with no regard for their actual chronological order. An 4th Doctor adventure could be followed by a 2nd Doctor adventure before jumping forward to the 10th Doctor.
This allows the production of thematic seasons, each adventure complimenting each other and building towards an over arcing theme. Following the example of New Who elements of future stories can be seeded in previous ones.
If you decide to have the Doctor exiled and working with UNIT there are several stories from previous and later eras that would work perfectly. ‘The War Machine’, ‘Battlefield’ and ‘Image of Fendahl’ all require little work to fit the UNIT framework.
A season of adventures highlighting cosmic beings could include ‘The Celestial Toymaker’, ‘Enlightenment’, ‘Pyramids of Mars’ and ‘The Curse of Fenric’. This could lead into ‘The Keys of Time’ saga.
A particularly grim season of adventures could feature the deaths of Katarina, Sara Kingdom, Adric, Peri and Astrid. What would the effect of losing so many companions in such a short space of time have on the Doctor? Would he be tempted to try to change history to save their lives?
The 51st century could be the focus of another season, introducing Captain Jack, Magnus Greel and the events of ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’. This could raise concerns among the time lords at humanities increasing use of time travel.
Establishing Time Agents early on in a re-imagined campaign could have interesting consequences on any story which featured alterations to Earth’s history. The Doctor might run into them during the events of ‘The Time Meddler’ or ‘Day of the Daleks’, working either together or against them.
The wealth of material can also be used to bolster existing stories. The excellent audio play ‘Spare Parts’ works as an origin story for the Cybermen. Imagine running that adventure before a new version of ‘The Tenth Planet’.
Adventures don’t have to be scene by scene copies of the original. Players, who hopefully would know the source material, can be kept on their toes by plot twists and revelations that didn’t occur before.
What if the Daleks and the Master aren’t behind the attacks on Earth and Draconian ships in ‘Frontier in Space’? It could be that the two races are moving towards another war or a new third party could be responsible.
What if it isn’t Omega that is trapped in the anti-matter universe in ‘The Three Doctors’ but Rassilon, exiled there by his enemies and now waiting to resume control of Gallifrey? It could also be a vampire god or even a future version of the Doctor.
Giving yourself this freedom also has the benefit of allowing the players the ability to effect the outcome of an adventure. They don’t have to achieve the same result as the on screen adventure. If they want to wipe out the Daleks in their version of ‘The Genesis of the Daleks’ or avoid death in a new ‘Logopolis’ let them.
This can make your campaign diverge more and more from the original, making them distinct entities. Creating a new continuity can be fun, further keeping the players on their toes and their reference points become fewer and fewer.
Adventures can stay close to the plot of the original. The entertainment comes from seeing how your reimaged Doctor and companion combination react to events. This is an exercise in roleplaying, rather than just finding a way to win.
Trying to imagine how the 1st Doctor would have dealt with the events of ‘Human Nature/Family of Blood’, how the 9th Doctor would have unmasked the killer in ‘The Curse of Peladon’ with Harry Sullivan at his side or if the 2nd Doctor might have done better during ‘Midnight’ should all lead to fun games, even if those taking part know how they turn out.
It is highly unlikely that any roleplaying campaign will run as long as the series itself so the games master can cherry pick the stories they like most. It is very hard to say that any particular adventure is essential to the series overall.
What ever the games master picks will be ‘essential’ to them. If the time travel element is important they might select ‘Blink’, ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’, ‘Invasion of Time’ and ‘City of Death’.
If they want to campaign to be about fighting monsters they might pick ‘Carnival of Monsters’, ‘Spearhead from Space’ and ‘Warriors of the Deep’. If they want it to about travelling the globe they might choose ‘Daleks in Manhattan’, ‘Marco Polo’, ‘The Roof of the World’ and ‘Vincent and the Doctor’.
Perhaps the greatest potential is running a Five Doctor’s style adventure, knowing what the future incarnations of the Doctor will be like. It could even be run several times, as the player characters reach each incarnation of the Doctor.
If the format of that story is followed then it is only in the final scene that the Doctor’s are all assembled. How they each reached that meeting can be played out in later adventures, each Doctor retaining their memory of events and knowing that at some point in their personal future they’re going to be whisked away to the Death Zone.