In the heart breaking conclusion of ‘The Girl Who Waited’ the Doctor reveals that he was lying all along. He could never have saved both Amys. This places Rory in the terrible position of having to make a choice between two people who are both his wife.
Making such momentous decisions can define characters. It can also affect relationships when character lie to each other. Whatever the decision things can’t stay the same. In this episode we can see Rory realising that travelling with the Doctor might not be for the best.
The Doctor also demonstrates to Rory the hard decisions that he has to make every adventure. It is also a ploy to prevent Rory from hating him. If the Doctor had made a choice about which Amy lived Rory would always resent him.
This presents us with two ways of dealing with important decisions. One player character accepts the burden, making the choice. Other characters can give them input but ultimately a single character decides. In this scenario the other characters must respect the outcome and not hold a grudge.
Alternatively the choice is left to the person who is most affected by the situation. This can be dangerous, since emotion could cloud their judgement. The hope is that the responsibility makes the character see beyond their own view and do what is right. This could make them feel extremely guilty but prevents recrimination.
Characters can also try to shield others from this decision making process. Like the Doctor they can lie about what is possible. They can blame circumstance and outside forces when it is the character who made a conscious choice about what would happen.
In the long run this isn’t a good idea. The adventures that player characters find themselves in requires trust. Learning that someone had been making choices without consulting the group can only lead to hurt feelings.
In a campaign this process works on two levels. In the real world you don’t want players from experiencing negative emotions. If they are capable of separating what their character is feeling and their emotions these scenes can be used to create drama and tension.
They can be a catalyst that helps characters develop. A group could realise how much of a burden it is on the character who decides for them and elect to make choices for them. They could adopt a more democratic process or make a group decision about who should decide in any particular situation.
A character could realise that the reason they’ve been shielded from making decisions is because the others don’t think they are mature enough. This could make them resolve to be more proactive and take on more responsibilities in the group.
Giving the players meaningful choices is key to making a good adventure. Rather than railroading the players, forcing them to travel down one particular route, they get to choose how things turn out.
Most importantly the have to be legitimate choices, with both options having pros and cons. There must be issue that has meaning to the characters and consequences that will resonate with them.
The issue here is which Amy survives. Previous stories have shown the same character existing side by side with the only danger being the Blinovitch limitation effect. ‘The Five Doctors’ has scenes in which the Doctor shares the TARDIS with his 1st incarnation without blowing a hole in the universe.
‘The problem would seem to be that old Amy only exists because young Amy wasn’t rescued. If young Amy is rescued then old Amy can’t exist. Like Captain Jack she would be something unnatural, something that shouldn’t be.
Indeed the TARDISs reaction is similar to how she reacted to Captain Jack. It is feasible that a time ship could maintain the paradox, in a similar manner to how Evelyn Smythe’s existence was stabilised in ‘The Marian Conspiracy’.
The pressure this would put on a time ship would eventually tear it apart, a real concern for the old Type 40. A games master could allow later, more advanced models to be able to maintain the paradox, as long as its operator is willing to constantly repair the craft.
This could lead to a bizarre situation in which two players are controlling the same character, at different stages in their lives. In a campaign that uses characters from the show this would be an excellent way to deal with situations where two people want to play the same character.
It is easy to imagine the possibilities of a young Sarah Jane, still attached to UNIT, meeting her future self who is raising an adopted son on Bannerman road and still fighting aliens. Or a savage Leela encountering her older incarnation who has been living on Gallifrey amongst the Time Lords.
This also works with player created characters. It is a good way to show how far a character has come and give them the thrill of being able to visit those early days. Dare they tell themselves about what is to come? What mistakes to avoid? What will their younger self think of them?
The Blinovitch limitation effect is only a problem if the characters touch. If you wish to remove this from a game you can either ignore it, as in ‘A Christmas Carol’, or have a device in the TARDIS drain off the time differential.
Alternatively an adventure could be built around the dangers of the Blinovitch limitation effect. Player characters could find themselves behind the scenes of an earlier adventure. They have to deal with a previously unknown threat while avoiding their younger selves. Should they meet the energy will cause terrible destruction.
Or the same character could be snatched from different moments in their timeline and deposited in the same place. They need to get back to where they belong without coming close enough to activate the limitation effect. Triggering this could actually be their kidnappers plan.
All of which shows that it isn’t the Time Lord character who can enjoy meeting his younger and older selves.