I think this did cause some reluctance from some to buy the first book, since you knew you were making a commitment to the rest of the series. It was also a gamble for the publisher, since if the readers didn’t like the first part would they continue with the rest?
What it did do is indicate that they were telling big, epic stories. It also wasn’t to far removed from the serialised nature of Doctor Who or even the season long story arcs that had been popular during Tom Baker and Peter Davidson’s era.
It concerns the Doctor and Ace travelling to ancient Mesopotamia to deal with an apocalyptic creature known as the Timewyrm. In doing so they accidentally create the very entity they were attempting to defeat, allowing a cybernetic alien called Ishtar to bond with part of the TARDIS and gain the ability to time travel.
This leads to several stories where the main characters track down the Timewyrm and either deal with her directly or fix the alterations she is making to time. The final confrontation takes place within the Doctor’s mind where the Timewyrm tortures him with his own inner demons.
The idea of a season long ‘Big Bad’ became popular with shows like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and the Timewyrm is used well in this regard. Introduced in the first story and the main focus of only the last book she is kept in the background during the middle two. This prevents her from dominating events or becoming tiresome.
In a story arc that requires the main characters to hunt the villain their quarry needs time travel in order to present a challenge. Obviously a UNIT or Torchwood based game could focus on hunting an opponent across the globe.
Each of the books are quite different, giving a good sense of variety. ‘Genesys’ has a barbaric historical setting, ‘Exodus’ has an alternative timeline where the Nazis won WWII, ‘Apocalypse’ takes place on an alien planet and ‘Revelation’ has a more fantastical setting. A good indication of how to keep things fresh even during an on-going plot arc.
There is an element of pre-destination to the creation of the Timewyrm. The reason that Ishtar develop the cybernetic implants that would eventually lead her to become the Timewyrm is because she was afraid of the Time Lords. The prophecy of the Timewyrm leads the Doctor to hunt down Ishtar and put in her proximity to the very thing that will complete her transformation.
From this it is clear that without the Time Lords the thing they feared would destroy the universe would never have existed. Are these things just chance or is there some elemental force that creates these events that fulfil themselves?
‘Genesis’ puts an emphasis on dealing with the Mesopotamia culture that Ace finds distasteful. The Doctor needs the locals help and so has to persuade Ace that they can’t judge the culture by their own standards, that it isn’t just time that is relative.
This presents us with idea that the setting and the people can provide as many challenges as the villains of an adventure. Can the player characters hold their tongue when dealing with people they find repellent?
‘Exodus’ had the controversial element of the Doctor befriending Hitler. This is done to allow the Doctor to influence him later in life, in order to put history back on track. To achieve this he weaves himself into Hitler’s life, appearing to him at moments of need.
This tactic is reserved for Time Lord characters with good control of the TARDIS. Similar to ‘A Christmas Carol’ it allows them to engineer a relationship with an NPC. This could be done within game but if you don’t want to spend to much time on this this influence could be done ‘behind the scenes’, requiring the expenditure of a story point and a TARDIS piloting check to determine how much they have influenced their target.
It is also the story in which the War Chief from ‘The War Games’ returns. His appearance is a surprise as the reader is so focused on the Timewyrm being the main villain.
Yet in the context of the story the War Chief being involved makes perfect sense. This can be an effective way to include multiple villains into a story, taking the player characters by surprise.
‘Revelation’ has a twist on the multi-Doctor story, presenting the various incarnations of the Doctor living on inside his mindscape, something that occurred in the audio ‘Zagreus’. This could be a good way to handle a story with multiple incarnations of Time Lord character without resorting to time travel.
Events are put in motion by the 4th Doctor. He learned about the Timewyrm prophecy while he was in the Matrix during ‘The Deadly Assassin.’ Knowing that the Matrix would delete this classified memory he left a time delayed message in the TARDIS to remind himself.
This would be a fun way to start an adventure, with the characters receiving a message from themselves that they don’t remember recording. It immediately raises questions of who and why their memories were erased and can they trust the information.
It is revealed that as Time Lords get older they have to edit or delete memories to prevent their brains from becoming too full. The TARDIS telepathic circuits are used in this process, either storing the memories or erasing them. While doing this the Doctor temporarily wipes Ace’s memories.
This could be used to ‘back-up’ a player characters memories, especially if they were expecting their minds to be wiped or if they feared they would be killed. It could also be used offensively, perhaps deleting the memories of an intruder into the TARDIS. It could be used to implant false memories into a companion, triggered to activate at a later point.
To use any of these tactics would require a technology (TARDIS) check, the level of success indicating the degree to which memories were manipulated. Complications would likely to be unintentional memory alterations and deletions.
The rulebook indicates that different incarnations of the same Time Lord retain the same level of skills but ‘Genesis’ indicates that they don’t always carry over. This should allow players to reallocate their skill points during regeneration.
With great effort a Time Lord can bring forth a previous incarnation, making use of their skills. This is a great strain, physically exhausting them. In game terms a Time Lord can use the skills or mental attributes (awareness, ingenuity, presence, resolve) for a scene if they spend a story point. At the end of the scene they become fatigued until they’ve had time to rest.
The Doctor is able to ‘park’ the TARDIS outside of time and summon it using a whistle, just as he did in ‘The Two Doctors’. It is revealed that the whistle is symbolic, just used as focus for the Doctor send a telepathic signal to the TARDIS.
Being able to summon a TARDIS at will should be treated as a Major Special Good trait. To prevent it from being abused it should require either a Resolve check, spending a story point or both.