‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ introduces the character of Julius Grayle, crime lord and collector of Weeping Angels. He follows in the footsteps of Van Statten from ‘Dalek’ and Henry Parker from the Torchwood episode ‘A Day in The Death’, characters who use their wealth to buy the alien and the exotic.
These type of characters are a great source of adventures. It gives the reason for advanced technology (alien or from the future) to fall into the hands of those lacking the knowledge or morality to use them safely. It also creates situations in which dangerous life forms are placed in environments that can place others at risk.
Such plots are also equally appropriate for time travellers and members of UNIT and Torchwood. While a TARDIS might land close to these collections the agents of the above organisations will also have cause to seek them out, to protect the public.
No matter what time period the PCs find themselves in there will always be collectors. The Torchwood episode ‘Random Shoes’ reveals that there is a thriving online community of collectors in the modern day but there were doubtless similar exchanges going on behind the closed doors of the rich and famous for centuries.
The collector is an easy villain to make the players hate. They will be someone with wealth and power that they abuse. Even if the collector didn’t mean any harm the players will still view them as inconsiderate for dealing with things they can’t understand.
The characters desire to collect can also make a villain more interesting. Grayle is already a crime boss, with a reputation that scares detective Sam Garner. He already has a background that could place him as a villain in an adventure, just with the added twist that he throws his victims to the Weeping Angels he keeps in his basement.
This can bring any ‘ordinary’ criminal or evil person into the domain of Doctor Who. A serial killer isn’t necessarily a typical villain for a Doctor Who adventure, except if he was using a stolen tissue compressor on his victims or feeding them to the haemovore he has captured.
Adventures based around such abuse of technology or aliens can be a good way to misdirect the players. They might believe that evidence points to Ice Warriors or Ood only to find that it is a collector using their technology or the species as a weapon.
The collection itself could be the focus of the adventure. Alien PCs could find themselves made part of a collection and need to escape (or be rescued by others). They may try to free benevolent alien species (as the 9th Doctor thought he was going to do in ‘Dalek’) or destroy those that are to dangerous to release.
PCs might encounter collectors in the middle of another adventure. In the midst of trying to capture an alien or stop an impeding invasion they could receive help from a mysterious patron, only to find out that they intend to collect the alien or their technology for themselves (which happens in ‘The Seeds of Doom’).
The PCs might have to foil an exchange of goods. This puts them in the position of trying to pull off a heist. Can they bypass security and obtain their target without alerting the collectors? While time travellers have the most reason to use stealth even UNIT might lack the authority to arrest a collector without proof of their misdeeds (or revealing to the public the existence of aliens).
Collectors could also aide PCs. They may have the technology that the PCs require to complete the adventure and so will need to bribe them or perhaps trade with them. For example maybe UNIT needs to get to the moon and so trade some Cybermen parts in return for loan of a collectors short range Sontaran scout ship.
Remember as well that collectors could set their sights on pieces of forbidden information. Over the centuries there could be countless books and written accounts of encounters with the strange. Not only is this a source of knowledge for PCs it could also contain details of adventures in their personal future.
UNIT and Torchwood have also been shown to have their own archive of recovered goods and prison cells containing alien species. Members of those organisation or their allies can find themselves in the position of collectors. They could even find themselves at odds with those who want to steal, destroy or liberate parts of their collection.
A Time Lord character might travel through time and space not to save worlds or explore but simply to collect. Their TARDIS is both their home and their collection, with sections laid out like a museum or prison.
This leads them to travel to historical moments that recover the presence of alien incursion. Not only with the PCs be tasked with defeating the enemy but also capturing subjects or obtaining rare pieces of technology before they are destroyed.
Any encounter or adventure involving a collector can have nods to the past or even direct links with Doctor Who adventures. They might find Bessie or the Whomobile is part of a vehicle oriented collection or discover a collector is trying to recover artifects from Devil’s End.
Returning to Grayle we last see him about to suffer a gruesome fate at the hands of angry Weeping Angels. This event may have been wiped out due to Rory foiling his own death, meaning that Grayle could still be encountered in 1930s New York.
If the Weeping Angels didn’t kill Grayle they may have transported him back in time. It is easy to imagine that Grayle could use his criminal wiles to regain power no matter what period he was in. He might use his knowledge of the future to ensure this happens.
Due to the nature of time there could be multiple Grayles. Due to being sent into the past just before time was rewritten Grayle might still find himself several decades in the past. He can recreate his criminal empire and watch for his younger self, who is no longer sent into the past because the Weeping Angels were wiped out.
Would the elder Grayle try to mentor his younger self, ruling the New York criminal underworld together or would he try to eliminate his double? The two Grayles could even go to war, each fighting for what they believe to be theirs.
It is also interesting to note that ‘Daleks In Manhattan’ takes place in New York in 1930, allowing Grayle to be present for those events. Was he aware of what happened? Did he try to collect any of the technology that was left behind? Was this the event that made him aware of alien life forms?
All questions that can be explored in your own campaign.