DOCTOR WHO MEETS SCRATCHMAN

scratchmanIn 1974 Tom Baker and Ian Marter began writing a script off and on for their own Doctor Who story, which they hoped to eventually turn into a movie. As we know now this didn’t materialise.

It wasn’t until 2007 when Doctor Who magazine issue 379 published an article about the proposed project that we learnt more about the plot. ‘Now On The Big Screen’ by Charles Norton also gives some great information about its conception and behind the scene information.

In brief the Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane Smith arrive in a quiet Scottish village in 1924, only to be menaced by living scarecrows. It is revealed that the scarecrows have been given life by Cybors, who are in turn the pawns of the mysterious Scratchman.

After defeating the scarecrows and the Cybors the Doctor and his companions are lured to an alien world by Scratchman, appearing in the form of Pan. Scratchman eventually reveals himself to have a glowing ball of light for a head and offers an alliance with the Doctor.

When the Doctor refuses he makes the time travellers play in a deadly giant game of pinball, with the Daleks providing an additional danger. Eventually the Doctor defeats Scratchman by letting him win the game, causing the villain to explode with pride.

The episodic, piecemeal plot betrays the origins of its construction, put together between breaks in filming the television series. It is hard to see it being a success on the big screen or fitting within the canon of the Doctor Who universe.

There are some good ideas here and with some refinement could be a good starting point for your own campaign.

Griffin and Potts

The story begins in the future with two men, Griffin and Potts, in the Space Records Bureau, examining a file about the Doctor. Apparently they know he is a Time Lord, his appearances in the past and that he is due to arrive shortly.

Strangely the story never returns to these two so we are left to wonder about their interest in the Doctor. This could be explored, especially in regard to how the Doctor would react to being well known and having his movements traced.

It is possible that an organisation could identify a pattern in the Doctor’s behaviour and anticipate his arrival. This could be the same method that the Daleks use to set ambushes for the Doctor in ‘The Evil of The Daleks’ and ‘Victory of the Daleks’.

The Doctor could begin arriving in this time period to find members of the Earth government waiting with job offers. While the Doctor might protest episodes such as ‘Seeds of Doom’ indicate that he might still investigate.

If the Space Record Bureau has such complete records what else might they know? Would they be aware of the PCs or other Time Lords. Could they predict the arrival of the Master, Time Meddler or Rani?

It could be that at this point in history Earth makes steps to contact the Time Lords to open diplomatic relations. The PCs could be crucial to ensuring that this is a success or preventing this from turning into open conflict.

The Scarecrows

Human Nature/The Family of Blood’ have shown that scarecrows can be effective monsters in Doctor Who. Was their inclusion here a sly joke about Baker’s predecessor? We mustn’t forget that the Time Lords also used scarecrows in the 2nd Doctor comic ‘The Night Walkers’ to initiate his transformation into the 3rd Doctor.

In my opinion the scarecrows are the strongest aspect of the script. Had the story focused solely on an animated army of scarecrows terrorising a village in the 1920s it could have really captured the magic of the Hammer horror films. Even with a 3rd act reveal of their alien benefactors they would retain a supernatural menace.

Here the scarecrows are brought to life by fertiliser, apparently provided by Scratchman. This leads to a bizarre scene with the scarecrows rubbing it into their clothes, leading the Doctor to speculate that it is animating their clothes.

The idea of an animating force is interesting. This could be due to nanobots or some kind of bacterial colony (which is appropriate if it is found in fertiliser). In either scenario the scarecrows are just puppets for the true threat, requiring the PCs to re-evaluate their strategy.

This animation could expand beyond just clothing and start to affect organic matter. This would be similar to the nanocloud used by the Daleks in ‘Asylum of the Daleks’.

The Doctor’s plan to defeat them involves creating a weapon that fires moths to devour the clothes. PCs might resort to simply using fire to burn them up, which could lead to some terrifying scenes as the scarecrows thrash around as the flames consume them.

The scarecrows appear to have a quite developed sense of sentience, throwing parties in private. This could be a good avenue to explore the nature of life and how these scarecrows establish their behaviour.

Are all scarecrows a threat? Are their some scarecrows that are good? What do they think about their new life? Do they have a right to live?

Cybors

This robotic race appear to be using the scarecrows as an experiment but it is unclear what they hoped to learn. Possessing spaceships and ground troops they are another race of warriors that could be used within a Doctor Who campaign, where their details can be fleshed out.

Within the plot it would require little to change them to the cybermen. This removes the need for Scratchman to use them as pawns against the Doctor. They require little motivation to attack the Time Lord.

Could the animated scarecrows be an unintended outcome of an experiment to create their own version of the Dalek’s nanocloud? Searching for a way to perform cyber-conversions it instead created emotional life from inorganic substances.

This could be a great reveal in the 3rd act with the scarecrows and cybermen put at odds. Would the PCs ally with one side, try to defeat both or just try to survive the cross-fire?

Scratchman

Very little is revealed about Scratchman, aside from his hatred of the Doctor (but nonetheless seeking an alliance with him later) and his manipulation of others. Able to change his form he has a taste for the demonic.

While representing himself as an ancient evil he seems more interested in theatrics and playing games than actually doing anything terrible. He is apparently destroyed by his glee at defeating the Doctor, making him a less than impressive villain.

His childish behaviour suggests that Scratchman could be an Eternal. This would explain his lack of emotional maturity, love of game playing and great power. He deliberately provokes the Doctor, cursing him while secretly hoping he’ll oppose him.

The Scratchman’s glowing head could be an indication that he is related to Shayde, an artificial being generated from the Matrix. Shayde has a black sphere for a head, indicating that the Scratchman is his opposite.

This duality could suggest that Scratchman is a manifestation of the evil sides of the Time Lords minds stored within the Matrix. After the Doctor entered the Matrix in ‘The Deadly Assassin’ his own mind might be in Scratchman. The hatred could be self-loathing, causing Scratchman to travel back in time to attack the Doctor.

Although defeated the end is left ambiguous about his fate, with the Doctor and his companions using a ball they retrieved from Scratchman’s remains in a game of cricket. The ball shatters, the splinters transforming into miniature Scratchmen.

Over time these Scratchmen could regain their stature and power. They might work together like Scaroth in ‘The City of Death’ or fight for dominance, to prove that they are the true Scratchman.

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