When Doctor Who returned it divested itself a lot of history. Rose was our point of view, in the same position as those who had never watched the show before. The mythos was reintroduced slowly, with the Doctor reluctant to discuss his past.
By the end of ‘End of The World’ the Doctor trusts Rose enough to reveal he is the last of the Time Lords and that his world is gone. Not until ‘Dalek’ do we find out that it was due to a war with the Daleks and the Doctor himself was responsible for the destruction of Gallifrey.
Last year we celebrated 50 years of Doctor Who but that much history can be intimidating both to new players and people new to the show. There is something to be said for keeping those elements in the background, slowly reintroducing them as they become important to the player characters.
This is the perfect format for campaigns that begin shortly after the Time War, parallel to events in the 9th Doctor’s era. Each PC Time Lord could think they were the last of their race with the Doctor simply mistaken when he believed that he’d sense if there were any of his race left.
In the early days there was a real sense that we might not encounter too many mainstays of the classic era. While the nestene appeared in ‘Rose’ there was doubt whether even the Daleks would return. A Cybermen head, a relic in a underground bunker museum, in ‘Dalek’ was enough for the Doctor to feel both nostalgic and old.
This was a universe recovering from incredibly traumatic cosmic events. We had no idea who had survived. This left the way open for new aliens to be introduced like the Gelth, Slitheen, and Reapers to make their mark.
PCs can encounter alien races for the first time and the players don’t have to feel that they’re are missing their backstory because they’ve not watched 50 years of Doctor Who. Nor do long-term fans have to worry how these alien races fit into the universe, with all the other races.
With planets missing and balance of power shifted (possibly altering time) each world is full of new possibilities. The TARDIS databanks could be out of date, giving PCs an excuse to visit planets to update their records. They can also set out to explore new regions.
They could help establish new organisations, governments and empires such as the Shadow Proclamation. With various alien empires and the Time Lords missing the universe could devolve into chaos without the PCs to bring order.
All of this allows the players to put their stamp on the Doctor Who universe, post-Time War. They aren’t following in the Doctor’s footsteps or taking part in pale imitations of his adventures but blazing their own trail.
The Time War could happen during your campaign or between ‘seasons’ if you don’t want to explore the conflict itself. This can be chance to re-evaluate characters and change their motivation.
Time Lord PCs don’t have to regenerate (although the Time War is a good excuse for this) for their personality to change. Loosing the rest of their race could make them re-evaluate how they behave.
A Time Lord who fled from responsibility could find he now embraces it, realising he is the only one who can carry on his races legacy. The Time Lord could make pacifist into a soldier or a previously violent man vow never to hurt another again.
Non-Time Lord PCs could also be changed. Presumably they’d remember what happened, when no one else does. They could return home to find things aren’t the way they were and be unable to tell people what they’ve experienced.
With the Time War over and both sides of the conflict apparently destroyed this is a period where there is no grand threat. The PCs could feel like they have some breathing room to put the traumatic events behind them or fix the damage that was done.
This can allow a campaign to concentrate on stand alone adventures, rather than over-arcing campaign plots. Each ‘episode’ is a chance to reshape who they are and what they stand for.
If they choose they can be truly characters of mystery, revealing very little of their past. This can help control the amount of information that new players receive, so that they can grow comfortable with the setting.
The PCs might also be keeping secrets. We know now that the Doctor kept a whole incarnation secret until ‘The Name Of The Doctor’. Not only might they not reveal they are Time Lords or even an alien but they might not discuss whole sections of their life.
The lack of continuity from the classic series to the relaunch (or your pre-Time War campaign to post-Time War) also allows you to introduce some doubt into proceedings. For example do we know that the man claiming to be the 9th Doctor actually is the Doctor?
That is what he calls himself but the only supporting evidence early on was that his TARDIS appeared as a police box (and the interior was very different). Even the photos found by Clive in ‘Rose’ only showed the 9th Doctor, further creating a divide between this man and the previous Doctors.
A lone Time Lord, wishing to distance himself of his past, might adopt the name of the greatest hero of his people. He might call himself the Doctor to carry on his good work, taking a name that he hopes will mean something in the new universe.
With access the Matrix he could even have the Doctor’s memories but as a telepathic race it is possible these could be obtained from the Doctor during the Time War. The Time Lord might believe he is the genuine article or just have them for reference or to fool those who probe his mind.
This means that the 9th Doctor in the television show could be an imposter in your campaign. A Time Lord PC might be the real Doctor or just someone who also believes they are the Doctor.
If the players take the roles of the 9th Doctor and Rose this could be an amazing plot twist to pull during the campaign, sending them off into uncharted territory as you challenge the very notion of their identity.
Regardless of who they really are, if they are the only Time Lord left and they do everything the Doctor would do does it matter who they were? It only matters who they are now.