‘The Wrong Doctors’, written by Matt Fitton, tries to resolve the mystery of how the Doctor first met Melanie Bush. Having being pulled from his future he attempts to drop her off at Pease Pottage just as a slightly older version of himself (post-Evelyn) arrives to met her for the first time.
Now there are 2 Doctors and 2 Mel Bushs. No wonder time is tying itself in knots as dinosaurs and the long dead members of the community intermingle. To make matters worse the alien Mardux have come to drill up the rare mineral Phalanxium from the village golf course.
It is to the credit of Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford that they are able to play two versions of the same character and make their voices distinct enough you can tell who is talking, even when they are talking to themselves.
The plot moves at a brisk pace, exploring the sheer peculiarities of time travel. Things get a little hectic in the final act but everything falls nicely into place.
Spoilers From Here On In!
YOU CAN HAVE MULTI-DOCTOR ADVENTURES WITH THE SAME DOCTOR
This isn’t the only story to have the same incarnation of the Doctor interacting with himself but it is probably one of the best. It shows the exciting possibilities, especially if several players want to play the same Doctor.
To make each Doctor distinct it is best to select them from dramatic points in their lives, so there is some difference between them. The older Doctor feels that he has matured and is nowhere near as bombastic as his earlier self.
Similarly the two Mel’s are very different. Mel the younger has yet to explore the world (or the universe) or develop her skills. In fact her lack of ability is part of the mystery of the adventure.
Adventures featuring a newly regenerated Third Doctor, still trapped on Earth, and an older version who has regained his freedom could be very interesting for example. A young 5th Doctor meeting a later version still fresh from the death of Adric also has dramatic potential.
Such crossing of personal time streams can ensure that neither incarnation remembers the encounter once the adventure is complete. While still intermingled older incarnations can remember events that occur to their younger selves.
TIME TRAVEL MAKES COMPANIONS VULNERABLE
Part of the reason that Pease Pottage attracts a self-confessed Time Demon is due to the Doctor bringing Mel to the wrong point in her history. It is possible that similar vulnerabilities could develop if a companion affects their own timeline.
‘Peri and the Piscon Paradox’ would suggest that Peri could be vulnerable in such a manner. Ace, by her very nature as a wolf of Fenric, and her interactions with grandmother and mother in ‘Curse of Fenric’ opens her up to further manipulation. Rose’s actions in ‘Father’s Day’ could have lasting consequences, although this might have been averted when the damage was repaired. River Song and her mother could be affected due to the twists in their timelines.
This is the kind damage that can accumulate. The more adventures they have where PCs interact with their past the more likely and frequently beings from outside time will attempt to use them, weakening reality around them.
THE TIME TRAP
While the Church of Kovarian fell into the trap of predestination the Time Demon exploits it here. He ensures that his followers are responsible for their own freedom, thus ensuring that the loop has to be closed.
The Mardux fall prey to this, with the elusive mineral they tracked to Earth revealed to be their own fossilised bodies moving backwards through time. This is a deadly paradox, as the very presence of the mineral is what will kill them.
A devilish opponent can set similar traps for PCs. Events can be set in motion that they must ensure happen to prevent a paradox, even if it will further the villains plan. Worse still it might lead to their own deaths.
PAST INCARNATIONS AREN’T SAFE
Beings that are able to move outside the normal flow of time, like a Time Demon, can be very dangerous to a time traveller. For a nasty moment it seems like he’ll kill the 6th Doctor and ponders what will happen to his future selves and future companions.
This is a good way to remind PCs that the fate of their character isn’t secure, even if they are playing a ‘Past’ Doctor. If they were to die the future would be rewritten, possibly throwing the universe into chaos.
Of course if they were to die there is a chance a future incarnation (or incarnations) could undo the damage before the changes catch up to them.
TIME POCKETS CAN BE USED TO RECREATE COMPANIONS
The mystery of Mel the younger is solved when she apparently dies. The Doctor realises that within the time pocket created around Pease Pottage the TARDIS can reconstruct her, shifting through time to put together the Mel he remembers.
PCs could do something similar to resurrect characters within time pockets. This could be one way to bring back Amy and Rory, since the Weeping Angels and their subsequent elimination could have created similar time pocket.
This would open up the debate of whether they are the real person or just a very good copy. Is there a difference? Should the recreated companion be told of their true nature or is it best kept a secret?
THE FIRST MEETING OF THE DOCTOR AND MEL
At the conclusion of this story a reconstructed Mel is put in the proper place in time. The younger 6th Doctor heads of, looking forward to when he meets her again. This ‘first’ encounter will presumably let his personal history proceed correctly.
This can be the basis for an adventure, finally exploring the circumstance which led to Mel joining the Doctor on his travels. Will the 6th Doctor sense when this is the right moment? Will there be any more complications caused by past and future adventures?