Saturday, 31 December 2011

Making Our Own Whoness For 2012

We're all hoping that in 2012 the bottleneck will break and we'll see the Eleventh Doctor edition of the game, the UNIT set, the Time Travellers' Companion and more.

In the meantime, one will do what one can. You know, GMing, adventure hooks and rambling articles here, that sort of thing.

I also take requests.


The Last Day

"And then the Long Count ends and...?"
"You do know I've been to later than December 2012 and the world's still there, right?"
"That doesn't mean someone won't try and do something."

The 2012 Prophecies are pretty shaky all round, but considering what the 21st Century has been like so far in the Whoniverse, some people are probably pretty worried. And some other people see something like this and can't resist poking it with sticks. I wouldn't put it past the Master to engineer the arrival of a fake New Age, he's tried it with the Axons...

"Uh-oh. Rogue planet."

Borrowing the basic shell of Nibiru: Age Of Secrets let's have some people, working with secretly invading aliens, looking to overthrow society and create a new world authority, heading out into space, using an ancient alien weapon summoned from the edge of the solar system. Conspiracies, chases, betrayals, murders, and the possible extinction of humanity. Sounds like a decent start to a two-parter.
What do you mean there’s no more Doctor Who until the autumn? The Christmas Special was so light I expected there to be another this week. Have you checked behind the sofa?

Well fine, I’ll watch Sherlock, but don’t expect me to keep my elbows off the table!

... In the meantime, we shall proceed with making our own Whoness.

Happy New Year!

Friday, 30 December 2011

The Brilliant Book 2012

It’s back! So it is an annual. Jolly good!

(Sadly we didn’t also get a new graphic novel, although the DWM comic strip reprint books are returning, so the last Seven and Ten stories will be available as well as the Eleven run.)

Lots of nice behind-the-scenes stuff, but what is there for grabbing for adventure hooks and the like?

A code for a free audiobook download of Night Of The Humans at the back...

Pages of in-universe extra material, like Amy, Rory and River’s diaries from their months on the run investigating alien sightings that might be the Silence. Probably the most immediately hook-friendly, bringing in real UFO lore at its height.

Neil Gaiman provides the cut Planet Of The Rain Gods scene in comic form and the lives and death of the Corsair, who was apparently a member of the Fourth Universal Survey Expedition, as good an excuse for Time Lords to go a-roaming as any.

Besides that there’s a richly illustrated four-page history of Madame Vastra’s misadventures which might provide some inspiration, and the utter brainache of Charles Dickens’s Twitter feed.

Loads of nice stuff, all told, although less than last year (no short stories, let alone ones by Brian Aldiss) of GM-friendly use.

(And that leads me to imagine a DWAITAS Annual, with articles on GMing, a solo adventure, some new monsters, a couple full-length adventures to play and a series’ worth of hooks.)

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Doctor Who: Worlds In Time (Where Else Would They Be?)

The free MMO's preview play is up and we now know what it looks like. It's visibly For The Kids but has a supposed minimum play age of 13, and it's puzzle-based, and done in Flash, and WANTS YOUR MONEY hence the indirect link.

You're recruited (in your pyjamas) to help unstitch Time, which has gone wonky. You get a customisable look (with micropayments for more, BOO) and a customisable sonic screwdriver (hooray!) and bounce from era to era solving puzzles and running away from monsters.

Some of the eras are quite interesting to be fair.

In a bit of a cross-marketing fail, it's about as cutified as Character Building but not the same way. The rollout character types are human, Silurian, Catkind and Tree Of Cheem. Allow me to express my tutting disapproval on behalf of the Ood and Judoon.

Certainly it's not as off-model as other Who computer games but not as on-theme as The Adventure Games. And it WANTS YOUR MONEY. So proceed with caution.

GURPS Who's Who


Two books containing two-page spreads for over a hundred figures from history, from Alexander the Great to HP Lovecraft, Cleopatra to Sid Vicious, with suggestions for fantasy variants and, naturally, lots of ideas for time travel stories about them. The kind of books that Doctor Who GMs can dive into. It would be easy to pick one up, open it at random and run an adventure about...

Gráinne Ní Mháille, aka Grace O'Malley, Ireland's Pirate Queen. Okay, that's almost too easy. The obvious historical hinge point would be when she met Elizabeth the First and bargained for a pardon for herself and her family in exchange for sailing against the Spanish. All kinds of sinister powers would want to disrupt that meeting and provide a back door to attack Elizabethan England, and the PCs get to team up with a Pirate Queen to stop it in case you missed that bit.

Okay, let's try again.

Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, about the only leading German officer to get much good press in World War II. Pivotal to the war in Africa, and involved in a plot to oust Hitler and try him for his crimes. Again, it's not going to be difficult to mix him up with time travelling adventurers.

One more...

Catherine de' Medici, Italian noble, Queen of France, patron of the arts and generally terrifying. Probably not going to receive the kindest portrait in a Celebrity Historical.

Friday, 23 December 2011

"Haven't you ever wanted to visit everywhere?"

Lost Christmas is a BBC fantasy starring Eddie Izzard as a mysterious man arriving in modern Salford apparently from nowhere, with the strange ability to find lost things.

Who is he? Well, he's not the Doctor. Not quite. It's a rather quiet, low-key, gloomy tale all round, lit up by Izzard's off-kilter charm.

"Can I ask you a question?"
"That is a question."

But any mysterious man with strange abilities played by a British comedian and actor is going to show a bit of a family resemblance. His rattling off the collective nouns of everything is a good example, as is picking Jason Watkins's pocket, or indeed Geoffrey Palmer asking "who are you?" in that wondering, wary tone we so often hear.

(Speaking of resemblances, Primeval's Jason Flemyng isn't actually wearing the Ninth Doctor's jacket, this one has a zip.)

"Sometimes you have to go towards the things that make you want to run away."

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Doctor Who And The Lambton Worm

Ten British folklore and cryptozoology monsters.

The SFX Paranormal Special looks at the topic in Doctor Who as well, noting that there's been at least two explanations for Nessie in the Whoniverse, there are real Yeti and robot Yeti (who occasionally turn up in loos but not often in Northumberland) and the Cottingley Fairies already appeared in the good episode of Torchwood S1.

That still leaves Black Dogs, Alien Big Cats, the Great Grey Man of Ben MacDhui...

To take the last example, what is an insubstantial ghost or shadow creature doing halfway up a bleak Scottish mountain? Is it a psychic echo of where someone died? A living shadow protecting an alien wreck? A warning from the future?

Monday, 12 December 2011

Lost And Found

Apparently I’ve picked up another follower. Hello!

Two weeks before Christmas, and two more Doctor Who episodes - from the first and second Doctors.

Galaxy 4 and The Underwater Menace. Not complete stories, but still.

“Just one small question... why do you want to blow up the world?”

Thursday, 8 December 2011

On This Day...

Google Doodles for Diego Rivera's 125th birthday. See here for the time he, Frida Kahlo, the Eighth Doctor and Izzy saved Mexico. Taking a local custom and running with it resulted in a unique Celebrity Historical.

It's also "What The Hell Is That Thing Next To Mercury?" Day.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


Sounds a bit risky, even for a Smith

A minute and 11 seconds of prelude (not prequel as they insist on calling it as it came out first) for The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe.

That's a rather large black hole.

Ten billion times the mass of our sun.

The centre of a galaxy. The gravitational point holding hundreds of solar systems together. And it wants to eat them.

The Time Lords chained one, at the beginning of Time as we know it. Where is it now? Who controls it? What might emerge from it?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

All generalisations are false, including this one.

Happy St. Andrew's Day.

Apparently the widescreen Rockwell-esque Google Doodle today celebrates Mark Twain's 176th birthday. 176th. Oh-kay...

His work strongly evokes a sense of place and time (a bit off the beaten track for Doctor Who, being historical America, but still possibly a good guide).

If you remember the Star Trek: The Next Generation two-parter Time's Arrow you have a fair idea how he could appear in Doctor Who, as America's Dickens makes a particularly snarky Celebrity Historical hero who will no doubt be left with the inspiration to write A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court.

You could also go crazy literal with this, and have a scruffy adolescent Sam Clemens working the Mississippi river boats when a time portal brings a bunch of chivalric knights on board. Any player who makes the connection deserves a cookie.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Because SFX Demanded It - The Ultimate Democratic Who Adventure

The Tenth Doctor, Sarah Jane, Rory, K9 and the Brigadier battle the Master and a new monster on Gallifrey, as written by Neil Gaiman.

No, I'm not going to try and figure out a plot to fit that.

Stanisław Lem

The latest Google Doodle actually ups the ante for insane levels of size, complexity and involvement, especially as it celebrates the 60th anniversary of Stanisław Lem's first book, which seems like a rather obscure topic for so much work.

(I also discovered that only Russia got Mikhail Lomonosov's 300th birthday recently, and only Italy got one for Italo Calvino even as the whole world got the one for the creator of Gumby which as far as I know was never shown here. Oh well.)

So what can we take from Lem (other than "I want that toy cosmonaut!") of interest? His work features explorers discovering alien and evolutionary robotic cultures, with details like multiple ethnicities and classes in Eden.

How would the travellers deal with a planet taken over by evolving machines? Depends whether they were chasing them with laser eyes, of course. But in general as long as they aren't conquer-the-universe or dismantle-everything-for-parts they'd probably have an interesting viewpoint. And maybe a bunch of organics come down to abduct some to work for them...

And the living planet Solaris attempting to communicate (with little success) could translate into a thoughtful adventure which reveals a great deal about the travellers, or a haunted-spaceship runaround like Event Horizon for that matter.

But maybe the best Lem-related plot hook comes from Philip K. Dick, whose work he praised, but who suspected he was actually a pen name for a cabal of Russian scientists using SF to misdirect American scientific research along blind alleys...

Happy Birthday, Doctor Who!

48, and you don't look it, at the moment anyway.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Vworp Vworp Volume Two

My copy arrived today.

Big and chunky as Volume One, in a bag inside the envelope because of the “Vworpibix” boardgames that come with it. More from Dave Gibbons, now on The Tides Of Time in particular, lots of writers and artists on Abslom Daak, interviews with DWM’s editors, a new Daak comic strip and a Mrs. Wibbsey one, Gareth Roberts, and Tom and Colin Baker on their comic appearances.

Nothing here hit me right in the nostalgia centre like issue one’s big piece on The Iron Legion, but it’s still all rather interesting.

Oh, and Volume Three will have an Alan Moore interview. Eeeee!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Monday, 14 November 2011

Other brief British genre shows that could make decent Who plots...

Between Survival and Rose ushering in the Golden Age of post-2005 British genre telly, we were lucky if we got six episodes of something in a year as well as Red Dwarf. And before and since then we've had some misses as well...

Terry Nation's Survivors, and indeed Adrian Hodges's Survivors - a viral apocalypse leaves an empty Britain with a few down-at-heel people trying to rebuild society and rather more not bothering to.

The Last Train by Matthew Graham - another viral apocalypse just about wipes out the country, apart from a few survivors saved by a cryogenics experiment. Like a much more low-key version of The Morrow Project.

(Viral apocalypses are such a thing around here that we had a sitcom about one.)

A not-fast-enough Avengers-for-the-90s that pointed the way to where Who would return in the schedules. A useful database for just-about-possible technological threats if nothing else.

Crime Traveller
A time travel show on BBC1, Saturday nights, in 1997? In a parallel world, this slot was taken up by the Eighth Doctor. Hmph. Still, no hard feelings...

Vampires trying to take over the government, played absolutely straight, so straight it loops back to be rather funny. Still, good basis for a Secret Invasion, where just about anyone could be tempted to turn.

Invasion: Earth
Pretty ambitious, staging an alien invasion in, er, southern Scotland, with two warring alien species, post-Independence Day dogfighting and, er, a downer ending. It's a good basis for an invasion plot and a misdirection about who's to blame, though.

The newest addition to the list, a future colony with a bit too much mysterious strangeness mixed in with its down-to-earth concerns and grit. Still, lovely approaching/crashing spaceship.

The Uninvited
Aliens taking over human bodies? The head of British Nuclear Power rising from the dead? A conspiracy threatening to take over the country? Plugged as a British X Files it was more a 90s Quatermass II. Novelised by Paul Cornell, who had the Brigadier come in and save the day...

Dark Season
If you can't figure this one out, you're not trying.


Before getting this month's SFX I was at best vaguely aware of Pathfinders In Space, now on DVD, hence it being reviewed. Sydney Newman running an educational space opera (which presaged Lost In Space rather heavily, with a better sense of direction) five years before launching a noted Police Box.

It would therefore seem ideal for back references to (mostly) British pioneers of the stars with stiff upper lips and Dan Dare gentlemanly pulp heroism.

"Ah yes, the Pathfinder Project! The Wedgwood family, unsung pioneers of the British Rocket Group. Mad, every last one of them. Took a guinea pig with them. Literally a guinea pig."

And for added head-scratching...

"Wait, what do you mean we landed on the Moon in 1960? You're the worst time traveller ever."
"They kept it very hush-hush, it was the engineer and his kids launched by accident - health and safety nightmare!"

Let the running around and screaming commence

David Yates is looking at developing a Doctor Who movie completely unconnected from the series continuity.

Huh. Well then.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Doctor Who: The Wonderful Book 1965

A most impressive pack of lies - a fake Doctor Who annual in the style of The Brilliant Book for the Hartnell era. Worth checking out for the the map of Marinus alone.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Science Week

Yesterday's Google Doodle was Marie Curie, today's was Edmond Halley. I don't need to explain how Belle Epoque women investigating (and naming) radioactivity or Jacobean chaps tracking (and naming) comets linked to portents of doom could make adventure hooks, do I? Just add some aliens seeking an advanced power source and a carriage chase around the Eiffel Tower to the first, and a secret invasion in 2061 to the other, and you're good to go.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Adventure Games: The Gunpowder Plot

Released for Hallowe'en despite being set, rather unsurprisingly, around November Fifth, the Adventure Games get a Celebrity Historical, The Gunpowder Plot with Guido "Guy" Fawkes and his gang gaining a suspicious new member.

It's something of an epic, the longest yet (there's a walkthrough online that runs two and a half hours, compared to about 45 minutes for the biggest of the first set of games City Of The Daleks) with a variety of locations including big chunks of Jacobean London to run around. Indeed, it could have been cut down in some places...

Spoilers to follow...

New Objective: Save The World

Happy 75th birthday, BBC TV! Keep up the good work.

Democracy in action

Registered to the SFX Forum? Get your ideas in print for the Doctor Who season seven Wishlist!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

101+ Plot Ideas Involving Time Travel

101+ Plot Ideas Involving Time Travel

Some killers already:

ADamiani: The hidden kingdom of Agharti, said to appear for but one day every seven years somewhere in the remote Himalayan mountains, is actually a *time ship* making a long journey through the human-occupied era.

petros: A photograph of western Europe from space. There are no lights or cities visible. The serial numbers in the image seem to indicate that the image was taken in late 2007.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Strange sources of ideas, part eighty-six or so

Doctor Where

From an entire book of Who-y puzzles out in time for Christmas.

Makes the Cyberman invasion about 87% less scary.

Monsters acting whimsically out of character has an illustrious history in Doctor Who, from these outtakes showing some of the above behaviour to Evil of The Daleks. This sort of thing actually happening in-character can seriously undermine a monster's ongoing credibility, but Evil was going to be the Daleks' final bow and, as a rule, players love a chance to deflate a monster even more than a chance to defeat one. So don't be too surprised if next time you present them coldly logical killer robots they rewire their common sense subroutines.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Man Who Never Was

Well timed for the launch of the new iWhateverItIs, the satire on flashy product launches is just a minor aside really, about as significant as the charming Peter Bowles cameo.

Monday, 17 October 2011

A Night In The Lonesome October

Coming sometime this week...

Doctor Who Magazine

DWM, or is was originally Doctor Who Weekly, is 32 today (or six days ago, but it was marked today). Its weekliness has now been taken up by Doctor Who Adventures but the grumpy old man in me feels that the standard of its comics isn’t quite up to the Wagner/Mills/Gibbons run starring the Fourth Doctor.

Seriously, the likes of The Iron Legion and City Of The Damned permanently affected my idea of what Doctor Who could and should be - space opera adventure stories, funny and scary and fast, brimming with great visuals and mad ideas. The show never really matched up with the comics until 2005.

So it’s a small regular delight that even though the kids have Adventures now and IDW have full-issue Who comics, DWM still carries on, and collections of the strips right back to The Iron Legion are available.

Gibbons’s run spanning two Doctors, backup strips by Alan Moore (sadly unreprintable), John Ridgway’s surreal epics for the Sixth Doctor, the ad hoc not-sure-we-can-afford-this Seven strips cycling back to higher quality, the eight-year run of the Eighth Doctor (and Izzy, as old as DWM itself) that almost became canon when Russell T Davies offered them the regeneration, the sadly slim volume for Nine that includes a dry run for The Shakespeare Code, as one of the three books for Ten shows the original version of The Lodger...

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Sky

With Doctor Who off until Christmas (barely ten weeks, never mind!) The Sarah Jane Adventures has returned with the final three stories.

“Never careful, always prepared!”

Another random adventure hook

Torchwood House as a Children's BBC 5pm slot supernatural timeslip adventure.

So then... what happened?

15 Unanswered Questions

Some of which have been answered, but never mind. Still, the one about blowing up the TARDIS is still hanging.

And the ducks.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Fanart Win

When Steven Moffat says nice things about your episode sketch, you're doing well.
The adventures of the 17th Doctor.

Largely silly, but there's at least one rock solid plot hook in there, by TrojanRat:

Although that one episode where the Doctor and four other groups were playing tug of war over one person's personal history to get the guy to make one specific choice at one specific point in time was hilarious. Even if everyone else calls it the new "Love and Monsters".

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Time is what stops everything happening all at once.

A phrase not used this week, though if there were ever a week to use it... (Or at the end of the recent run of Primeval but that’s another matter.)

Death Is The Only Answer

Just a quick bit this, since it was only three minutes long and all.

Great title, very threatening, makes no actual sense.

Technobabble by ten-year-olds, charmingly wrong, a reminder of how babble is as important as techno.

I do like the portrayal of Einstein as someone who’s given the Doctor trouble before and likely will again.

Pterodactyls are vermin. Do not feed.

The Wedding Of River Song was given shorter shrift than killing Hitler in Let's Kill Hitler!

I should probably spoiler-cut this, for those in other territories who haven't already watched it through back channels.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Jim Henson

Today's Google Doodle marking Jim Henson's 75th birthday with digital puppets created by the Henson Company.

I don't have an adventure hook in mind that would suit him, but in his life and legacy there are plenty to be found.

Farscape alone looks to have had some influence on Doctor Who returning in 2005 - just look at the logos, and the colour schemes for Moya and the TARDIS.

Or consider the collaborations with Neil Gaiman...

Or The Storyteller could fuel an entire series, m'dearios.

And let's see...

A sinister mythic figure steals a child, and the travellers have just until midnight to find him.

A world ruled by gnarled, hateful creatures, with a circle of wise old seers as their only rivals... and each is an aspect of the other.

But those are obvious. How about...

An underground colony of two species living (more or less) at peace, with a third race in the land above who hunt them for stealing from their gardens, not understanding all they do for their world.

A succession of peculiar circumstances leads to the travellers having to put on a variety show with a horde of strange alien performers...

Friday, 23 September 2011

What is this show anyway?

From "Sell Me On Doctor Who" this is me:

"Since it's run for thirty-odd series over forty-eight years, Doctor Who is many different things. You might love one episode and hate the next. You might find the current format doesn't work for you and the classic does, or vice versa, or neither. There's probably a story out there you'd enjoy, but how to find it...

The current Moffat run is a comedy-horror-fairytale, with each episode leaning more towards one or other of those poles. The Davies era was more a comedy-romantic-adventure, with individual horror episodes mostly supplied by Moffat. The classic series could mostly be split up by Doctors and/or executive producers, like the Tom Baker years being split between Robert Holmes pastiching horror, Douglas Adams being Douglas Adams and Christopher Bidmead trying to make Proper Science Fiction."

And this is prisoneroffantasy:

"Doctor Who has everything. The trouble is that most folks don't like everything, they only like *some* things. It can take a bit of patience to find those Doctor Who stories which are meant for you, but for me it's been well worth it."

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Docteur Qui?

In other news, not dropping all the spoilers I've heard for the Christmas Special (like when and where it's set) I'll just say... BILL BAILEY! About time!

The God Complex

International travel prevented this entry until now. Which is good, probably, because I was in a big beige all-the-same sort of hotel...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Non-Celebrity Historical

A completely gratuitous post today, as my hotel does not have BBC America.

Yesterday's Google Doodle was about Albert Szent-Györgyi, who I had never heard of. Wikipedia informs me he discovered Vitamin C, and "was also active in the Hungarian Resistance during World War II and entered Hungarian politics after the war." Which is very cool. But still, I'd never heard of him. Likewise, I'd never heard of Henry Avery (or Every) until The Curse Of The Black Spot. Where it didn't matter, because it was a story about PIRATES! (And interdimensional holo-nurses.) Liberties were there to be taken. But ultimately you don't want to offend people unduly.

So how do you treat real people who aren't that famous? Give the portrayal a bit more leeway, or treat them as important figures that the audience (the players) are just learning about?

Or how about treating a "Who's Who" level character in an unexpected way? In The Impossible Astronaut and Day Of The Moon, Nixon sided with the heroes to help a frightened child.

When I ran a one-shot set during the Cortez campaign, I kept the man himself off camera as I didn't know who at the table would know the history or might have a strong opinion about it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Doctor's Wife, among other things

To mark 250 posts, Neil Gaiman Talks With Audrey Niffenegger. Specific Who talk starts around 30 minutes in.

Direct mp3 link thing.

Character Building

As launched with Doctor Who, the Lego-compatible Character Building line now branches out into something not unlike Lego's Minifigs, generic figures. Initially a box set, but I would guess they're looking at the Minifigs market as they already have individual figures in bags for two quid a pop in the Who line.

Astronauts, soldiers, knights, builders, F1 drivers, footballers, ninjas and zombies. Obviously.

All very nice. But how much I'd like generic realistic 5" scale action figrues as well. After all, they've never given us, for example, a UNIT Soldier.

They have made two generic Roman soldiers, one for The Pandorica Opens causing the start of two years' grumbling about the lack of a Rory figure, and one for The Fires Of Pompeii in which IIRC no soldiers actually appear.

So yes! Give me astronauts! Soldiers! Knights! Admittedly not so much the builders or F1 drivers or footballers. But I'm sure the ninjas and zombies would sell too...

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Girl Who Waited

Minimalist, trippy, wistful and sad. Nice stuff.

Who is the Thirteenth Doctor?

I dunno, I'm just doodling.

Also, yes he is. ;)

Miracle Day

No spoilers. Well, not really.

Now that it's all over, in the US at least, this has happened and that has happened and I'm not sure that was a good idea and I can imagine new viewers being rather perplexed by the "oh and by the way he's immortal" thing.

Well, it was certainly interesting. Could have been tighter all round, ten episodes feels like two or three too many. Would make more sense putting outside of the Whoniverse at this point, though.

This thread about alternate "miracles" got me thinking about broad sweeping setting-altering events, particularly ones that affect humanity itself. Hooks like Miracle Day that would certainly work in-Whoniverse. Say as Big Two-Parters on the level of Army Of Ghosts, rather than whole series on their own.

This got non-Who-specific, so it went over here.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Doctor Who by Mister Mercury

It's been two and a half days since the latest highly strange Google Doodle to celebrate Freddie Mercury's 65th birthday, and I don't have a plot idea that would suit him.

So I thought I'd do the old "adventure hooks based on song titles" trick instead.

Which took two days, hence the delay here.

Since I'm making this list myself, let's go with one track off every album. The first? (looks at track list) Make it the third. "Keep Yourself Alive" gives me an idea of trying to stop your own assassination in the past, but it means I can dodge having to do something for "Tie Your Mother Down".

This misses some of the most immediately appealing titles, like the Richard Dadd reference in Queen II, but hey, it's a challenge.

My "We Will Rock You" idea would have involved aliens threatening a meteor strike... and with an extra day's thought, "Fat Bottomed Girls" would have been about the bustle making a surprising comeback.

Monday, 5 September 2011

From Mark Gatiss's Twitter

Tick tock, goes the clock, and what now shall we play?
Tick tock, goes the clock, now summer's gone away?
Tick tock, goes the clock, and what then shall we see?
Tick tock until the day that thou shalt marry me.
Tick tock goes the clock, and all the years they fly
Tick tock and all too soon, you and I must die
Tick tock goes the clock, he cradled her and he rocked her
Tick tock goes the clock, even for the Doctor...


Friday, 2 September 2011

News from the front

Short version: The Core boxed set had to be redone and rebranded for the Matt Smith era.
The other supplements were delayed until the core box got redone.
The One Ring took up more time than expected.
C7 have brought on more staff to help out (including yr. humble correspondent), so things are moving along again.

Currently, the core box is nearly regenerated. The Time Traveller's Companion is in layout. UNIT got a rewrite and is in editing. The GM's guide is being written, and several supplements to follow that are in development. We're nearly back on track. Ish. Fingers crossed. All going well etc.

Gar Hanrahan, here

And isn't that a great title for the query?

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Less Than All Possible Doctors

Some theoretical examples of Game Table Team-Up:

The Less Than All Possible Doctors
Let's say you have a Time Lord with multiple different incarnations, possibly even played by different people around your table. What could bring some but not all of them together? A bit of a crisis but not a universe-threatening super-crisis. An enemy of the current incarnation (or most recent at the table) moving back through his timeline to a vulnerable point in a previous life. Something Gallifreyans presumably can't do, as their travels synch up and they always seem to meet each other in the right order, unlike human or at least not-quite-Time-Lord archaeologists.

The Lost Companions
Missing your Time Lord type? Then maybe it's time for the companions to be separated from the TARDIS, in their home space-time or stranded somewhere or somewhen far away.

The Doctor- And Companion- Lite Episode
Reflect the series directly - the cast need a week off, so shift the focus. Take all the regular PCs out of service and bring in a small number of new PCs, who might get to interact with the regular PCs at the odd point here and there. Good for adventures with lower stakes and/or higher PC death tolls.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Shut up, Hitler!

Y'know, I expected a bit more Hitler.

"Spoilers? What's spoilers?"

An Unearthly Child, Enemy Within, Rose, The Eleventh Hour, ...?

Over on the general RPGs blog which less than half the followers here follow (dagnabbit) I just posted a terribly informative article about planning and running ‘pilots’ for RPG series.

Which I’ve never done for Doctor Who.

The two years I’ve run The Door In Time I had every intention of running something else. It's not that I mind running it - I’m doing another season here and there when the relevant players are free and would be up for another - it’s just one of those things.

First year, the straight espionage game I was running proved helpless before a frankly surreal series of bad dice rolls and I decided to call a halt after one term to prevent the improbability factor causing whales to fall from the sky. DWAITAS was new out, I’d playtested it, the catastrophically unlucky player was volunteered to be a Time Lord.

Second year, I’d have gotten one player for the game I planned, but said Time Lord would come in as well if I switched back.

So how would I do an intro session for Doctor Who?

Since you can knock together non-Time-Lord PCs in about eight minutes I could probably go straight into a generic-ish Season Opener that any regular PCs could plug into. Which is largely what I did that first episode - “people from various times appear in the present, go!”

But as I wouldn't necessarily have the same players next week, I'd probably go with a “special” instead. A one-shot, with the Doctor and current companions and a couple of local characters for the other PC slots. Cram a Big Two-Parter into one session (imagine the show’s going to run for an hour instead of forty-five minutes), put everyone and possibly the world in deadly peril, consider using a classic Big Bad, don’t let whoever’s playing the Doctor overshadow everybody (or River, who is just as likely to these days) and be done in time to go to the pub afterwards, leaving cliffhangers for ongoing games.

Existing Example: The Hammer Of Time

New Example: The Time Thief
The TARDIS is struck down by an unknown force, crashing on modern Earth. The Doctor, Amy and Rory team up with a UNIT research team to find the source of the signal - something drawing in time travellers and stealing their power, threatening to usurp time itself!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Doctor Who And The Shifting Format

10 Totally Different TV Shows that Doctor Who Has Been Over the Years. Almost all by Doctor, but Tom Baker gets two and the Eccleston and Tennant eras are covered in one.

Note that I don't entirely agree, but the show has certainly changed dramatically from Doctor to Doctor and showrunner to showrunner.

I would imagine the educational side doesn't get much play at gaming tables - maybe a solid Celebrity Historical once a season? I hear of teachers using gaming as a stealth educational tool, so maybe it happens here and there.

And the Insane Pantomime probably only happens when the GM isn't paying enough attention - it's certainly an era I haven't delved into, except to pull ideas out of some bottom-of-the-polls stories, shake them off and give them a new lick of paint.

It would be possible to do all ten of these in a single season (these days thirteen episodes, tending to have three two-parters, so ten stories) but what would that look like?

1: An educational adventure show: A straight Historical or adventure based (roughly) on genuine science.
2: A claustrophobic show about monsters attacking: A Base Under Siege. Sorted.
3: An Avengers knock-off: Aliens of London with a particular focus on running around and UNIT appearing and things blowing up. Possibly set in the 80s as played by the 70s. May well involve the Master.
4: Gothic horror movies: This one is not difficult. Choose a monster, put it in an appropriate or deliberately juxtaposing setting, rack up the body count.
5: An absurdist slapstick comedy: Nor is this. Watch City Of Death and take notes.
6: Boys' own adventure stories: Hmm. This is pretty vague. What really makes it stand out is the Doctor's youthfulness. Which is a player option, really.
7: Insane pantomime: Crank up the monster ranting, set it in the 80s or somewhere redolent of the 80s like a tacky theme park or something similarly garish.
8: The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Look at how people, not least companions, view the Time Lord (or equivalent) in your game. Consider their backgrounds, mysteries they might include, issues they could resolve.
9: A postwar survivor's story: War Story.
10: A relationship comedy with universe-shattering consequences: Again, this is a concern for the players. All you can do as GM is complicate matters with varying times and timelines, and possibly NPCs who can stir up trouble as well.

Well, he would say that.

"Are we going to see any more aliens or characters from the original series?" "Yes."

Even if he never does it himself, Steven Moffat can say this fairly safely, can't he?

Or something.

A fan comic about the effect the Doctor can inadvertantly have on people. And occasionally jokes about chips and Captain Jack.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Special episode written by primary school kids

Death Is The Only Answer coming soon to BBC Three. The title sounds more like a Bond movie but never mind.

After the Abzorbaloff and the Junk TARDIS, now a mini-episode. Kids today! In my day we were lucky to get a Weetabix mini-theatre! If you wanted to write for Doctor Who you had to have a PHD on temporal physics bound in the hide of a bear you killed unarmed!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Yay for Hugos for things I like. Although The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang is a bit of a stretch to call a two-parter, and a two-parter is a bit of a stretch to call "short form"...

Sunday, 21 August 2011


I may have accidentally started another plot hooks thread here.

The USS Cyclops disappeared with all hands in 1918, cementing the idea of the Bermuda Triangle in popular mythology. It's not quite up there with the Marie Celeste because nobody found a deserted ship, and that entire class of ships failed, but it's still a question mark in history.

So who would want to take a ship full of seasoned sailors? Someone who has a battle to fight in water...

Friday, 19 August 2011

It's gaming, Doctor, but not as we know it.

The free Adventure Games, returning soon, show that we live in a bit of a golden age for Whovian computer gaming. I hear tell that The Mazes Of Time has been released, starting free, for the Android (the phone, not the humanoid robot). Okay, the for-pay Nintendo DS and Wii ones may not have been much cop...

... but consider the show's computer gaming history and compare them to this.

Yes, that's the Doctor commandeering a Dalek flying platform in order to play a kill-anything-that-moves side-scrolling shoot-em-up.

Don't worry though, he gets off it later to run around zapping enemies with his sonic screwdriver and throw grenades and pick up bouncing coins...

But even then, in the spirit of pulling good ideas out of The Twin Dilemma, a chase through a maze of tunnels and shafts on a stolen Dalek hoverbout in the style of the hover chase in Akira would be awesome. Just concentrate on the chase, not blasting everything that moves.

Thursday, 18 August 2011


I failed to add Fermat to my accidental Google Doodle Adventure Idea series because I looked at it, considered what I knew about Fermat's Last Theorem and thought "maths monsters and... I got nothin'."

But today, Wikipedia informs me, is the anniversary of governor John White returning to Roanoke to find it deserted. This has of course become a centuried mystery, due to the mysterious word "Croatoan" carved into a post... despite Croatoan being the name of a nearby island, which White would have searched if not for inclement weather, and then nobody investigated for twelve years.

Still, ignoring things like that, a whole town being abandoned makes good mystery fodder.

Hence aliens using them as weapons, a lost Tribe in Werewolf: The Apocalypse, a DC Comics demon, and the ultimate villain in the series blogged over at Bigger On The Inside.

What would I do with it? Probably something with a mysterious mental force compelling people to leave, to get lost and carry on past the point of all logic. Possibly something like Yellowbrickroad... where if you follow where the disappeared went, you start to experience what they suffered...

Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Crash Of The Elysium

Now it's all over, and it's largely been spoilered what happens in it, and there's the odd video here and there taken by someone with a camera hidden in their bag, and I just found out there was one day that Matt Smith turned up himself instead of on video (aaauuugh!)... it's probably safe enough to talk about The Crash Of The Elysium freely.

An interactive theatre event - like a "haunted house" attraction, or indeed a very railroaded LARP where you play yourself - it first cast the audience/participants/players as special guest visitors to a museum exhibit about a lost Victorian ship, before a future spaceship of the same name crashed right outside and an Army team drafted the audience/participants/players to help infiltrate and search, working on a partially decrypted warning from someone called "the Doctor" in the ship's black box recorder that something is loose...

Seems to be a pretty straightforward story, but the makings of a good Big One-Shot, and with its smallish cast, interactivity, and use of modern and period locations due to a time travel effect, the ideal model for a Whovian LARP if you have the necessary resources.

Especially if you can get Matt Smith to come. (aaauuugh!)

Celebrity Historical Micro-Idea

Inspired from here:

"Isaac Newton created scientific theory. He was also an alchemist. Obsessed with trying to turn base metal... into gold!"

As Newton throws the alchemical powder, the Cyberman barely has time to scream.

When scary things get scared, not good.

The Worf Effect doesn't hit the main characters in Doctor Who because they're generally capable but not "the best there is" apart from the Doctor, and even then he can occasionally be out-trickstered.

But it can apply to the monsters. Anything that kills Daleks one-on-one is clearly being built up as bad news. Most egregious example I can think of would be Skeletoids.

But presented with due care, it could really pack a punch...


Searching a seemingly abandoned town, the TARDIS crew are horrified to find a Weeping Angel in a hall. The light flickers - and the Angel has moved further away, looking over its shoulder with an expression of terror. The light flickers again and now there's just a pile of broken marble...

Friday, 12 August 2011

Five days... nobody dies... but lots of people "die".

So an update, from here, I'm now halfway through Miracle Day and still have no idea why this is happening and it's all gone a bit distastefully on-the-nose.

It would have been more unusual if the Miracle was an act of kindness rather than crazy-bastard-evil. (Maybe it was and it's been twisted around. But presumably it'll have to be cancelled at the end... right?)

The lots of people "die" bit is something of an issue as well. Someone who can turn that off would be an obvious threat...

Since Miracle Day is deliberately so divorced from Whoniverse connections beyond the main characters that it might be better served by being considered a separate setting, it presumably won't turn out to be Whovian monsters involved.

So who in the Doctor's rogue's gallery would do such a thing?

Toy rant, part I dunno how many

Character Building gets Rory, and a Vampire Girl, while the regular figure line doesn't.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Well, yes, of course.

Neil Gaiman is indirectly responsible for a Who fan film.

The Mighty 200-Odd Adventure Hooks

Siskoid presents The Retread Campaign - remake classic adventures, possibly entire seasons in order.

After all, it was good enough for Peter Cushing...

(Idle notion, the Cushing "Doctor Who" in colour remakes of non-Dalek stories. Doctor Who And THE CYBERMEN complete with Arctic base, half a dozen actors familiar from the Hammer rep company, and Moonbase-style Cybermen...)

And since I've looked at numbers 1 and 200, to mark Post 222, what's number 101 like?

The introduction of Adric!

Okay, let's see what we can do. (100 was The Crusade, which I've totally done.)

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Who Am I? WHO? AM? I?!

Who Am I? on the mysterious past as plot hook.

In order to blatantly trawl for readership over there, how might one apply mysterious pasts to Doctor Who?

Friday, 5 August 2011

Doctor Who And The Gen Con Schedule

Gen Con (which I'm not at) is the biggest damn RPG show on Earth. I've discussed some of the news over yonder but Who-specifically? Without a new Who product out, what is there to do?

On the official docket of games being listed to run, these and these. Dunno which system the latter are using.

So, we have an official demo:

That Old Box
"Ever since you can remember, there's been a blue telephone box at the corner of your street. Everyone ignored it - it was just an old phone box, dead and dusty and empty. Now, there's a light on inside the box. Something's changed. Everything's changed. And not a moment too soon."

An unofficial game which is definitely DWAITAS:

Apocalypse All-Nighter: Web of Light
"Following traces of the Doctor, a group of paranormal investigators stumbles into a nightmare."


The Four Doctors
"On his way to retrieve Amy and Rory from their honeymoon, the Doctor is surprised to find the TARDIS crowded with his Second, Fourth and Tenth incarnations. Alarmed by the implications, he becomes positively shaken when Romana and the Master next appear, bearing a message from the White Guardian; 'Equilibrium has fallen and the universe dies. The Doctor must seek the eyes which see no more, that a new eye might be opened.'"

And finally...

Time Storm
"The players find themselves pulled out of different places and times and are thrown together to stop one of the most dangerous threats to the universe. They've landed in a futuristic environment, and the only clue to where they might be is an old blue London Police Box..."

Of the four, the C7 demo game has the most intriguing premise, the other DWAITAS one the vaguest, the third game sounds like the most powerful PC group even though you can't play Rory, and the fourth... hmm, I wonder if they mean players or PCs, could go either way.

Not a bad selection. (Spare a thought for Adventure! which is represented by a comedy mystery set in the 1940s... and an actual Adventure! adventure alone in the Trinity category.)

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Doctor Who And The Adventure You Have Lying Around

One key advantage of Doctor Who that makes it so game-friendly (as well as so flexible generally) is how many settings and genres you can drop the TARDIS into.

I more-or-less managed to combine GURPS Aztecs, Espionage and Horseclans when I got them to run an adventure off-the-cuff, but it would have been easier to pick one or two and run with it. I've used a Traveller adventure (albeit one about uncontrolled time travel) with no trouble at all. Plenty of WEG's Star Wars adventures feel like they emulate a 45-minute TV series in the setting more than the movies. When I discussed pre-Communist Russia here, Siskoid considered an all-historical-ish season based on GURPS historical books.

But it would be easy enough to go further with this idea. Very few RPGs are off-limits.

Several dozen examples.

Call Of Cthulhu has a special place for one of FASA's Doctor Who adventures being a reject from it slightly rewritten, but hey, too easy...

So I'm off to grab a random D&D adventure from the official site... paging back through the subscriber-only ones... The Haunting Of Kincep Mansion would be too easy...

Saturday, 30 July 2011

A museum should be inspirational

Even when it isn't like this outside.

Opening day at the refurbished Royal Museum of Scotland, 15000 people in the door, loads to see and do, dinosaur skeletons, sarcophagi, squid in jars, medieval weapons, Stevenson lighthouse mechanisms. On a quieter day I'll go through and pick something from every gallery to Who about.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The End Of Time Itself!

How will things end?

Something I’m considering because I now have three series of The Door In Time partially done, and that’s one and some specials less than Russell T Davies before he handed over to Steven Moffat. Of course, I could double him (after all, I managed seven twenty-two-episode seasons of The Watch House) but I should at some point consider a final run.

Like a season finale but much more so. Smashing timelines, facing down armies, bringing back an ultimate villain despite their on-screen death or wheeling out some enormous new threat that’s been built up for the last few episodes.

Blow your budget, go bigger than ever, bring out a cast of thousands, threaten the Earth as a whole (while focusing on a few people we know and care about, naturally), toss in surreal new images like the Master turning transparent or Gallifrey looming over Earth, reveal secrets and hint at further mysteries about the PCs and NPCs, all possibly building up to an ending so over the top that it's best to retire.


Example: The Last Second

Searching for the Doctor, Emily finds herself in the space between times, London frozen in time. And the nightmarish black-cloaked figure of the half-dead Master hunting her, swooping over the still streets, surrounded by millions of unmoving people who cannot hear her calls for help. And the Doctor himself being used as a time engine to try and reverse time and shatter the universe.

One day... nobody dies...

So we're now 30% of the way through Torchwood: Miracle Day and I have very little idea what's going on beyond the original what if. I'm sure an episode and a half into Children Of Earth things were a bit clearer.

And I've resisted the temptation to make one of those cut-out-and-keep Soulless masks.


Until reading this month’s SFX, I had never heard of the Starlord comic strip Timequake. It’s your basic Time Agents story, modern person (in this case none-more-blokeish) gets mixed up with heroes from the past, present and future trying to stop time being broken. Shapeshifting aliens out to destroy humanity in the present, Martin Bormann remaking history so the Nazis won World War Two, Aztec spaceships, reckless time tourists, the usual.

Okay, the Aztec spaceships are pretty unusual. Worth clicking through to see them, anyways.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Action Figure Test

Since you probably don’t come here for gloomy introspection about the future of humanity... this week we also saw the first pictures of Mego-style Doctor Who figures (although not by Mego) and Sideshow-style sixth-scale high-end dolls (although not by Sideshow) as well as the new classic-era packaging that we're getting the Leela figure in. Which got me thinking about the original actually-by-Mego toys that I got several of when I was three and a half or so.

Ten years ago, the long-dead-alas Quarterbin once proposed tests for the fun-ness of comic characters, including the Action Figure Test. (Among others, like the Index Card and the Kid With A Towel test.)

(Noting that a number of actual Doctor Who characters made into action figures fail this test spectacularly.)

So, how would your character fare as a figure, assuming they were released reasonably promptly?

(And I did this for real with The Watch House.)

To take the example of The Door In Time, Kai with his sonic cane would be a safe sell, original Effie perhaps less so, Young Effie maybe more, Dan with service revolver, Nimue with maybe a floating stand and blue transparent glowy thing that fits over her head... Gabriel would sell okay, but a light-and-sound replica toy of his scanner might well sell better.

The Daleks would of course get a box to themselves. Tarokka and Vas Murb would sell, the clockwork Romans, ice wolves, Kai 2, the Christmas special’s collapsible robot assassins (two in a pack - displayed with one folded up in the box and one opened up)...

Alan Turing, Amelia Earhart and the terracotta soldiers probably wouldn’t get figures, as none of the real-world characters in Doctor Who have (although Dickens and Van Gogh are available in another company’s line of 5” scale novelty figures based on history and public-domain pop culture).

So how would your group fare in the battle for the Christmas toy charts?

And if you’re looking for an adventure idea, consider this one...


The Down-To-Earth Toymaker

The TARDIS crew, doing some late/early shopping for a birthday, are perplexed to find toy Daleks, Cybermen and the like on the shelves of Henrick’s. A recent dramatisation of the Dalek conflicts and assorted other near-apocalypses has lead to someone tapping the market for collectibles.

(Or, to really get the PCs’ goats, they land in a parallel universe where someone has received news from their Earth and turned it into fiction... inspired by the idea that aside from occasional alien invasions, the main difference in popular culture in the Whoniverse is the big gap where Doctor Who should be... And the actors playing the PCs are wrong in so many ways, and what do you mean my figure doesn’t sell?)

And what are the odds of the 5” Daleks not being part of some wicked scheme by the Nestene?
Today the Space Shuttle era ended.

Not the day’s most shocking news, of course, but the news we knew was coming so I’ve had time to process it. Will we ever see its like again? In a decade or two, it’s likely that no-one who walked on the Moon will still be alive. Where do we go from here? Do we go out into the stars, to explore and to learn, or don’t we? I know which future I’d rather see.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

5 More Horror Films To Drop The TARDIS Into

Five more, eh, Siskoid? Challenge accepted!

The trick here is finding things that could make an interesting Who spin and which haven't been spun that way already. For example, that rules out pretty much the entire zombie apocalypse subgenre. And the Doctor adding the prefix "Space" to a monster's title is rather easy.

The Birds
(Or, if you prefer, The Long Weekend. Or Birdemic, but, well, no.)
Nature turns on humanity, animals attacking people with no apparent provocation. It probably has been done, but what the hey. The original film (and Daphne Du Maurier's story) offered no real explanations, but a Who version would have to. Aliens would be obvious. How about a human experiment, in a research facility nearby so the effect is currently local but as it moves into the final phase it's about to go global?
(And since we're in Britain, we just have to affect the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, as seen in one of the early-build-up-Earth-goes-mad scenes in The Core.)

Cat People
Most admired for its horror noir style, Val Lewton's film also has a great plot hook to snag someone with. A werewolf (well, werepanther) story where the trigger isn't the full moon, but anger, desire and especially their combination in envy. Someone cursed with a terrible power which she can control if she can keep her emotions in check... pushed into a situation where she can't. Becoming a monster for the most human of reasons.

An experiment accidentally produces telepathic and more dangerously telekinetic subjects, some in control, some very much not so, and the most powerful deciding that non-psionic humanity can bow to its new master or go the way of the dinosaur. Add people involved with the experiment trying to take the psychics down, others wanting to use them as weapons, a beneficial conspiracy of telepaths, and more... although you probably can't get away with the exploding head at 7pm on BBC One.

Dead Of Night
This one could be an entry all by itself, being a portmanteau collection of shorts, but I'm here for just one. And not the ventriloquist's dummy, either. No, the one I'm thinking of is the evil mirror. An object that fascinates its victim, drawing him out of everyday reality, showing him another world... another time. The room the mirror first hung in, when its first owner went mad and killed his wife. Is its new owner going mad as well, or is the mirror really showing him something that should not be there?

Darkness Falls
An obscurity which I only know because it stars Emma Caulfield and has a Stan Winston monster, but it contains two perfect Moffat-style episode hooks. Not only does she prefer to attack at night like the vast majority of horror monsters, she has to because, even more than a vampire with sunlight, any light harms her. And she only attacks people who have seen her, so if you know she's coming, can you keep your eyes shut?

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Happy Bastille Day! I don't need to explain the possibilities there, do I? While considering that, consider these as well.

So, instead, have a look at the Screamer, an angry spiky head on a crawling hand, created by a thirteen-year-old for Doctor Who Adventures and made into a model for the Experience. Kids today, we never got anything like that, grumble grumble. But yeah, head on a hand, she's got a bright future ahead if she wants to create monsters.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Pre-Communist Russia as a setting

Part of my accidental series of Google Doodle plot ideas, marking the 450th anniversary of St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square, the most recognisable landmark in Russia.

I'll freely admit that when I think about dramatic events in Russian history, I generally think of the Revolution and Communist era, like the Civil War, Yuri Gagarin and just last week Rasputin, because it's the era I know best, having studied it as a historian, and also because it was a science-fictional time, going from a peasant backwater to sending a man into space in a lifetime, while parts of it were still a peasant backwater and utopian ideals clashed with the depths of human depravity.

I'm not alone here, the TARDIS Index File only lists two events before the 20th Century across Who media. (Although it doesn't mention the Master sharing a name with Koschei The Deathless in the New Adventures.)

But I have GURPS Russia and Mythic Russia on my game shelves, and something like St. Basil's has plenty of history going for it. Just that article on the Google Doodle alone points out "Saint Basil was an unorthodox saint infamous for his naked walks around Moscow in the bitter cold, shoplifting and for his open mockery of Ivan the Terrible, who feared Basil as 'a seer of people's hearts and minds'."

Russia has plenty of historic events, battles, betrayals, revolts, and its share of legends, heroes and monsters, as well as a vast number of amusingly cynical proverbs to quote.

Ride with the Bogatyri against the forces of Baba Yaga, queen of witches! Flee the Cossack purge of Ivan the Terrible! Marvel at the beauty of the new city of St. Petersburg!


Example: Blood And Ice
1770, and Catherine the Great rules Russia, but far from unopposed. Her opposition of serfdom has drawn the ire of a number of powerful noble families, some who would see her son on the throne instead, and one of them is happy to plot with an outsider against the crown. That outsider hails not from another European power, but another world, an agent of the Frost seeking to destroy humanity as winter descends...


Stop-motion rather suits the Weeping Angels. Lego maybe less so. Although it's actually less cute than the bobble-headed official not-Lego Character Building version.

5 Horror Films To Drop The TARDIS Into

Rather obviously inspired by Siskoid's 5 Sci-Fi Films To Drop The TARDIS Into...

Doctor Who has never been above a bit of creative recycling. Quoting Robert Holmes: "We only use original ideas in Doctor Who. Not necessarily our original ideas." This was the writer-producer who set a Frankenstein story on a distant planet and did a Mummy story with robots, so he knew what he was talking about.

So anyway, four supernatural or paranormal threats and one exaggerated natural one. Going full paranormal or SF-horror would have been too easy...

The Haunting
A parapsychological experiment to find "sensitives" and study their responses to a house regarded as haunted, cursed or "unclean". Nothing is directly seen, but is the overwhelming sense of foreboding only the atmosphere of the house, or...? (For a less ambiguous version, maybe Poltergeist, complete with solvable mystery and big implosion at the end. But not the Haunting remake.)

A natural threat, but far stronger than normal, threatens a tourist attraction, and the town's rulers won't listen to reason and warn people off. Put that in space and imagine the Doctor dealing with a monster he can't argue with and a human authority who ignores his arguments.

Something Wicked This Way Comes
A circus comes to a small Depression-era town, arriving unannounced, bringing strange temptations and perhaps, just perhaps, relating to a string of disappearances in other towns... (Ray Bradbury could fuel a series of Doctor Who by himself. And as an added bonus, its Big Bad was the Master for one night only.)

The Ring
A psychic entity that demands to have its story told... or it will kill you. Can its threat of death within seven days pursue a target through time?

The Omen
A child marked as a future apocalyptic threat to the world, protected by strange "accidents" and fanatical servants. Is he human? Is he innocent in all this? What do you do?

Saturday, 9 July 2011


A thread on ideas for celebrity historicals asked for suggestions for Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelley, both of which I’ve covered and so tried to help through recycling, and also...

“I also thought about the possibility of the Master being Rasputin.”

It certainly fits his MO - dark-bearded hypnotist/weirdo taking power through unorthodox means in a powerful country on the brink of collapse. Ah, but why...?

Readers familiar with the classic World Of Darkness will recall that Rasputin is apparently a vampire of half a dozen different clans, as well as several other supernatural beings. (See also thoughts on portrayals of real characters here.)

Of course, he could just have been a weird guy who caught the eye of an eccentric royal and died at the end of a couple of botched assassination attempts, but where’s the fun in that?

Thursday, 30 June 2011

How Big is your Big Bad?

I've reached an unprecedented 16 followers (hello Tatiyana and labcoatman!) so I suppose I should provide content of some sort. While you wait, try my non-Who gaming blog with its hundred-plus articles and measly seven followers...

One thing the revived series picked up from its modern influences like Buffy was a seasonal arc, with some episodes standing largely or totally alone and some tying in directly even before the big two-to-three-part finales. Bigger On The Inside has been talking about these recently.

These came complete with a Big Bad to fight at the end. Russell T Davies brought back the four classic Big Bads that earlier viewers would think of for his four years of full series - in the order they appeared in, and pretty much the order of importance old fans would list them.

Steven Moffat has gone a slightly different way with this, bringing in an apocalyptic threat the Doctor can't argue with last year (as well as a vast number of his enemies who refuse to listen to his arguments) and then a new Big Bad from out of nowhere in the current mid-series cliffhanger.

Since the series is built to continue until the end of the universe or the BBC, whichever comes sooner, it doesn't follow a strict Sorting Algorithm of Evil where we start with the least powerful Big Bad and end with the most. The RTD run did, effectively, although the Time Lords' plan to destroy absolutely everything including themselves is only very slightly bigger than Davros and the Daleks' plan to destroy absolutely everything except themselves.

So Moffat pulling it down and ending with a much smaller threat (even though the universe was in the process of collapsing, it came down to a fight with one barely-functional stone Dalek) lets it build up again, or veer off in different directions.

I've gone up the Sorting Algorithm myself when running Buffy, ending with Death itself, so while I don't mind pulling out an omniversal threat every thirteen sessions in The Door In Time I might end one run in an entirely different manner.

So if you're going to build a Big Bad, how do you go about it? Do you bring out a classic, or is that cribbing too much from the Doctor? What themes do you have running, or think the players might find interesting? What's the villain's gimmick this time? Is the new threat bigger than the last, or smaller, or a different style entirely?

Example: The Infinite Man

A project to access parallel worlds has gone disastrously wrong, allowing other realities to invade ours - and giving its creator the ability to draw power from any and every reality. If he continues, he will become a living black hole and a threat to every parallel at once!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Doc Who

Bizarrely, a post about what a blogger would like Joss Whedon to do after The Avengers has stirred up the An American Playing The Doctor debate at WHEDONesque.

Whenever this comes up, I'm reminded of an exchange with a friend:

Him: You couldn't have an American play Rincewind!
Me: What about Steve Buscemi?
Him, without missing a beat: Yeah, okay, he'd be good.

When the subject of An American Playing The Doctor comes up, a lot of us get patriotic about it. When we do, it seems we're not imagining any particular American actors, but An American. I envisage An American as having a Malibu tan, perfect teeth, washboard abs and no discernible talent. An American would be a bad fit for the Doctor, of course. See Episodes, which Steven Moffat has described as very nearly a true story, for what casting An American could do to the show.

They aren't thinking of, say, Alan Tudyk, or David Krumholtz, or Jason Schwartzman, or Neil Patrick Harris, or Fran Kranz, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt, or Clarke Peters, or Lance Henriksen, or Masi Oka, or Tony Shalhoub, or Jake Gyllenhall, or...

Logic Of The Cybermen

Some content, not from me.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Mighty 200

My 200th post...

Planet Of The Dead was the 200th story in Who’s TV history. (Shortly after the 50th episode of the revived series, Midnight, and just a couple years before the 777th episode overall, A Good Man Goes To War. The show is vast and contains multitudes.)

Doctor Who Magazine ran a poll to rate all 200. The Caves Of Androzani came first and its immediate followup The Twin Dilemma came last. As I discussed last time I raised this topic this says something about the variability of the series. It's always something new.

(So much so that the DWAITAS system seems to model the Davies era better than the Moffat one, with Story Points better for last-minute “aha!” solutions than clues laid in but slyly hidden earlier on.)

So who knows what will be at the top of The Mighty 300 in a decade or so...

“The Fifteenth Doctor and Sudipta face the Anti-Daleks for the final time in The Infinite Man!”

(Shot on location on the Moon. Reviewing it for SFX, kudos notes “the episode had a distinct lack of atmosphere”.)

Untold Tales

Episodes and Shows That Never Were

I knew about some of these (I already stole the basics of The Suicide Exhibition for Series A and likewise Century House will happen on my watch!) and it's more intriguing highlights than an exhaustive list but it's always interesting to see more commentary on the meanwhiles and neverweres.

Would Scratchman have been a classic? It certainly would have been interesting. Though I'm not so sure about the giant pinball game...

The Chase might have made a good film...

The Dark Dimension would probably have been better than Dimensions In Time, although having read a treatment, not by that much. Like the 1996 film, it would have pushed in too much because it was one shot after years away, and it would also have been The However-Many-They-Could-Get Doctors while also really being a Tom Baker story...

The cartoon would certainly have been interesting too...

A Doctor World


The first that made me laugh dirtily

A strange idea I felt I should share.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Rory Williams is meek. He shall inherit the Earth.

Slightly overstating Rory's awesome. But only slightly.

Rory is one of those characters who snuck in to being a hero. From a gaming perspective, does he work by the DWAITAS rules? It looks like an NPC turned PC with some judicious use of Story Points. He certainly seems to have bought off an early Unadventurous trait (as well as several cases of Lethal damage) as well as a possible skill upgrade from his time as an immortal Roman Auton, all while retaining his sense of “is this really a good idea?” when Amy’s Impulsive and Insatiable Curiosity get the better of her.

He’s also a good example of group character creation, or adding to an existing group by building on previous connections. If a theoretical game started with the Doctor and Amy, a typical addition would be another companion type, but adding Amy’s future husband is something Amy’s player must be cool with, or maybe suggest herself, as it affects her significantly.

(As for Melody, pregnancy and parenthood is not something one drops on a PC lightly or without the player’s agreement, even if the PC is only effectively pregnant for a session it will change how they’re played from then on. And River, I’d suggest making sure the players wouldn’t mind a big possibly emotive plot twist...)

Despite this, Rory is still sidelined in some spinoff media. He hasn’t yet appeared in the Doctor Who Magazine comics (except in an imaginary story) and doesn’t have an action figure even though they made a non-specific Roman. But I’m sure he doesn’t mind. If he did, he’d destroy the universe with his bare hands and make a new one where he gets an action figure.

Game-wise, that might reflect his on-off appearances in his first series, before Arthur Darvill got his name in the credits. Maybe his player couldn’t make every session... and there was going to be a big gap at one point, so the GM and Rory’s player came up with a plan to kill him off and then bring him back at the series finale.

(Did they tell Amy’s player? Good question...)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Man With The Future In His Pocket

Random thought spawned by this question about TARDIS forms.

How big does a TARDIS portal have to be? Big enough to get in and out of... but only when you want to get in and out of it. So instead of having a TARDIS key... the TARDIS could be a key.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Hello Wembley!

I now have a record fourteen followers here. More than the Doctor has lives. (For as long as that rule stays anyway.)

Which makes me think about group size...

Classic Doctor Who has two people in the TARDIS, which is doable and which I've done at times, but it does mean if one player misses a session it's a wash. It can work for mystery games very well as it gives you someone to bounce ideas off, and splitting up means you're both totally alone. It's also easy in rules terms - one gets the alien superpowers and one gets the narrative control of Story Points.

It's also possible to play with just one player, but the dynamic is very different - what you've got to run can go really fast when there's nobody else to distract you.

Three or four is common enough and still feels Who-ish (the show started with four, after all).

More than that, and we get to see, or need to see, a wide variety of characters. It's easier to have one crazy-powerful being like the Doctor than half a dozen, and one not-so-powerful-but-narratively-significant companion-type. If there's a lot of superpowers or Story Points around the table, the game will change. Six people are less inclined to run from a monster than two, even if you have six players who individually would be happy enough running and don't get one who'd rather get out there and twat it.

It also lessens spotlight time, although you can endeavour to give everybody a focus episode.

A classic 'party' structure can be fun, but it can feel un-Who-y having enough people to man the TARDIS properly.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Gap Year Of The Daleks

Steven Moffat: "They aren't going to make an appearance for a while. We thought it was about time to give them a rest."

Of course, since then he's been on Twitter to say "Daleks: I was talking about THIS series. Stand down."

Got me thinking, though. Daleks might have reached a less-is-more point, where the Inverse Ninja Rule applies so strongly that it would be cooler to see just the one, acting like a villain, rather than a horde of the things invading and overwhelming with numbers. Treat them much like any humanoid villain with a suitably vicious agenda, with minions, room for verbal baiting, and the like.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

The joy of trailers

The trailer for A Good Man Goes To War did get me fair buzzing with excitement.

Spoilers! Spaceships! Sith! ... People in berets!

I like a "whoa, what is that?" trailer, as you may have gathered.

Whatever it is, it looks like it might be the first big crazy action space opera epic of the Moffat era, and whether this is true or not the possibility is rather appealing because it's a new Who plot type we haven't seen him try as writer or showrunner, just briefly toy with in one scene each of Victory Of The Daleks and The Pandorica Opens. So how much big crazy action space opera epic we actually get is as yet unknown, but I'm hoping for enough to get by.

And of course, there's nothing like making a trailer to get me thinking about swipable visuals which, in Doctor Who, can come from just about anywhere.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Rebel Flesh

... is a nice straightforward story with some interesting guest characters and some fun for Rory and Amy, and a cute cliffhanger.

That’s about all one can say, really. There has to be a normal story in the series somewhere.

So I suppose I can talk about what it does in game terms...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Angelic Conversations

A darkened room. The silhouette of a figure standing utterly still in the centre.

An eerie, whispery feminine voice.

"Close the door. Do not look. If you do, we cannot speak. And you must hear what I have to say..."

The visitor listens, keeping his eyes averted, resisting the temptation to look at the speaker.

And only when the speaker finishes, and he leaves and the door opens, do we see the figure is a Weeping Angel.


Prompted by the thoughts over on Bigger On The Inside, about how clever/ingenious/actually stattable as monsters rather than an environmental hazard the Weeping Angels really are...

"In 'Blink' you can't talk to them, you can't fight them, either you're looking at them and they're stone or you blink and you're instantly sent back in time."

This changed with the rude radio chatter of Angel Bob, but the two-parter changed so much it didn't really feel like the same thing anyway...

So that got me thinking about a situation where a Weeping Angel wanted or needed to communicate. Not using someone else's voice and a comlink, but speaking directly to someone...

No idea why they'd need to, have to think about that one...

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Doctor's Wife, followup

A Guardian Q&A with Neil Gaiman which confirms that some things were lost and some things were gained and that a spare Neil would go and live in Cardiff and do nothing else.

And this, on regeneration limits...

“It’s interesting, that rule. It was obviously bendable to begin with (the Time Lords gave the Master a whole new round of regenerations). So I’ve always thought that it was more a law like a speed limit is a law than like Gravity is a law.

And if there are no longer any police to make you observe the speed limit, you can drive as fast as you like. Although it’s a lot more dangerous.”

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Doctor's Wife

Scary voices! Green Ood! Corridors! Neil Gaiman!

(And a lovely Confidential with him reading the script... I'd tune in to a Doctor Who that was read by him weekly...)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Authors' Doctors

Thinking about it, so many great British genre and comic writers have tackled the Doctor here and there.

Alan Moore made Rassilon and Omega contemporaries and that became “true”. His Who backup stories have a lot of treachery, betrayal, and recognisably human motivations even for the likes of Cybermen.

There’s rather a lot of Mills and Wagner’s Doctor Who Weekly comics in the DNA of the new series, not least the homage to The Star Beast in Smith And Jones. Having art by Dave Gibbons didn’t hurt either - indeed, early exposure to DWW has skewed my idea of how big and mad and fast and visual Who should be, so I always wanted something more like the new series than the old...

Grant Morrison and Jamie Delano, and John Ridgway’s lovely - and thankfully black and white - art, helped make the Sixth Doctor a less flamboyant figure while his world became a riot of visual surrealism based largely on letting Ridgway draw whatever he wanted.

Warren Ellis has joked about it, but I’d love to see what he could really do.

And of course there’s a whacking great Michael Moorcock novel looming over the Eleventh Doctor’s other tie-in books, as well as Stephen Gallagher going from surreal adventures to horror novels, Douglas Adams recycling bits of Shada into Dirk Gently...

Neil Gaiman discusses what we'll be seeing soon.

Neil Gaiman talking about his episode. Which I'll read after I see it on Saturday, just in case, although I know he can keep a secret while slyly winking about it.

The Hand Of Fear

This story was repeated on BBC4 over the past two days to celebrate the life of Elisabeth Sladen. It’s a fine little story in and of itself, if a bit odd in having the titular creepy hand quickly turn into a perfectly good female villain and then she turns into a shouty bloke when you’d think a moving hand was enough, but of course it became more than a footnote when it turned out to be Sarah Jane’s swansong as a companion.

It isn’t quite business as usual, as she comments on how much horrible stuff has been happening to her of late - “I must be mad. I’m sick of being cold and wet and hypnotised left, right and centre. I’m sick of being shot at, savaged by bug-eyed monsters, never knowing if I’m coming or going... or been... I want a bath, I want my hair washed, I just want to feel human again... and, boy, am I sick of that sonic screwdriver. I’m going to pack my goodies and I’m going home...”

She goes to pack, and then the Doctor receives a call back to Gallifrey and has to leave her, so now she doesn’t want to go. Such a natural reaction.

So many classic companions left with little warning (see next companion Leela deciding to stay behind and marry Some Bloke) that it was good to see the reasons for Sarah Jane’s departure pile up throughout this story. It’s something the new series has built on, making every departure a big deal.

Something to consider when a player has to leave a game, or a game is ending, assuming you get a few sessions’ warning. How do you make the character’s departure memorable, in a good way rather than the “I’m leaving with that guy over there, bye!” way?

Bring them back home or leave them very far from it? A happy ending or a broken heart? A new life or going down a blaze of glory? Upbeat or tragic or somewhere in between?

Best to talk this over with the player. How they feel about the character can factor in to how they’d like them to leave.

Monday, 9 May 2011


I was out all weekend, so my commentary upon The Curse Of The Black Pearl Spot comes after BOTIS’s so would be largely academic.

So I’ll note a few interesting things.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Day Of The Moon

Title not a strong on-message one. The Moon doesn’t win anything. And today is Saturn’s day anyway.


Friday, 29 April 2011

Adventure Hook: With This Ring

As someone inevitably said, "if today's so special how come there isn't a Doctor Who episode about it?" (No, this doesn't count.)

Which naturally lead to...

The Wedding Of The Seventy-Seventh Century

Somewhat inspired by this, steal more if you can. And by all the creepy political marriages in Game Of Thrones.

A wedding! And not just any wedding, the wedding of two of the great houses of the Third Great And Bountiful Human Empire, the sort of event that will alter the line of succession and, if it goes wrong, could plunge whole star systems into war.

So, naturally, someone wants it to go wrong.