Monday, 23 July 2012

A Series Of Skywatch Variant: The Big X-Parter

Okay, last one.

Since Skywatch is partially “what would I do in place of Torchwood” I decided to add a final entry discussing its later format as a series of miniseries, multi-part serials about world-changing developments in Children Of Earth and Miracle Day. (And a number of the spinoff audios and novels are about this big as well, such as the time-hopping comic story Rift War.)

They hark back to the Quatermass model co-opted at the start of the Third Doctor era - among other things, as DWM noted when discussing that development and pointing out that Monty Python’s Flying Circus had effectively managed to parody it a month before it started.

They set the team against a “what if?” SF or science-fantasy idea so large and/or strange that it will take five or even ten episodes to deal with it. And during that time the government will panic, the characters will go on the run, people we like will die, Captain Jack will have a relevant flashback, there will possibly be a filler episode and the world as we know it will be threatened by forces beyond our comprehension which the Doctor could probably send packing in five minutes...

I’ve looked at parallel Miracle Day ideas before, but more generally, what would sustain multiple sessions?

It has to be pretty big, in immediate impact or at least in implications. The kind of “what if” idea that lit-SF novels and games like Shock: Social Science Fiction run on.

It also, conversely, has to be temporary, if you want the setting to still resemble our world when the credits roll on the final episode.

It should be, or become, at least somewhat personal to one or more of the team. As this is a modern Who influenced game, the PCs shouldn’t all be disinterested professionals.


Example: Watch The Skies

Proper first contact.

Aliens landing out in the open right in the middle of the city. Big spaceship outside Buckingham Palace, or the White House, or the Kremlin, or all of the above.

The Day The Earth Stood Still kind of thing, only perhaps with more unusual designs like this picture illustrating this story. Governments worry, people on the ground freak out, the aliens are on the news and being asked what they think of the Olympics.

Skywatch are called in early among those meeting and greeting the aliens, giving them time to get to know the aliens and their concerns, and to make friends (and enemies) in other involved departments. So they know what’s at stake, and it can get personal.

Naturally, for there to be a plot to reveal, they have a second agenda that their public activity conceals. Nothing as over the top as in V... Maybe they’re at war with a scarier alien species and want to press humanity into helping by leading them to Earth. The team have to fend off the attack before it starts, and when it does the visitors go, leaving behind a bit of extra Illicit Alien Technology to sweep up, like a somewhat-helpful early warning system in case the enemy come back.


Example: Stopwatch

Time goes wibbly-wobbly.

This could cause plenty of headaches even if it’s only temporary. This happens around the Doctor fairly often (see The Wedding Of River Song and the comics’ The Tides Of Time). A phenomenon like the anomalies in Primeval starts up, caused by alien activity or once-every-five-thousand-years stellar alignments or a bit falling off the TARDIS. And now there are dinosaurs in Hyde Park, confused people from the past wandering houses that were always said to be haunted, and isolated incidents are getting worse and more public - before long, time’s role as “what keeps everything from happening at once” could break down completely. What is causing it, and can the team stop it before it’s too late? Assuming “too late” still applies? And to personalise this one, the team have to retrieve a loved one lost in the distant past or future, or there’s the old standby of falling for someone from a different century.


Example: Once And Future

King Arthur returns in our time of greatest need!

Explicitly referenced in the Seventh Doctor’s Battlefield, and previously in the last DWM Fourth Doctor comic The Neutron Knights as well as by the likes of Tim Powers, Knights Of Pendragon and the like. He could easily pop out of a warp in time, and just imagine a fearless warrior king turning up in the here and now. Once he gets over some inevitable misunderstandings and meets with the team, he can proceed to gather allies for the impending “greatest need”. World war? Alien invasion, as in Camelot 3000? Something pretty big is on the horizon, anyway.

Side note: other “king in the mountain” figures include Charlemagne, Barbarossa... and Dracula.

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