I’ve been listening to ‘Neverland‘ on the way to work – another excellent 8th Doctor adventure from Big Finish.
The Doctor and Charley have to face up to the reality of their situation – Charley should have died when the R-101 airship crashed in the 1930s. The Time Lords intend to make the Doctor answer for his interference, but is that all they desire? In truth, their interest lies with Charley more than the Doctor, as she represents the key to accessing a domain outside of time and the possibility of the return of a hero of Gallifrey… or, perhaps, its final doom.
While you can’t honestly get the most out of this adventure without listening to some of what has gone before – you can’t fault it for entertainment value. As well as Romana and other Time Lords, the story features Battle TARDIS and temporal torpedoes that put me in mind a few BBC line books where the Time Lords of the future showed their truly warlike tendencies under pressure from Faction Paradox.
A warning… I fear that in this post I sound like I’m just thinking outloud. As a result, it may come across like senseless babble!
I have been mulling over the essential elements of a Doctor Who plot while reading through an old FASA role playing scenario, ‘The Iytean Menace‘. As common in the game, the players take up the adventure on the urgings of the Celestial Intervention Agency, however, I wanted to see how you could introduce the players to the events involved without outside pressures. Take ‘The Empty Child‘ for example.
- Doctor and Rose discover alien capsule heading to Earth; Doctor investigates capsule landing, while Rose splits off looking for lost child.
- Rose finds child, faces death and Jack rescues her; while Doctor meets someone who knows about the lost child and follows her.
- Doctor discovers the location of the alien capsule; at the same time Jack and Rose discover the girl and the lost child.
- Rose and Jack find out where the Doctor is from the girl; Doctor finds out about the lost child ‘plague’ – and all three face cliff-hanger peril.
It isn’t so much investigation, as happenstance and luck that leads the Doctor through his adventure, while the companion must, quite vitally, get split up and discover something threatening or complicated to add to the Doctor’s worries when they get back together again. Wartime orphans and Captain Jack form subplots that link into the girl, the lost child and the Chula ambulance filled with confused alien nanites. The advancement of the story involves layers – like an onion – but one character may discover layers in different ways or completely on their own than another who might skip ahead a layer and realise the significance when the whole story starts to come together.
‘The Iytean Menace’ has layers, but they happen in a linear fashion that somehow smacks less of Doctor Who than it should.
- The CIA identify alien weapons in Victorian England and send the time travellers to investigate
- The travellers meet the owner of one such weapon and get rebuffed
- The owner’s daughter meets the travellers and tells them her father is paranoid and has been accused of stealing from another collector
- The travellers meet the other collector who explains about the burglary and the events that led to his accusation of guilt
- The travellers, potentially, investigate a doctor present at the house on the night of the theft and find he doesn’t care to talk to anyone and seems to spend a lot of time in his personal lab
And so on. It feels like a straightline, whereas ‘The Empty Child’ has more of a branch-like structure to it. While the ‘trunk’ of the story leads from beginning to end, the branches fork off, cross paths and generally create a more complex adventure. It seems to me a good Doctor Who adventure must involve:
- An unexpected introduction to the problem, probably at odds with the character’s original intent
- The Doctor and companions split apart, come back together, split and repeat!
- A subplot or two that feel like red herrings, but in fact tie neatly, but obscurely, into the primary story
- Exitless traps that prove to have at least one way out you didn’t expect
- One or more cases of mistaken or false identities that prove either useful or troublesome as the story progresses
Maybe I need to set the elements of the role playing story down and determine the whether the structure does overlap with the hidden depths of the onion skin principle…
When, as a Doctor Who fan, you read articles like this, you can only sit and weep a silent tear of joy, knowing that you have got a step closer to some unrecorded list of ‘Perfect Moments to See Before You Next Regenerate’. Worth it for the desktop wallpaper alone!
My entry on Torchwood – expanded significantly from a half-complete piece found in the site’s Flea Market – appeared on the front page of h2g2 two days ago having become an edited part of the Guide. For those who haven’t visited, h2g2 offers a user-generated encyclopedia akin to the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (as created by Douglas Adams) with a little more content and editorial control than Wikipedia. Very entertaining site that I have contributed to on and off for the last 8 years…
Marvelous to see the devious minds at work behind the scenes of The Sarah Jane Adventures, when making side references to Doctor Who mythology in yesterday’s episode. When Sarah Jane spoke to Bea (played by Phyllida Law), they discussed how Sontarans looked like potatoes – which neatly ties into this story about a forthcoming fourth Season Doctor Who story. Mind, I always thought the Rutans were the potato-a-likes – while the Sontarans looked like militaristic Weebles.
Should be a snip to realise the Sontarans – just recycling the Judoon armoured suits and stick different heads on top…
Oh, and I’ll review the Gorgon adventure soon!