Saturday, October 5, 2013

I was at X when Y...

Lately, Sylvie and I have been re-watching the 9th and 10th Doctors episodes – a very enjoyable experience. It was really great to re-discover the sheer brilliance of Christopher Eccleston’s only season and David Tennant's entire run – the exceptional acting, the tightly-paced drama and how cleverly all the pieces finally come together for the season finale, without the somewhat “forced” feeling of the current Matt Smith / Steven Moffat era, in which the season gimmicks / final twists tend to get in the way of the story themselves (OK, that’s a completely subjective opinion, but you cannot help having them – and yes, I’m really excited about Peter Capaldi taking up the Doctor’s mantle).

And of course, re-visioning these wonderful episodes with the eyes of a DWAITAS gamemaster gave me all sorts of ideas about using various elements from the TV show as background elements for characters or adventures –I’m not talking about the Whoniverse as a whole here (since exploring it is obviously the raison d’être of the game), but about episode-specific details - questions such as “What happened to this character after the episode?” or “What could be the long-term consequences of this event ?” and so son.

I’ve decided to explore some of these ideas in a series of posts, starting with a pretty simple one, which was inspired by Elton’s narrative in Love and Monsters, when he mentioned the faux Slitheen starship crashing into Big Ben, the events with the Sycorax etc. Since such events really happened a few years ago in the Whoniverse, they’d make excellent ways to justify a 21st century player-character’s reasons to investigate weird or alien events, accept the idea of traveling in space and time aboard the TARDIS or simply admit that aliens are real. Including a sentence like “I was in London when that big spaceship crashed into Big Ben” to the background of a modern-day character could really help him find his way and place in the Whoniverse… and to apply the same pattern to characters from past centuries; a character from Elizabethan London, for instance, could have witnessed Shakespeare’s stand against the Carrionites in the Globe theatre and realized that there were indeed more things in Heaven and Earth - not to mention the Vortex…

So I’ve compiled a series of similar sentences to reflect such “massively public human incidents” from the new series, following the same “I was at X when the Y…” pattern. I’ve limited my findings to the 9th and 10th Doctor episodes.

Let’s start with modern (21st century) characters…

- I was in London when these shop dummies start moving and killing everybody. (Rose)

- I was in London when this big spaceship crashed into Big Ben. (Aliens of London)

- I was in London (or pretty much anywhere else, for that matter), that Christmas, when this huge evil spaceship appeared in the sky and people started to gather on the rooftops like hypnotized robots. (The Christmas Invasion)

- I was a pupil / teacher at Deffry Vale High School when Mr. Finch and his gang were running the show.  (School Reunion)

- I was in London for the 2012 Olympics when people started disappearing and we all ended up inside a child’s drawings. (Fear Her)

- I was in London / Paris / New York / any major city when our dear “ghosts” revealed themselves as Cybermen and began wreaking havoc all around. (Army of Ghosts / Doomsday)

- I was at the Battle of Canary Wharf (possibly working for Torchwood One) when Cybermen battled Daleks and killed pretty much everybody around. (Doomsday)

- I was in London that Christmas when those crazy mechanized Santas began to kill people in the streets. (The Christmas Invasion… and The Runaway Bride)

- I was a patient (variant: working) at the Royal Hope Hospital when the whole building was transported on the moon by those crazy rhino-headed alien cops. (Smith & Jones)

- I was a guest at professor Lazarus’ reception when we were attacked by this nightmarish monster straight out of a horror movie. (The Lazarus Experiment)

- I was there when Harold Saxon began Prime Minister of Britain and – not wait, this is not possible since all the events from the Year That Never Was were later Forgotten by Everybody… except those who were on board of the Valiant!  Which gives us: I was on board of the Valiant when Harold Saxon was finally defeated by the Doctor and his companions… and I remember the Year That Never Was (interesting option for a player-character, don’t you think?). (The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords)

- I was in London (or anywhere else, really) when those damned ATMOS cars began to choke people to death. (The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky)

- And of course, there are the planetary events of The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End. (I was on planet Earth when it was stolen by the Daleks – well, everybody else was too, I guess)

- Finally: I was on planet Earth when we all became the Master Race – but I’m not sure I really remember or understand what happened back then. (The End of Time)

And of course, we can extend this approach to characters from Earth’s past:

79: I was in Pompeii when the Vesuvius erupted – but I survived and I could tell you a most prodigious tale about a giant made of living lava. (The Fires of Pompeii)

1599: I was at the Globe when William Shakespeare battled evil witches from some infernal otherworld with the power of his words. (The Shakespeare Code)

1748: I was at Versailles when those horrible Clockwork Men crashed a royal ball, looking for Madame de Pompadour. (The Girl in the Fireplace)

1851: I was in London, that Christmas, when a monstrous metal giant walked the earth and was defeated by fearless ballooners. (The Next Doctor)

1869: I was in Cardiff when the Dead began to walk the Earth. (The Unquiet Dead)

1913: I was a student / teacher / staff member at the Farringham School for Boys when scarecrows started walking and the sinister Family of Blood threatened to kill us all. (Human Nature and The Family of Blood)

1930s: I was in Manhattan when those Dalek machines turned people into pig-men and took control of the Empire State Building. (Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks)

1941: I was in London during the Blitz, when the gas-masked horrors were stalking the streets. (The Empty Child)

1953: I was in London for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, when people had their faces eaten away by their television sets. (The Idiot’s Lantern)

And since we are talking about the past, there is no reason why this idea could not be extended to all those wonderful Classic Who episodes – like, say, Talons of Weng Chiang, Remembrance of the Daleks or The Curse of Fenric

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