I present to you 5 reasons why a Doctor Who game can’t work. (Believe me, I would really want it to).
THE CHARACTERS: Any fan of Who will be able to safely say that one of the show’s most impressive traits that has secured its place in television history for forty-eight years now is its character drama.
When the programme returned in 2005, it placed a central focus on the life of Rose Tyler, a teenage shop worker who found herself caught up in the life of a time-travelling alien. We followed Rose and the Doctor over the course of thirteen episodes, witnessing the tragic destruction of the planet Earth, the invasion of London by the Slitheen, the horrifying effects of the return of a lone Dalek on the Time Lord and ultimately his startling regeneration prompted by love and loyalty from his most devoted companion. More than ever before in the ‘classic era’, Russell T Davies placed a distinct focus on the companion and each of the emotional ramifications of these ground-breaking events on her, something which made for brilliant television seven years back and still rings true with Steven Moffat’s interpretation today.
Now, unless game developers have plentiful cut scenes to the point of Metal Gear Solid, Doctor Who video games are going to have to tone down the focus on the emotions and actions of the protagonists to the point that much of the heart of the show may be removed in the process, thus possibly leaving us with a dull imitation of the programme rather than a realistic depiction.
THE VISUALS: A simple one to explain, really: until BBC Worldwide actually invests some proper time and cash into making the graphics of a Doctor Who video game look as if they were intended for a current-generation console release rather than for the PlayStation 2 or GameCube in 2004, we’re never going to be able to be totally satisfied with the results of the final product. We had the atrocious 2010 frankenstein creature that was Return To Earth for the Nintendo Wii, and the hideously retro style of the Layton-alike DS effort Evacuation Earth. We need a modern game with modern graphics.
THE MYSTERY: Ever since An Unearthly Child kicked off the show’s extraterresterial and time-shifting exploits with its romp to the age of cavemen in 1963, fans have been constantly amazed at what the BBC can achieve in terms of Who’s special effects budget and rendering of alien worlds and past/future timelines. As soon as you move into the video games industry, then, you’re given an obligation to try and match that sense of wonder and mystery that comes every time the Doctor and his companion step outside the TARDIS doors, an obligation which BBC Worldwide ignored as they brought us spaceship corridors, junkyards which are hugely reminiscent of Earth’s and other lifeless environments.
Eternity Clock at least used multiple time periods and incarnations of London (as well as Storm Cage, an alien prison), a more daring set of locations than any past endeavour by developers, yet that was still fairly lacking in ambition on SuperMassive’s part. Nothing will surprise me quite as much as the show can when I walk out of those blue police box doors, and that that will always be the case in Doctor Who video games.
THE SCRIPT: Once again, this comes down to the format of the episodes in their modern day context, but to an extent it relates back to the ’63-’89 era too. If you go back and look at any single story of Who, I guarantee that you’ll be able to find some great one-liners that come back to haunt the characters later (“It is returning…it is returning through the dark…and then, oh but then…he will knock four times…”), romantic or family-based heart-warming dialogue to bring the audience together in joy or laughter (“I’ll suffer if I have to kill you.” “More than the entire universe?” “Yes.”
The grand extent of the humour in Return To Earth was the Cyber-Men demanding an AI be converted, only for her to keep retaliating with “But I do not want to be converted”. Really?
THE PLOT RESOLUTIONS: How can you ever top the huge cliffhangers the show has in video game? It’s in moments like these where Doctor Who shines totally as a television show, and which convince me that there is no way of accurately portraying the drama in a gameplay-focused product without losing a whole heap of what makes it great along the way.
What are your thoughts reader, can there ever be a good Doctor Who game?