New content soon for Doctor Who: Legacy

Yes, I still play this game. I think it’s absolutely a marvelous game. This weekend, the levels in the Fan Area are awarding 150% experience, and next week, they’re releasing a big content release, with the wrap-up of Season 6 and the addition of Captain Jack Harkness to the companion list. In March, they will be releasing:

  • Season 5, with new enemies with new abilities
  • New allies and Doctors, of course
  • Support for colorblind players
  • Other UI support, like sorting for characters and more team slots.

Why do I like this game so much? Well, first, if you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that I used to be a huge computer game fanatic, playing computer games all the time, until I got hooked on Doctor Who, at which point I lost my interest in computer games and spend most of my time doing things like writing, music, and crafts that are usually related to the show. I’ve tried to pick up games that I used to play (in specific, Civilization V), but haven’t really been pulled back into them – they take up so much time that I’d rather be spending doing other things. But I do still love games, and DW:L is a fine distraction game. Individual levels last 5-10 minutes, so it’s a great game to carry around on my iPad (which I carry around anyway) and play for relaxation or when I’m waiting for something.

But beyond that, the game is very well-crafted, and they kept the fan in mind. They took an already-proven gameplay mechanic (the one used in the hugely successful Puzzles and Dragons), removed the extremely complicated leveling system, added more strategy, and integrated it tightly into the Doctor Who mythos. They chose a puzzle game, so there isn’t overt violence, which keeps the game in line with the show’s overall philosophy. For the fans, they added a lot of characters to collect (6 Doctors and over 50 companions so far), and made it so that you can get all of them for free – you just have to play a lot. If you want to support the game by paying money, you can buy the characters, but you don’t have to. There is one area of the game that you can’t get into without paying, the Fan Area, but it only costs a couple of dollars and isn’t required to enjoy the game.

The team makes sure there’s always something new for the players every week: usually a new companion, but sometimes an extra experience event and occasionally a new Doctor. And they keep the fans informed, telling us what’s coming up and when, and even letting us know if there are major bugs and when we can expect them to be fixed (this has happened twice, I believe). They’ve also intimated that while the original plan was to work backwards through the seasons, starting from the modern show’s Series 7, they’ve come up with a plan to introduce content from the classic show earlier, since the original plan would take them over a year to get through just modern show’s seven series.

Basically, this is a fun game at its most basic, with plenty to appeal to fans of the show and lots of support from the team. I doubt a non-fan would find this game fun, since part of the appeal is collecting the familiar characters, but then if you’re reading this, you’re probably a fan. I think this game is good enough that I will repeatedly advertise it on my blog. I’ve bought in-game currency, first to open the Fan Area and then later simply to support the game. It’s worth it. Check it out.

Doctor Who: Legacy is currently available on iOS and Android, and will be released to the Amazon app store for the Kindle next week. It is also supposedly coming out on Facebook next month (not sure if it will share databases with the other versions).

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Eye candy

No, not that kind of eye candy. I don’t have a chance to really write anything today, so here are a few images from my “cool Doctor Who images” folder. Enjoy!

A cool photoshop of the modern female companions (except Clara and the one-shots Astrid, Adelaide, and Rosita) . Amy wasn’t added well, but it’s still cool.

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A message that appeared on the London Underground on the 50th anniversary.

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Cool art. Attribution is in the image.

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I just love this little clip. I think I really love it when the Doctor is taken over and loses control – probably the most terrifying thing to ever see. Which is why I love “42” and “Midnight.”

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Poor Martha

The Doctor and Martha Jones

The Doctor and Martha Jones

It’s kind of sad: I really like Martha Jones as a companion, but upon rewatching series 3 from start to finish, I really see why she’s unpopular. She was a great companion: very intelligent, strong-willed, faithful. She was willing to get right into the heart of the situation and do whatever she needed to do. She was also called on to sacrifice far more than Rose or Donna: She spent two months as a maid in 1913, ridiculed for her station and race; she worked as a shop girl for an unspecified (but implied long) time in 1969 to support that deadbeat Doctor; and she traveled the world for a full year, on foot, while the Toclafane were hunting her, to spread the legend of the Doctor.

The thing that really ruined her character was that she fell in love with the Doctor. And it wasn’t just that she fell in love, because a storyline about a companion who loves a Doctor who doesn’t love her back could be interesting. It was that she fell in love immediately. The Doctor kissed her in “Smith and Jones,” and she was already moony-eyed in the next episode, “THe Shakespeare Code.” The first two episodes are tightly tied together – the Doctor insisted on “one trip only,” making it impossible to insert novel or comic book adventures between them – so she really did fall in love as soon as she met him. She knew him for about 8 hours in “Smith and Jones” (she enters the TARDIS after Leo’s party), then, then they land in London, watch “Love’s Labours Lost,” meet Shakespeare, and then they’re lying in the bed and she’s upset he’s talking about Rose – perhaps 6 hours. That’s a total of 14 hours and she’s already sighing about how she loves him and he isn’t seeing her.

This was the writers’ fault. After the reciprocated romantic involvement between the Doctor and Rose, they wanted a story of unrequited love, and I’m sure they also saw the opportunity to use Martha’s love to motivate her (to give her a reason for making the sacrifices she did in “Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood” and “The Sound of Drums”/”The Last of the Time Lords,” though I would argue that Martha’s walking of the earth is far more heroic if she’s doing it to save the world from the Master and not out of love for the Doctor). They just started Martha too early. As it was, she fell in love with the Doctor way too fast, which wasn’t realistic, and then her occasional expressions of that love weren’t worked into the episodes well, and therefore came off as her just mooning stupidly for him. It didn’t help that the Doctor’s mourning the loss of Rose was also poorly handled sometimes, such as the bed scene in “The Shakespeare Code,” making Martha look even worse.

Martha does return as a much better character later, in “The Sontaran Strategem”/”The Poison Sky” and “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End,” but by then, either we were more interested in Donna or we’d already formed a poor opinion of Martha and didn’t care to see her again. In my “if they could do it all over again” world, after “one more series of the Tenth Doctor and Donna,” I’d ask for Martha’s series to be redone with her romantic feelings starting somewhere around “The Lazarus Experiment.” In fact, that’s the best place for it: up until then, she’s just a loyal companion, but when her mother starts to question the Doctor, Martha starts realizing she’s in love. It’s actually still too early in her real timeline – it’s only been a couple of days since she met the Doctor – but to the audience, five episodes into the series is enough time.

When I watch her episodes now, the romantic storyline bugs me, so I just sort of ignore it, and I still prefer Martha over second-series Rose (Donna ftw!). I find her to be a lot better in the novels, which tend to not address that aspect of her, and that’s the Martha that I picture to myself.

An interesting thought about companions

One of the best things about being married to a fellow Doctor Who fan is that we talk about the show all the time and sometimes come up with interesting insights out of seemingly banal conversations. Here is one from today.

Tegan, the token human

Tegan, the token human

Last night, we were watching “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” and were surprised when the Doctor mentioned that Leela was human. We had always thought that her people, the Sevateem, were human-looking humanoids from a different planet, but instead, they’re a regressed tribe of humans from the future. In discussing this, I realized something very interesting about the Doctor’s companions: the Fifth Doctor is the only Doctor that traveled primarily with non-humans. His companions were Tegan (human), Nyssa (Trakenite), Adric (Alzarian), Turlough (Trion), Kamelion (android), and Peri (human) (and Peri was only his companion for two episodes). The Doctor that comes closest to this is the Fourth Doctor, who traveled with the humans Sarah Jane, Harry, and Leela, and with the non-humans Romana, K-9, and Adric (for four episodes). All of the Fourth Doctor non-humans were in the latter half of his run: there were no humans in the TARDIS between the departure of Leela and the arrival of Tegan.

It almost feels like someone decided the Doctor needed to have non-human companions and went overboard with it, and then someone decided to punt them all from the TARDIS at the end of the Fifth Doctor’s run.  Beyond these, the only other non-human companions were Astrid Peth (Tenth Doctor) and River Song (who was human with some Time Lord characteristics).

After seven seasons of the modern show, it would be nice to have a non-human companion. It wouldn’t have to be a non-human-looking companion. A humanoid companion with an alien personality would be really nice, especially if there’s also a human in the TARDIS for us to identify with. Turlough and Romana especially were very interesting companions, and I’d love to see the show do something similar again.

When the Doctor is not the Doctor

The Doctor is such a complex character, coming from a race that created the time vortex and oversaw the entire universe to make sure that it proceeded as it should, but ultimately disagreeing with his people about what their responsibility really entails. He thus has to make decisions based on weighing the good of the universe and the importance of its overall structure against the disasters and sufferings of individuals and civilizations in the here and now. He fights the ultimate struggle of law versus chaos every day, and has to decide which is more important in each situation. This is one of the main things that draws me to the character: it’s not the individual Doctors’ personalities (though that influences my choice of favorite incarnation) or his exploration of time and space, but instead his approach to moral struggles and the different ways in which he resolves them.

In most cases, the Doctor adheres to the Laws of Time and works within them to help people where he can.  Even when it breaks his hearts to let horrible events proceed, he does not attempt to change fixed points in time (and tries to fix them if they’re broken, as in “The Fires of Pompeii”) and avoids going back on personal timelines and established events. He resists giving himself and others glimpses of the future. And then, of course, he has his own personal code, the one that makes him stand against the Time Lords and strive to help people across the universe. But though he’s a Time Lord and the hero of our story, he’s just a man and he makes mistakes. When he does break the rules, either the Laws of Time or his own, it’s either an accident (“Father’s Day”) or an enormous personal failing that has grave consequences (“The Waters of Mars”).

There are, though, a couple of instances in which the Doctor does very un-Doctorish things that are hidden by the greater story, but when you look at them closely, can really ruin the character or the story. I’m listing two of them here, one of which most people will agree with and the other of which no one will agree with.

The first instance is in “Love and Monsters.” Now, this is my single most hated episode of the modern series: I have only seen it once, and I don’t plan on ever viewing it again. The first part of it, dealing with the development of LINDA, was great, and then, well, the Abzorbaloff appeared. I realize that it was the product of a Blue Peter competition and was designed by a child, but it was pretty stupid. (Sorry! It’s horrible to say that about a child’s creation, but…) But that isn’t what turned me off of the episode. The thing that ruined it for me was the ending, where the Doctor locked Ursula into the stone slab. Ignoring the horrible fate of spending your life (and eternity?) as a stone face, the action was completely out of character for the Doctor. While he tries to save every life that he can, he also knows the difference between a life and an existence, and should never have even considered what he did to Ursula as an option. In plain terms, it was cruel. It is so contrary to the nature of the Doctor that I refuse to acknowledge that it ever happened.

The single most subtle and effective use of the Doctor's tactile telepathy.

The single most subtle and effective use of the Doctor’s tactile telepathy.

The second instance is in “Vincent and the Doctor.” Yes, we’re going from one of the most hated episodes to one of the most beloved. This was a beautiful episode, with the Doctor and Amy helping Vincent appreciate his work and his vision, Vincent helping them hunt down the monster, and their realization that the monster was simply lost, blind, and terrified. Then, in order to help Vincent, and probably to appease Amy, who wanted Vincent to not commit suicide and die young, the Doctor took Vincent to the future to see the legacy he would leave. This is another out-of-character action: the Doctor does not reveal a person’s future. I’m not sure if this is a personal rule or if it’s part of the Laws of Time, but it comes up every so often and the Doctor always refuses to do so. (Except in the TV movie, but so much in that goes against the entire rest of the show that I think it should be ignored.)

I’m of the opinion it’s part of the Laws of Time, because knowing your own future can change it, and the Doctor is incapable of knowing how it’s going to be changed. The Doctor didn’t know what had changed when they returned to the Musee d’Orsay. Amy had hoped that showing Vincent his legacy would overcome his depression and prevent his suicide, but it could easily have gone the other way, putting so much pressure on him to deserve that legacy that he destroyed himself even earlier than he should have. The Doctor had previously refused to show people their personal futures, so this was an out-of-character action for him, added to the story simply for emotional effect. I still love the rest of the episode, but the ending appalls me every time.

I do wonder if I’m just being too obsessive, requiring that the Doctor remain consistent (or at least pay the price when he breaks the rules). I think that’s one of the hazards of being a fan, honestly. The writers are not always going to see things the way I do, and so I just have to take the story for what it is. Oh, but I do love to kibitz.

 

 

 

The Doctor with friends

There she is! Can you see her?

There she is! Can you see her?

My best friend and her husband have finally gotten into Doctor Who. She started watching it at my insistence, one episode every so often, and her husband would catch a couple of scenes here and there. Then she hit series 3, and he got completely hooked. Last night, I went over to their house so that I could watch my favorite episode, “Human Nature” / “Family of Blood,” with them as they saw it for the very first time.

It was a wonderful experience. I, of course, know the story backward and forwards, but it’s been a very long time since I saw it for the first time, and it’s difficult to reacquire that first-time wonder.  I got to re-experience some of that through my friends. Here are some of the cool things that happened (using the completely fictional names Sandy and Carl for my friends).

  • During the opening scenes, the Doctor and Martha flee the Family and the Doctor says, “I’ve got to do it,” then John Smith wakes up from his dream. Carl remarked, “Oh, so the Doctor does sleep!” A few moments later, Martha the maid entered the room, and both my friends went, “Uh…?”
  • When John rearranges the scarecrow and Joan asks where he learned to draw, he reflexively answers, “Gallifrey.” Carl gasped, “Oh!”
  • Sandy almost cheered when the Doctor revealed himself in the spaceship.
  • When the Doctor meted out his punishments, Carl muttered, “Oh. My. God.”

I had been telling them it was my favorite episode for a week now (without telling them anything about it), so I was very much afraid they’d find it to be nowhere near as wonderful as I do. Luckily, they loved it, and Sandy said she felt it needed to be watched a few times so that she could catch all of its complexities. Sandy and I then watched “Blink” (Carl had to go to sleep), which she also loved because of its thrill factor, though she felt that HN/FoB was better. I am very excited for them to hit series four, which is the one I feel is the best of the modern show.

That was such a great experience that I’m hoping to do that again with them with other important episodes, such as “Silence in the Library” / “Forest of the Dead,” “Midnight,” The End of Time, and “Vincent and the Doctor.” And, of course, “The Day of the Doctor.”

Fates worse than death

One of the current favorite memes is how Steven Moffat loves to kill his characters. Now, I’m not talking about Sherlock here, because though I’ve watched all of it except the current season, I am not conversant enough with the show to discuss it. I’m just looking at Doctor Who. According to this article, Rory and Amy have each died eleven times (this number is arguable). Then there are other major character deaths:

  • Jenny in “The Name of the Doctor”
  • Strax in “A Good Man Goes to War” and “The Snowmen”
  • River in “Silence in the Library” and “The Name of the Doctor”
  • Clara in “The Snowmen” and “The Name of the Doctor”

I got this list from the web, and removed the Doctor from it because we always know when the Doctor will actually die, so he isn’t relevant to what I’m talking about here. So, yes, it looks like Moffat kills off the major characters quite often. And the meme goes on to compare Moffat with George R. R. Martin, who is known for killing off characters in Game of Thrones. There’s a big difference between the two, though: characters in Game of Thrones stay dead. (At least as far as I know. So far none of the characters I’ve seen die have come back.)

Moffat’s characters don’t stay dead, and thus, I don’t feel that the meme is really deserved for him. So far, we haven’t seen a major character actually die; you could argue for Amy and Rory in “The Angels Take Manhattan,” but their exit removed them permanently from the show specifically without killing them: they were pulled back in time where the Doctor could not ever encounter them (due to paradox) and lived the rest of their lives together. In all of the other cases, the deaths were erased in some way or the death was an alternate version of the character.

There are a lot reasons why you might want to kill off a character: shock value, to deal with themes of grief and love, to deal with themes of loss, for example. In many cases, the deaths in these past series were very emotional, but in others, they were cheapened by the frequency and the meta knowledge that it’s just going to be erased anyway. “Oh, no, Rory’s dead again” is a very popular meme, to the point of not taking the character seriously any more. I think the phrase is “toying with the heartstrings” – kind of a cheap way to evoke emotions. The ultimate in cheapened deaths was Clara’s in “The Name of the Doctor,” in which she made the ultimate sacrifice to save the Doctor, only to have him jump into his own timestream (major paradox?) to pull her out. What would have been a beautiful and heroic death became, well, boring.

The best Moffat death.

The best Moffat death.

I’m going to add one more death to Moffat’s total here, because he wrote the episode: River’s death in “Forest of the Dead.” After a wonderful episode in which we’re tantalized with hints about the Doctor’s relationship with River and an ending in which River sacrifices herself to save the Doctor, the Doctor finds a way to resurrect her within CAL. In this particular case, the resurrection adds to the beauty of the episode and River’s storyline: the Doctor, moving in the opposite time direction as River, realizes that he, in the future, gives her (and therefore him) the means to effect the resurrection, and thus he saves her. River only gets this one death, ever, and it’s fantastic.

Russell T. Davies’ time at the helm didn’t have many character deaths. There’s Captain Jack’s first death, from which he was resurrected by the Bad Wolf and made immortal – this was more of a plot point than anything else, as it set up his character for future appearances and for Torchwood. None of the other main companions die, and of minor companions, there’s Astrid Peth, who dies sacrificing herself for the Doctor, and Adelaide Brooke, who kills herself to teach the Doctor that the Time Lord Victorious is wrong. One other notable death was Jenny, who was resurrected by the Source: another beautiful death that was cheapened by a pointless resurrection.

The thing that Mr. Davies did in his era was establish tragic storylines without deaths. Let’s look at how his companions depart (other than Astrid and Adelaide, mentioned above).

  • Captain Jack is left behind because the Doctor can’t bear to be with him, due to him being an anomaly.
  • Sarah Jane Smith realizes that she has to move on with her life.
  • Mickey realizes that Rose will never love him and that he could really make a difference by staying in Pete’s World.
  • Rose is torn from the Doctor into Pete’s World. When they reunite, the Doctor gives her up because he knows he can’t keep her forever, and she departs with the Meta-Crisis Doctor. (Tragic for him, maybe not so much for her.)
  • Martha realizes her love for the Doctor will never be requited and leaves him.
  • Donna’s memories of the Doctor are torn from her by the Doctor so that she doesn’t die.
  • Jackson Lake parts amicably with the Doctor, but he’s just lost his wife.
  • Lady Christina is rejected by the Doctor because he doesn’t want to ruin another companion’s life.
  • The Doctor sacrifices himself for Wilf.

So many different kinds partings, tragic on one side or the other. Death isn’t the only tragedy: there are fates that are in some ways worse than death. I’m not saying that the deaths in the Eleventh Doctor’s run are banal. I’m saying that there are other ways to tell a story, to make your point, and that having characters die over and over again makes less of an impact each time it happens.