Out of the different Doctor Who storytelling mediums we consumed in class there is no question that I found Charles Cecil and Anwen Aspden’s videogame Doctor Who: Blood of the Cybermen the absolute worst of the four. The game itself is nothing more than a buggy and poorly made point-and-click adventure game with a few tedious minigames thrown in as a sad attempt to add variety to the incredibly dull gameplay. The controls are horrible since all aspects of movement are relegated to the mouse instead of the key board and any actions that the characters can perform are automatic instead of controlled by the player. The voice acting sounded dull and uninspired like the script was read by a bunch of people who were extremely uninterested and even resentful about making this game. Also, the graphics are pretty terrible seeing as they are completely unable to render any believable virtual environments, facial features/expressions or bodily movements. All of these problems are inherent within the medium itself and I recognize that, however, even the type of story that this videogame told was totally unoriginal. It’s about a group of archeologists who accidentally awaken an ancient and hostile alien species frozen deep beneath a remote arctic location for thousands of years. Where have I heard that before? Let me see…oh wait I remember now, it’s the exact same plot of H.P. Lovecraft’s famous short story At the Mountains of Madness in which a group Antarctic explorers discover a race of ancient aliens known as the Elder Things and awaken their slaves-monsters called Shoggoths.
My favorite of the Doctor Who platforms is a tossup between Eddie Robson’s audio drama “Human Resources” and Steven Moffat’s television episode “Blink”. I absolutely adored the concept behind “Human Resources”-that the crew of a giant, weaponized robot are secretly brainwashed into believing that they are employees for a stuffy, bureaucratic British office complete with cherry intercom announcements is pure genius. The dialogue was magnificent and full of a sharp, biting wit which makes it feel like it came right out of a Monte Python sketch. I also highly enjoyed the use of a radio broadcast as the medium since it gave me room to use my imagination, something that is rarely required by our current media landscape. The only weakness, however, was that the voices lacked some much needed distinction which made it a little hard to keep track of who was saying what at a given time. This was a very minor problem and didn’t really detract from the experience for me.
“Blink” was the first piece of Doctor Who media that I had ever encountered as a whole. Although I had seen bits and pieces of Doctor Who before on various websites around the internet as well as some vague idea of his character, I had never really tried to dig any deeper into the Doctor Who mythos before seeing this episode in class. After seeing it I was astounded that I never realized how fantastic the franchise was. You see, I almost never watch any television. I’ve never seen a single episode of 24, Lost, Heroes, House, The Sopranos, The Office, Glee, Mad Men, 30 Rock and many, many other shows along those lines. The only shows that I do tend to watch are usually animated programs like The Simpsons, South Park, the Adult Swim lineup and other various cartoons because these shows are allowed to warp reality and plotline far beyond the reaches of live-action television. However, Doctor Who is a notable exception that defies almost every aspect of reality and is the first live-action show that I have ever had any desire to watch. While watching “Blink” I was in constant awe of the time traveling narrative mechanics at play throughout the story and the originality of the weeping angels as villainous living statues that freeze when you look at them. The acting was also incredible and the characters were all very memorable, especially the Doctor himself who I found endlessly fascinating. The only flaw that I saw was with the plot itself: why didn’t the angles just send the people they killed back to the Ice Age or the dark ages where they would die without being able to contact Sally Sparrow? This is also just a minor or flaw and didn’t really detract from my overall experience.
As for the comic book “The World Shapers”, I thoroughly enjoyed Grant Morrison’s writing (he’s one of my favorite comic book writers) and the art was very well done. The plotline was also very engaging and original, especially with the surprise revelation at the end. Yet, there were a few minor problems for me while I was reading it. After watching the eccentrically charismatic David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor in “Blink”, I didn’t really find the Sixth Doctor as immediately likable although that might be because I haven’t seen any other media with this doctor in it. I hated the talking penguin and found his presence totally unnecessary throughout the course of narrative although this aversion may also derive from my limited contextual knowledge on this particular Doctor Who. I also found that the reveal about the cybermen being the saviors of all sentient life extremely confusing. If Doctor Who is in fact a time traveler then how could he possibly not know about this? Wouldn’t this be a commonly known fact after some point in the future? These questions may also arise due to my narrow understanding of the franchise as a whole but it still seems incredibly odd to me that a time traveler would not know about the most important event of the future.
In general, I do believe that all of these mediums were well suited for each of their specific stories. In “Blink” the story depended on a variety of striking visual and narrative mechanics to compel the viewer into watching the plot unfold. This is mainly observed through the weeping angles who illustrate a very fitting plot device for a televised platform because they require the constant motion of the world around them in order to make their own dreadful stop-and-go motions believable and thereby create a sense of fear within the viewer. These tricks, however, were still grounded firmly within reality due to the limited budget of the television studio and relied heavily on various camera tricks that wouldn’t translate well to any of the other mediums. Due to the illustrated content of comic books, “The World Shapers” was easily able to outpace “Blink” in the scale of its story by illustrating vast dying worlds, aliens, talking penguins and other effects that only big budget movies could hope to recreate on screen. Yet, because comic books lack the sound, movement and uninterrupted flow of television the reader is often denied several crucial elements needed to fully experience the narrative. When listening to “Human Resources” the audience encounters a similar problem in that the narrative is far more ambitious than a televised story and sounds better than the comic book but they are in turn deprived of any visual representations outside of their imaginations. I suppose that one of the ways in which one narrative could transcend two media platforms is by finding common characteristics between the two and attempting to bridge those gaps within the plotline itself.
There were several aspects of the Doctor Who franchise that seemed to be consistent across all four platforms. As addressed in our reading “Truths Universally Acknowledged: How the “Rules” of Doctor Who Affect the Writing” The first and foremost of these elements persevered throughout each medium was the Doctor’s characterization as a witty and charismatic adventurer who uses his intellect instead of force to overcome the various obstacles he encounters throughout his travels. I believe that this characterization feeds directly into a sentiment that has persisted within British culture ever since the end of World War II in which America assumed the role as the leader of the free world and Britain was relegated to the shadows. Since they were no longer in direct control of the world, Britain began to see itself as a more subtle and intelligent world power as opposed to America’s lumbering use of brute force. As such many of the cultural characters developed around the fifties and sixties like James Bond assumed the roles of heroes who operate behind-the-scene and use their minds and wit to solve problems as opposed to powerful American heroes like Batman or Superman.
Each of the four platforms we consumed also included four different female companions that travel with the doctor on his journeys. These characters are addressed as well in the “Truths” reading and are used as an explanatory device to give the Doctor someone to talk to and explain his thought processes to during his adventures. Although each girl is different, they all take a similar form of a proud, snarky English women with very little patience for Doctor Who’s various quirks of personality.
The overall theme and atmosphere of the Who universe also remained intact throughout the four different mediums, each adventure has an air of light hearted intensity in which the viewer knows that the threat Doctor Who faces is significant and potentially deadly but the Doctor still approaches them with a certain playful optimism. As addressed in the reading “Absent Epic, Implied Story Arcs, and Variation on a Narrative Theme” these persistent narrative devices all converge to create the impression of a continual, epic story arc which plays just beyond the viewers own understanding.