The Dr. Who franchise is a remarkable example of transmedia excellence; from “Blink” on the big screen, to “Blood of the Cybermen” for gamers, with the comic “The World Shaper’s” and the audio drama “Human Resources” in between, these titles each represent different forms of media that all share Dr. Who’s character and narrative albeit in their own distinct ways.
Charles Cecil and Anwen Aspden’s Blood of the Cybermen was my least favorite form of Dr. Who out of the four mediums we experienced. This came as a surprise because I am usually more tailored to video games than say an audio drama. But I found that Blood of the Cybermen, although enjoyable to play, lost the feel of Dr. Who from a character stand-point. As defined by McKee from our readings, character is “revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure—the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.” In Cybermen, Dr. Who must complete objectives to advance to each new level, this is after all a video game. So while Dr. Who might be making the same choices while “under pressure,” I felt that because we are truly in control, then the character in game is more illustrative of our own character and not Dr. Who’s. Sure the objective is telling me to find a key code to unlock the door, but this does not prevent me from running around the video game environment. It could take “my” Dr. Who twenty minutes to actually focus on the objective because “my” Dr. Who’s character, it could be argued, is fearful of entering a room where the mystery would be solved: instead of doing the objective, I chose to send my Dr. Who back outside and run-around in the snow, explore the pipelines, try to open doors, or find “fact cards.” The point is, while making a decision under “extreme” pressure, my Dr. Who’s character in Cybermen did not parallel the “blindly obsessed” Dr. Who we find in the other mediums. For this, I felt that the narrative was lost and the Dr. Who franchise was minutely present.
Eddie Robson’s audio drama “Human Resources” was not highly entertaining but I believe that the audio version captures the character of Dr. Who and clearly continues the Dr. Who narrative—thus I highly respected this medium. Although I had relative difficulty following along to the audio, I found it interesting to sit-back and begin imagining the story. It has been such a long time since I’ve been given the opportunity to listen to a story aloud and while it took me a good fifteen minutes to rekindle with my adolescent-like imagination, once sparked I thoroughly enjoyed it. The ability to picture for myself the Dr., his companion, and others made me feel part of the narrative storytelling process. While the Eddie Robson created the audio drama, he gave us as the audience the shared opportunity to create Dr. Who’s world in our own minds. We choose in our vivid imaginations Dr. Who’s dress, his hair, his companion, and even the TARDIS—I would totally paint my TARDIS red. While amidst our imagination, Dr. Who’s true character and general characterization were relevant to the franchise and embodied the overarching Dr. Who story.
Steven Moffat’s “Blink” was a great starter for any newcomer to the Dr. Who franchise. As a relative newcomer myself, I was glad that I had the opportunity to watch one of the BBC episodes because I needed to gain knowledge of Dr. Who’s character and elements of the storytelling: specifically the TARDIS and the element of time. The narrative was clear and Dr. Who’s character came off as a blindly obsessed mad-man who can solve any mystery amidst the upmost of pressures while still deciding what is essential to succeeding at his task. This basis for his character guided my journey through the other mediums, especially while visualizing the audio drama for myself, as I constantly had to recall elements from “Blink” while trying to visualize for myself the Dr. Who audio narrative. “Blink” as a foundation for Dr. Who exploration, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I found Grant Morrison’s comic “The World Shapers” the most interesting form of digesting the Dr. Who narrative; as a reader I felt enabled to experience Dr. Who for the ultimate badass that he truly is. Combining elements from the visual and audio mediums, “The World Shapers” provided a foundation for which I was expected to visualize and interpret the narrative while still allowing my imagination to wander and create alternative or expanded scenarios and conversations. We meet Jamie McCrimmon when the Dr. pays him a visit. The comic shows that he is a very old man and clearly very very old: “Oh, DOCTOR! DOCTOR, I KNEW YOU’D COME
BACK ONE DAY!” says Jamie. My particular enjoyment with comics is that I do not have a director or studio telling me how Jamie sounds, or how his facial details should be portrayed. For me, these details in comics are mere archetypes for the character’s appearance, which relays into the reader’s level of experienced enjoyment. I can see that Jamie is wearing shanty clothing but my imagination sees this in an abstract sense liberating me from the author and allowing my mind to explore. By the same token, Jamie, the Dr., and other characters all choose to act under pressure according to their set true characters as described by McKee. The emphasis on character has not been mismanaged on my part during this blog as I find it to be one of the most important aspects to clearly understanding the story.
Character can lead to very amusing stories. Without knowing Dr. Who’s true character, no action would exist: no decisions would be made and the story would be debunked; narrative would simply not survive. McKee explains that characters are not human and that they are metaphors, “we relate to characters as if they were real, but they are superior to reality. Their aspects are designed to be clear and knowable; whereas our fellow humans are difficult to understand” (pp. 375); similarly, story “is a metaphor for life” (pp. 108). As metaphors, character and story are perhaps free from reality’s obstructions, time in Dr. Who stories is elusive and very confusing, but it is certainly not like time in reality. Character and story are very much connected and as described by Mckee on pp. 107, “if the story stays the same, character stays the same. If the writer reinvents character, he must reinvent story. A changed character must make new choices, take different actions, and live another story—his story.” McKee’s belief that character and story affect one another is one of the major factors for my dislike of the Cybermen video game. Dr. Who’s character is lost and really, so is the story.
As I wrap this up I must elaborate on Brad Meltzer’s response to The Judas Contract and Terra’s death. DC comics chose to reveal Terra’s dark side and ultimately kill her off which set the young Meltzer into a quasi-paralysis, “they [Terra’s creators] took people in capes and utility belts and made them [comic book characters] real—and just when we [readers] loved them most… just when we opened our arms to embrace them… they kept her [Terra] as a villain and slaughtered her” (pp. 106). For Meltzer, Terra epitomized his dreams as he fell in love with her true character. Through comics and as the reader, Meltzer was able to imagine for himself his own connection and love affair with the character and narrative/story. Would he have chosen to kill Terra and expose her as a conniving villain—probably not. Though Meltzer and readers can illustrate using their own imaginations the character and aspects of the story, it is Terra’s creators who will always win as they have the choice to dictate the overarching narrative.
To succinctly summarize, while watching Dr. Who via the differing mediums I was drawn to the aspects of character and story. In order for me to truly understand the story and narrative I needed to grasp a feeling for Dr. Who’s true character. Cybermen the video game failed in this respect and I did not find it holistically true to the Dr. Who storytelling franchise. “Blink” provided a general overview of Dr. Who and his environment and cleared-up storytelling elements such as the use of the TARDIS and the formula for time in Dr. Who’s universe. While character and story are interrelated and very much important, my personal experience prospered when I was able to use my own brain and imagination. Although I had difficulty focusing on the audio narrative at first (probably the distraction from the class more or less, I would have preferred listening to it in my bed or something) but my imagination led the way but needed to occasionally recall information learned through my viewing of “Blink.” Comics perhaps enable the best of both worlds because the creators can provide a basis for the reader visually but it was my imagination that controlled the relationship I developed between Dr. Who and me. My exploratory mind was propelled into thinking about Jamie’s past life, Dr. Who’s speech, walk, and swagger. These imaginative elements, for me, complemented my Dr. Who experience the most and I believe comics and audio as mediums exhibited the greatest potential for provoking reader-induced thinking.