It seems like only yesterday that the Doctor and Selene were stepping out of the TARDIS and onto the beach at Arrowdown, ready to face an uncertain future and terrors untold. That was “Ghost Town,” the inaugural module in our ongoing campaign based on the Doctor Who Roleplaying Game from Cubicle 7. It launched an unforgettable run of adventures that has taken our players from the battlefields of Roman Britain to the flowering jungles of Vortis to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean in the belly of the Titanic. The Doctor and his companions—the robot Master, Selene, Mohana, and Alison—have toppled madmen and undead gods and alien killing machines. The Daleks and the Divinity came closest to ending their journey, but with carefully chosen traits and a few well-played story points, our heroes triumphed over evil time and again. The Doctor and the TARDIS are eternal. On television and at the gaming table, their story will never end.
That’s important to remember, as change is coming. The Dark Dimension is about to be renewed. The incarnation of the Doctor brought so memorably to life by Richard E Grant in “Scream of the Shalka,” star of our campaign, has dark days ahead as our game narrative is jumping forward to depict his defiant last stand. The time has come for an historic first in our campaign, the first regeneration—and the moment has been prepared for. Players and game masters will be switching roles, and there will be a shake-up in the status quo.
A regeneration is imminent, but that doesn’t mean we’re done telling stories with the Nth Doctor. Though we’ll be introducing the Doctor’s next incarnation and a new take on the ongoing story arc, there will be plenty of opportunities to play out the untold stories of the Nth Doctor’s era in the future. Going forward, the Dark Dimension will feature twice the Doctors. This will expand our ongoing original narrative and add some variety to the proceedings. Ultimately, each player in the campaign will have the opportunity to create their own Doctor. It’s been great fun developing an original take on the mythology of Doctor Who using “Scream of the Shalka” as a starting point. That mythology is going to take on a greater richness and vibrancy as our cast of Doctors begins to expand.
Who is the companion destined to board the TARDIS during its time of peril? Will the Doctor at last break free of the oppressive control of the Time Lords? Can the Master resist his hideous true nature? What is to be the Doctor’s final fate, and what sort of man will emerge from the ashes of his regeneration? Time, and a roll of the 2D6, will tell.
Release Date: 13 November 2003 to 18 December 2003 (6 Episodes)
Characters: The Doctor, The Master, Alison
Adversaries: The Shalka
Allies: The Royal Green Jackets
Time: 13-15 November 2003 CE
Space: Lancashire, England, Earth
Continuity: The only animated adventure to feature the Nth Doctor.
Synopsis: When the Doctor lands in the village of Lannet in Lancashire, he finds a community paralyzed by fear. The broken streets are empty and silent. Men, women, and children alike are keeping quiet and keeping to themselves. The Doctor senses that their dread is a response to an unspoken warning—a low and loathsome sound, persistently reverberating through the ground beneath their feet. Something hellish has taken up residence in the volcanic depths of the earth. The Shalka have decimated a hundred thousand worlds in their never-ending drive to expand across the universe. Now, the Earth is their home.
While the British Army launches a large scale evacuation and prepares for military action against the underground invaders, the Doctor finds an ally in bolshie barmaid Alison Cheney, but their combined efforts to get to the bottom of things serve only to precipitate an apocalyptic plot. Soon controlled populations across the planet have given voice to the inhuman scream of the Shalka, launching a sonic assault that will disrupt the Earth’s atmosphere and scorch its surface. As humanity has lost its voice and is powerless to resist the new order, it’s up to the Doctor and his newfound companion to stand up and make some noise.
In a fortnight’s time, Doctor Who will return to television for what looks to be a stunning new series on BBC One. Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor continues to prove full of surprises. (And the new series is accompanied, of course, by a brand new edition of the Doctor Who Roleplaying Game released by Cubicle 7!) Shortly after the show’s return, our own tabletop version of Doctor Who will have its latest series premiere, although there are some changes in the cards for these dice-driven misadventures in time and space.
The Dark Dimension campaign represents an alternate timeline to the new series of Doctor Who. Diverging from the established television continuity has allowed us to develop an original mythology, and the exciting second series of our role-playing game advanced that mythology by leaps and bounds. (Consider the image posted here as the box set cover for Series Two. Behold the manic grin that has greeted—and terrified—so many of the NPCs in our adventures!)
After failing in his desperate effort to eliminate the corrupting influence of the Divinity from the timestream, incurring their wrath as well as the judgment of the Time Lords, the Doctor found himself face-to-face with with his mortal enemies once more in “Divine Retribution.” His greatest fears were rendered reality. The resulting confrontation precipitated a seemingly inevitable betrayal as Selene pledged her loyalty to the Master, earning the Doctor’s ire and nearly costing him the TARDIS. The decisive “Planet of Ghosts” ended on a somber note as Mohana bid farewell to her predecessor in the Doctor’s stead, leaving Selene frozen in cryogenic stasis, bound for Earth, unaware of her fate.
When our campaign continues next month, we’ll fast-forward into a new era. One of the ways in which we hope to keep our campaign fresh is by regularly rotating roles. Each player will have the opportunity to serve as game master, and our campaign’s characters and mythology will sometime shift as a result. Soon a new game master will take charge, sharing a fresh take on these stories and introducing fresh player dynamics as well.
The upcoming series of adventures will focus on the Doctor (Richard E Grant), the Master (Derek Jacobi), and Alison Cheney (Sophie Okonedo) as they travel through time and space, their destinies dictated by the mysterious mandate of the Time Lords. While the events of our first two series serve as a prelude to “Scream of the Shalka” (2003), our next few stories will take place after the events of the animated BBCi webcast. The Episodes page here on the blog outlines the order of adventures and campaign continuity and will always be up-to-date with the latest installment.
If you’re looking for something to tide you over during the countdown to “The Magician’s Apprentice,” now is a fine time to pick up that copy of “Scream of the Shalka” on DVD. Spend an evening revisiting a memorable reinvention of our hero and have a glimpse at what might have been if the history of Doctor Who had jumped a time track and taken a different course. The story of that sophisticated, saturnine Doctor and his ominous trials and tribulations continues, right here, in the weeks to come.
Prior to BBCi’s premiere of “Scream of the Shalka,” Doctor Who Magazine asked star Richard E Grant to comment on the legendary character he was taking on. “Ooh, I don’t know,” Grant answered, parrying the question and bracing for an inevitable onslaught of audience critique. “What I do know is that a huge number of people have very strong ideas about what he looks like, who should play him, who’s the best person that has played him, and all those sorts of things.”
There is something prophetic in his reply, of course. To this day, a great many viewers have strong opinions regarding the webcast and Grant’s performance as a would-be Ninth Doctor. None can deny, however, that the troubled but lively Doctor glimpsed in “Scream of the Shalka” stands apart from all other incarnations. Grant’s distinctive persona has inspired the driving spirit behind each and every one of this role-playing campaign’s stories, from “Ghost Town” to “Catatonia,” allowing us to explore a mythology entirely independent of the saga that continues to unfold on television.
Today, on the occasion of the actor’s fifty-eighth birthday, the official Doctor Who site has been kind enough to share a celebratory announcement, remembering that he “thrilled us as the Great Intelligence” in episodes such as “The Snowmen” and “The Name of the Doctor.” Lest the internet forget that he was also the Doctor himself for a brief and peculiar moment in Doctor Who history, we have decided to celebrate the occasion by imagining what Doctor Who Magazine might have looked like had Richard E Grant’s adventures taken hold. For us, Richard E Grant is the Doctor, and he’s earned the traditional cover proclaiming this. As for the feature articles, behind-the-scenes photos, and all-new comic strip adventures to be found behind such an enticing cover, you’ll just have to use your imagination.
Richard E Grant graced the cover of Doctor Who Magazine only once, during the weeks leading up to the premiere of the BBCi webcast “Scream of the Shalka.” Doctor Who Magazine #336 (November 2003) offers us a glimpse of what might have been. Peel away that proud, attention-grabbing orange label that proclaims the series is “Set for BBC TV Comeback!” and we’re left with a cover that suggests Grant’s moody Doctor is the future of Doctor Who.
During the course of the issue’s infamous interview, an otherwise enthusiastic Grant confessed his inexperience: “I’ve never seen Doctor Who. And I’ve never read it. I’ve never read any of the Doctor Who books. I feel like a complete—I don’t know—fraud, really.” Producer James Goss was a bit more confident about the animated adventure and its hero. “Richard E Grant is the ‘now’ of Doctor Who,” Goss declared, looking to the future. “No one knows how his story is going to end, or what the next step will be. It’s very exciting.”
There were no subsequent adventures, of course. Fate had other plans for the celebrated Time Lord, and the Ninth Doctor soon adopted the face of one Christopher Eccleston. “Scream of the Shalka” became trivia and Richard E Grant never earned the traditional Doctor Who Magazine cover proclaiming that he “is the Doctor.” As the Nth Doctor’s thrilling adventures continue in our ongoing role-playing campaign, this blog will have to take a stab at imagining just what that might have looked like. No one but the game master knows how his story is going to end, or what the next step will be…
In celebration of fifty years of Doctor Who, our own TARDIS team decided to launch a new role-playing campaign based on Cubicle 7’s Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. The first game begins on 23 November, just hours before the premiere of the fiftieth anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor.” We’ve chosen to establish this blog to serve as the official chronicle of the campaign. This site will offer an episode guide, conveying the essential details of each adventure as it takes place. We’ll also post fiction, artwork, character stats, and other gameplay materials. Our intention is to keep an official record and to allow the rest of you to follow along with the fun at home.
We’re so excited to get things underway that we’ve prepared this teaser poster to set the mood. Our campaign begins with the adventures of the Nth Doctor, modeled on the character played by Richard E Grant in Scream of the Shalka (2003). A direct successor to Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, the temperamental but spirited Nth Doctor allows us to forge an entirely new continuity going forward. Devastated by his personal losses, controlled by shadowy forces, the Nth Doctor is a conflicted hero. Those mysterious assignments to be undertaken in the universe’s darkest corners are sure to reflect his troubled persona.
As celebrating fifty years of history and monsters has reminded us, there can never be enough stories set in the Doctor Who universe. Prepare for all-new adventures in time… and space!