The Doctor, Daleks and D-Pads: A Gaming History of Doctor Who
Stuart Fry looks back on the good Doctor’s video game history.
So, the thirteenth — or should that be fourteenth, if you include John Hurt’s ‘War Doctor’? — incarnation of the regenerative Time Lord has been revealed, and it’s going to be a woman.
Doctor Who was a staple of British television between its inception on the 23rd of November 1963, right up until Survival, the final story of the original ‘classic’ series. Then, after the forgettable 1996 movie, the sci-fi show returned in 2005 and is now as popular as ever, with an ever-increasing fan base.
What is less well known is the history of appearances of the Doctor in video games; but, don’t despair Whovians, GrownGaming is here, as always, to enlighten you. So sit down, relax and crack open the jelly babies — it’s going to be a long one. Allons-y.
Doctor Who: The First Adventure
The earliest Doctor Who video game, of sorts, was way back in 1983: when Peter Davison, the celery and cricket loving fifth incarnation, was the Doctor.
Doctor Who: The First Adventure, was released on the BBCMicro, a microcomputer developed by Acorn Computers for the BBC Computer Literacy Project: a scheme to educate people on the growing importance of computers.
Despite its name and the inclusion of Peter Davison on the game’s box-art, you’d be forgiven for momentarily forgetting this is supposed to be a Doctor Who game. The game is actually a series of mini-games — dull, poorly executed, mini-games that were blatant rip-offs of other popular games of the period, such as Space Invaders.
Doctor Who and the Warlord
In 1985, a second Doctor Who game was released for the BBC Micro: this time it fell into the dated genre of text adventures. You know, like that Cavern of the Evil Wizard game played in the opening scene of Big!
The story for Doctor Who and the Warlord, was created by none other than Graham Williams: a producer on the show during the latter stages of the Tom Baker years and one of the script writers on City of Death, a consistent fan favourite.
In this game you don’t play as the Doctor: instead, it is your job to hunt down the elusive Time Lord. Your quest, to find the enigmatic intergalactic hero, leads you initially to a mysterious planet called Quantain, in the year 2743. It is on Quantain that you’ll first encounter the warlord, King Varangar, and battle his assortment of strange minions.
In the second part of the game, you find yourself launched back in time to the Battle of Waterloo, where you’ll have to battle two warlords: King Varangar and Napoleon Bonaparte.
Doctor Who and the Mines of Terror
Later that same year, yet another game was released for Whovian’s on the BBC Micro — although this one was also released a year later on the Commodore 64 and Lord Sugar’s, Amstrad.
The Mines of Terror is a 2D side-scrolling platformer, where you take control of the Sixth Doctor, as portrayed by Colin Baker. You’ll need to overcome many pepper pot, beady-eyed, Dalek-esque robots along the way, but they’re not referred to as such due to a lack of gaining the copyright from the Dalek creator — no, not Davros — their real life architect, Terry Nation.
Doctor Who abruptly ended in 1989, after consistently decreasing ratings during the Sylvester McCoy era, which saw the Doctor battle, among other oddities, a giant, intimidating Bertie Bassett!
However, that didn’t stop the Doctor appearing in more video games. In fact, what followed, was probably the best Doctor Who has ever been in the gaming world.
In 1992, a game was finally released that did the TV series some justice. In Dalek Attack, you’ll obviously come across Daleks, lots of them, and these are the real McCoy — no Mines of Terror imitations, to be found here.
Not just Daleks, but also Davros and the Special Weapons Dalek from Remembrance of the Daleks are prevalent throughout the campaign, and you’ll also encounter the Daleks’ two principal, braindead, henchmen: Robomen and the Ogrons. You’ll even return to their home planet of Skaro. Dalek Attack is a real homage to the emotionless, Kaled super race.
You’ll also get to play as not one, but three of the Doctors: the second, fourth and seventh incarnations are all playable. Yes, that means you can run around as Tom Baker, clad in that iconic hat and scarf.
Any fan of the 1963-89, classic, series, will inevitably love this nostalgic romp. Fancy giving it a bash? You can do so here: https://archive.org/details/msdos_Dalek_Attack_1992
Destiny of the Doctors
In 1997, a year after the TV Movie featuring Paul McGann, Destiny of the Doctors was released as a CD-ROM for the PC.
Destiny of the Doctors is another multi-Doctor story, this time all of the first seven Doctors are present. Although, unfortunately, you don’t actually get to play as any of them. Instead, you are an intelligent, floating, protoplasmic blob, created by the Doctor to thwart the Master who has imprisoned all seven Doctors.
Fresh dialogue from Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy was recorded for the release of this game, along with new dialogue from the Brigadier actor, Nicholas Courtney.
There is also brand new video footage of Anthony Ainley, one of the most-popular actors to portray the Master. Incidentally, this is sadly the final Who-related work that Ainley undertook prior to his death.
The first three Doctors still have a notable presence, despite not being able to provide new dialogue. William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton are voiced by an impersonator, while Jon Pertwee is represented by use of recordings from the TV series.
As Graak, you will enter the TARDIS of each Doctor as you try to rescue them one-by-one, but you will not be alone. The Master has placed a multitude of the Doctor’s most formidable foes within each TARDIS, including: Sontarans, Silurians, Quarks, Sea Devils, Raston Warrior Robots, Yeti, Ice Warriors, Zygons, Autons, Cybermen and inevitably, Daleks.
If there were not enough homages to the franchise already, the Third Doctor’s beloved car, Bessie is also drivable in a high-speed chase with the Master. If that wasn’t enough, the game also includes access to an extensive database of Who facts and content, including various clips from the series.
Oh, and the game’s story was written by Terrence Dicks, the man behind a mass of classic Who stories including The Seeds of Death and Horror of Fang Rock. Dicks was also responsible for the 20th anniversary special, The Five Doctors, and this game is full of subtle similarities to that story.
Despite its clunky nature and dated graphics, this is another game that will surely please any Whovian, particularly fans of the original series.
Top Trumps: Doctor Who
After two relatively decent games, Doctor Who took an 11 year hiatus from video games. Then, in 2008, the Doctor returned for Top Trumps: Doctor Who. I pity the poor sod, who waited a little over a decade for a new Who game, only to discover it was a digital form of Top Trumps.
There isn’t really much to say, we all know what Top Trumps is — you probably owned a set or two as a kid.
The game was released on Nintendo’s Wii and DS, as well as on Playstation 2 and PC and featured the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, and companion Martha Jones on the cover.
Eidos Interactive published the game, yes, Eidos Interactive, the ones behind releases of Tomb Raider, Championship Manager and Hitman. What a fall from grace.
This uninspired, forgettable game solely focuses on the new series and disregards the shows extensive history prior to 2005.
Swiftly moving on…
Doctor Who: The Adventure Games
Then, in 2010, a short series of episodic third-person puzzle-adventure games were released under the banner of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games.
Each short story was notably different but they all took place during the Matt Smith era: the contemporary Doctor of the time.
In Episode 1, City of the Daleks, the Doctor and Amy, voiced by Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, find themselves hurled back to 1963, into a dystopian London in ruins, before heading to the Daleks’ home planet, Skaro.
Other old foes return later in the series, as the pair clash with Cybermen in Episode 2, the creepy Vashta Nerada in Episode 4 and finally both the Sontarans and, their arch enemies, the Rutans in Episode 5, the final chapter of the series.
Episode 3, simply called TARDIS, is akin to The Edge of Destruction, the third ever story in the original TV series — i.e., the entire story takes place within the Doctor’s, time-travelling, police box.
Doctor Who: Evacuation Earth
Later that same year, not one, but two Doctor Who games were released within the month of November. Evacuation Earth, was the first, which was released solely for the handheld market on the Nintendo DS.
This is another Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond outing which sees the duo landing on Earth, just as the Earthlings are fleeing the planet. Later the pair find themselves up against Silurians, and inevitably, more Daleks.
Being a game for the DS, touch screen puzzles play a major role in the game and the entire game has a cartoony vibe which is clearly aimed at a younger audience.
Older fans of the franchise are unlikely to find this forgettable little game particularly satisfying but it’ll keep your Who-loving kids entertained for a couple of hours.
Doctor Who: Return to Earth
It’s November 2010, and another Doctor Who game for Nintendo is released — this time called Return to Earth, on the Wii. It’s a sequel, of sorts, to the pitiful Evacuation Earth, and is just as abysmal.
The Doctor and Amy arrive on an abandoned starship, the Lucy Grey: the first to return to Earth after the solar storms. Obligatory Cybermen and Daleks also find themselves conveniently aboard the otherwise deserted starship and are after something called the ‘Time Axis’.
The Doctor and Amy have to try and stop the dastardly Cybermen and Daleks from getting their grubby metallic mits and/or plungers on the aforementioned ‘Time Axis’ and that is as far as the dreary plot goes.
So the plot is uninspired, but what about the graphics? Well, they’re pretty dire, to say the least. Admittedly, the Wii is not known for its graphics but even so, this game falls way short of the graphics in other Wii games of the time.
Basically, it’s a shite story, with equally shite graphics and dodgy frame-rates. Frankly, too much time has already been wasted on this embarrassment of a game.
Doctor Who: Worlds in Time
Then after a puzzle-based mobile release, titled The Mazes of Time, for iOS and Android: Worlds in Time was made available to fans as a web-based MMORPG.
Players got to create their online persona by using an extensive set of customisation tools, and then took to the online world to greet fellow travellers, travel in the TARDIS, and complete various challenges and mini-games.
Unfortunately, for fans of the game, timeless fun was not to be an option, as the BBC decided to ditch the project in 2014 and Worlds of Time got lobbed into the dustbin of history.
Being a defunct browser-based game, there is literally no way to access this particular game — not even a sonic screwdriver can get you out of this one.
But, don’t despair, you were not missing much and if you really are still intrigued: you can check out some gameplay, if you can describe it as such, below.
Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock
After a swarm of amateurish, half-arsed entries to the ever-expanding library of Doctor Who games, The Eternity Clock is an attempt at releasing a more AAA experience to gamers.
That is not to say they succeeded, but at least some degree of effort was put into the creation of this game, for the Playstation 3, PS Vita and PC.
The Eternity Clock ran on the well-respected Unreal engine and the Beeb even managed to rope in Matt Smith to wear that funny suit, which ironically looks like it has Daleks balls on it, to provide motion capture for the game.
It’s another side-scrolling platform adventure, featuring Matt Smith’s Doctor, this time paired with River Song. The seemingly obligatory facets of a modern Doctor Who game are also present: Daleks, Cybermen and a ton of monotonous puzzle minigames.
Lego Dimensions: An Adventure in Space and Time
Finally, in 2015, a Doctor Who themed instalment was released for the Lego Dimensions ‘toys-to-life’ game.
The Doctor Who level pack sees an unlikely collaboration between Batman, Gandalf the Grey and that girl with the funny hair in the Lego Movie, as they enter the TARDIS of the Twelth Doctor.
Lego video games are always endearing and offer a humorous trip down memory lane for fanatical nerds — An Adventure in Space and Time, is no different.
This game is also absolutely crammed full of references to the TV series, both classic and new. There are an impressive thirteen playable Doctors, as you can play any of the ‘regular’ Doctors up to Peter Capaldi’s Twelth Doctor, as well as being able to command John Hurt’s War Doctor. You can also gain access to the respective TARDIS of each of the thirteen Doctors: which are charmingly in monochrome for the First and Second Doctor.
Along the way you’ll come across Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, Judoon and the giant K1 Robot that featured in the Fourth Doctor’s opening story, but to name a few and you’ll also have the aid of a host of trusty companions, including the ever-reliable, intelligent metallic pooch K-9.
If you’re a classic Who loving parent and you wish your son or daughter would appreciate the likes of Hartnell, Pertwee and Davison as much as you do, this game would be an excellent starting point and hey, it’ll give you an excuse to have this childish game in your house.
There, we got there in the end. So, there have been more Doctor Who games than you can shake a Peter Davison celery stick at, but you’ll be forgiven for having been utterly unaware of the majority of these games. Generally, the Doctor has not been given justice in video games: Dalek Attack, Destiny of the Doctors and the Lego level pack are notable exceptions with some appeal but they are intermingled amongst a pile of Ogron-sized defecation.
Nevermind, it is only a matter of time before another Doctor Who game is released, lets hope it’s a good’un. Until then, this TARDIS mod for Skyrim is a great distraction: