New to the VAE Library: Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space~ The Fourth Doctor Sourcebook
Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space~ The Fourth Doctor Sourcebook
This was a given purchase for the gaming library.
I suppose I would’ve purchased it the day it was released had it not been for the Black Cloud over my heart last year. But now I have it, and I couldn’t be happier.
The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, remains, after 50 plus years, the iconic Doctor. And he was my first. “You never forget your first Doctor” as they say. Baker’s interpretation of the time-traveling vagabond with his alien-oddness, acerbic-wit, and bohemian-anti-authorian style was a galactic detective in his way, armed with the keenest intellect hidden behind an obfuscating happy-go-lucky approach.
All hair and teeth, the Fourth Doctor was no longer planet bound like his predecessor, and he was free to pop randomly about the universe like Sherlock Holmes on a gleeful holiday.
But the setting and backdrop of gothic horror (like a Hammer Film picked up in a second hand shop) infuses a darkness to many of the Fourth Doctor’s tales. And gaslight seems a perfect fit for these stories.
Take The Brain of Morbius, a gonzo Frankenstein riff mixed equal parts 1950s mad scientist b-movie and dark-castle-on-the-hill gothica. Grim shadows, witches, and a brain in a jar.
Two of my favorite stories are Agatha Christie inspired isolated-mansion-murder-mysteries, one set in an Edwardian lighthouse, the other on a robot staffed storm-miner.
Horror of Fang Rock
The Robots of Death
Pyramids of Mars (my son’s favorite story) is arguable the most Hammer-esque of the Tom Baker series. Creepy British manor house, alien Egyptian gods, and mummy-wrapped robots. Oh, end the end of the world.
You can’t mention the Fourth Doctor and Victoriana without two things coming.
One is the secondary console/control room. All wood and brass it oozes Scientific Romance class. Introduced in The Masque of Mandragora, props imply that it was used at some time by both the First and Second Doctors, and it may have been the “original” TARDIS control room. It wasn’t used much, or for very long, but has become iconic to many fans.
The Talons of Weng-Chiang wasn’t the first Victorian era Doctor Who tale, and was far from the last. But it is consistently ranked as one of the greatest Doctor Who stories ever. And it revels in it’s gaslit setting (even with the unfortunately cultural implications it involves).
And it happens to be my all-time favorite.
It’s one of the few times in classic Doctor Who where the Doctor (and his companion) ditches his usual outfit and dons period costume. And the Doctor becomes the Great Detective…
But this is just the tip of the iceberg of the Tom Baker era. As the longest running Doctor, the rang of stories presented is staggering.
And The Fourth Doctor Sourcebook covers ALL of them. Each of the Fourth Doctor stories is presented here, all with a story synopsis, continuity notes, stats for specific characters and equipment, and ideas for further adventures inspired by that series. In the appendix they even include the unfinished adventure Shada!
Prior to this we are introduced to the style and themes of the Tom Baker times, so game masters can get the feeling and atmosphere right. But there’s more: story seeds, new Traits (advantages and disadvantages), new gadgets and, of course, stats on the Fourth Doctor, his companions and his TARDIS.
The encyclopedic but inspirational approach of these sourcebooks is great, and handled very well here.