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Saturday 25 November 2023

The Tenth Doctor

As we await the arrival of the Fourteenth Doctor—in just half an hour at the time of this review being posted—it seems appropriate that we return to
Cubicle Seven Entertainment’s celebration of Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary for the Ennie-award winning Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space roleplaying game by leaping backwards in time to examine the adventures of the Tenth Doctor, the longest incarnation yet of the ‘Nu Who’ era and the one who would cement the modern Doctor in our collective conscious. From the foundations laid done by his predecessor, as detailed in The Ninth Doctor Sourcebook, the Tenth Doctor would run full tilt at life—“Allons-y!”—with new found enthusiasm, proud once again to embrace who he is as both a Time Lord and the last Time Lord, prepared to do what is right and even save the universe. His adventures will see him finding both friends and enemies old and new, even falling in love with more than one of the friends (and they with him), before ultimately, the Tenth Doctor would have to let them go, and face the perils of his pride alone. His adventures though, are big, including big story arcs—story arcs that would grow very big indeed during his next incarnation, The Eleventh Doctor.

The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook
follows the same format of the previous nine entries in the series. It is divided into five chapters—‘The Children of Time’, ‘Playing in the Tenth Doctor’s Era’, ‘Torchwood’, ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Enemies’, and ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Adventures’—as opposed to the four chapters of the previous nine volumes. The first chapter, ‘The Children of Time’, opens with a discussion of who the Tenth Doctor is and a guide to playing him, along with his character sheet, before detailing his many companions. First, Rose and Mickey Smith, both carryovers from the Ninth Doctor, and then Martha Jones, Captain Jack Harkness, and Donna Noble, long term companions of the Tenth Doctor. Minor characters are included also, who only travelled for an episode or so, including Wilfred Mott, Astrid Peth aboard the Titanic, Sally Sparrow, Lady Christina De Souza, and more. The longest section here is the most surprising and this is dedicated to Ood and Ood Sigma. Their inclusion here does feel odd, but then they would feel out of place in ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Enemies’ chapter as the Ood are not that. Character sheets are provided for all fourteen of the Tenth Doctor’s companions, as well as his TARDIS.

‘Playing in the Tenth Doctor’s Era’ opens at the same pace as his adventures. Speed, curiosity, and switches in pace from action to emotion and back again, riding on waves of giddy joy and ebbs of introspection. The incarnation would also explore and build a family, looking at the effect of a companion journeying with the Doctor would have on the companion’s family and on having a wider circle of companions within the TARDIS. Another theme is that of the Doctor exploring the Earth of the twenty-first century and with its growing realisation that humanity is not alone in the universe, a range of responses by humanity, from altruism to arrogance (and worse). There is advice too on building story arcs, but this feels a little short at just a page in length, though the episode guides will show this in action. There is one new alien trait added alongside several gadget traits.

The Tenth Doctor’s era saw the return of several of his biggest foes—and more than once. ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Enemies’ focuses on the Cybermen and the Daleks at first, providing an overview of their activities and clashes with the Doctor throughout this era. Thus from the Cyber Contoller of John Lumic’s world to the weird Cybershade of 1851 London and from the Cult of Skaro and Dalek Sec to the Supreme Dalek and Dalek Caan. In-between there is the return of an old foe, the return of old foes being a hallmark of this era. Thus, for the Daleks, the returning figure is their creator, Davros, but for the Doctor himself, his greatest returning foe is the Master, first as Professor Yana (though he does not know it) and then back on Earth as Harold Saxon. The Master gets very full stats as befitting his importance, but much like the era of the Tenth Doctor, the last return is saved for the end. This is the return of the Time Lords whom the Doctor thought destroyed in the Time War and this marked with the inclusion of Rassilon as the Doctor’s last enemy here.

The fifth and final chapter in The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook is, as with the previous entries in the series, its longest. Here, some four fifths of the book, adding greatly to its length. ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Adventures’ details all forty-four of the Tenth Doctor’s stories, from ‘The Christmas Invasion’ to ‘The End of Time’. All open with a synopsis, include notes on continuity—backwards and forwards to stories past and future, followed by advice on ‘Running the Adventure’. ‘Changing The Desktop Theme’—a reference to the changed look of the TARDIS interior after some thirty or so years—suggests ways in which the story can be reskinned with another threat or enemy, and so on. Rounding out the writeups are full details of the monsters and NPCs appearing in the episode. Thus, for the episode, ‘School Reunion’, the synopsis describes how the Doctor and Rose investigate strange goings on at a school and encounter Sarah Jane Smith doing exactly the same. Unsurprisingly, the ‘Continuity’ section has a lot to cover with Sarah Jane’s previous travels and encounters with the first five Doctors, the adoption of her family (as detailed in The Sarah Jane Adventures), her relationship with K-9 and Mickey’s referring to K-9 as a ‘tin dog’ (which would later have his own significance for him), the numerous aliens that she has met (all linked to particular stories in The Third Doctor Sourcebook and The Fourth Doctor Sourcebook), and the mention of the spaceship hovering over London as seen in ‘The Christmas Invasion’ episode. All that and the use of lottery ticket by the Doctor for the first time.

Then, ‘Running the Adventure’ explores how ‘School Reunion’ is both a classic adventure and much more, in that it links back to the classic era of Doctor Who through a former companion. Not only that, it presented a way to tie lose threads left hanging from the companion’s last story and by bringing in a former companion, give the story more emotion and feeling. The writeup suggests that the story could also be used to start a campaign involving the students who have had a strange year with unbeknownst to both them and their parents, aliens in charge, perhaps leading to later involvement with both Torchwood and UNIT. Of course, strange activities at the school could also simply attract the attention of Torchwood. The villains behind the story are also detailed, including Mr. Finch and the Krillitane, along with the effects of Krillitane Oil, and there are stats for them and K-9. Lastly, there is a trio of further adventure ideas.

The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook follows this format again and again, detailing in the process some absolute classic adventures for ‘Nu-Who’. ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, ‘Blink’, ‘The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords’, ‘Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead’, and ‘The End of Time’ all stand out as great episodes and it a pleasure to see them explored and detailed here, as both a guide to the episodes and the means to make them gameable.

Perhaps the most surprising and unsurprising inclusion in The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook is that of the third chapter, ‘Torchwood’. Founded in 1879 with the episode ‘Tooth & Claw’—Queen Victoria versus werewolves, oh my!—Torchwood has become very much part of Doctor Who, dedicated to protecting the Earth from alien threats, including the Doctor himself! There is, however, no sourcebook for it. The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook, of course, is not the Torchwood sourcebook, but it is the nearest to it that there is with just the five pages in this two-hundred-and-fifty-six-page book. What there is, is good, even at just five pages. It includes a history all the Battle of Canary Wharf, Torchwood 2.0, and beyond, discusses its relations with UNIT, and more. In terms of game support, there is a guide to creating a Torchwood agent with suggested traits and a discussion of the nature of Torchwood team and how to put one together, both before and after the Battle of Canary Wharf, and a handful of plot hooks. These are accompanied by character sheets for Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones, to go along with the one given earlier for Captain Jack Harkness. It is a pity that this is all there is, as there is plenty of gaming potential in Torchwood, but what there is, is a good start.

Physically, The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook is as well presented as the rest of the line and is profusely illustrated with photographs from the series. The volume is well written and enjoyable to read. However, there are missed opportunities, though not really of the sourcebook’s own making, in that Torchwood is only covered slightly and The Sarah Jane Adventures not all. At least there is some detail about Torchwood provided.

Just as the Tenth Doctor expanded ‘Nu Who’ with a wider range of foes—old and new, and a growing family of companions and almost-companions, so The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook expands ‘Nu Who’ for the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space roleplaying game. It is a great continuation of The Ninth Doctor Sourcebook, building on what came before, covering some classic adventures, and showcasing why the Tenth Doctor was so popular.

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