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Tick, Tock Goes the Clock

The Eternity Clock, an action/adventure game set in the Doctor Who universe, actually looks pretty good. Well, I say “pretty good,” by which I mean it doesn’t look like complete and utter shit, which is frankly what I figured a Doctor Who licensed game would look like. Yes, I know there are point-and-click style Who games, but this new one, which will be on the PS3, is getting a bit more attention than the others did,  both from its developers and from potential players. The show itself got a big push here in the states the past year, and it seems pretty clear that The Eternity Clock is part of the BBC’s extended campaign to make America love the Doctor. The Eternity Clock would seem to have an immense appreciation for its source material and an attention to detail to satisfy even the most ferocious Whovian, but I won’t be playing it unless I have to. I love the Doctor far too much….

In case you’re not familiar with the show, it’s about a time traveler – the Doctor – who journeys through time and space, solving whatever problems he encounters. He always has at least one human companion along for the ride, though whether that’s to stave off loneliness or just to ensure he’ll always have an audience for his antics is a matter that’s up for debate. He’s faced countless enemies over the course of the show’s fifty-year history, everything from robots to lizardmen to renegade Time Lords; many of the most famous show up in The Eternity Clock, a nice nod to series canon. Doctor Who’s mythology is a rich tapestry of legend, aliens, and broken laws of physics. Hard science and Doctor Who aren’t on speaking terms, but what it lacks in scientific veracity it more than makes up for with sheer imagination.

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I’ve been watching Doctor Who since I was about ten years old. The Doctor has probably had more influence on me than just about anyone else in my life, despite the fact that he’s a fictional character. I was enchanted by the exciting stories, but though I may have been tuning in to see space ships and bug-eyed monsters, what stuck with me was the show’s message that thinking your way out of a situation is infinitely preferable to smashing your way out. The Doctor succeeded not because he was the biggest or the strongest or because he had the most guns, but because he was clever. Sure, he had a lot of facts at his disposal, but more importantly, he kept his mind flexible enough to be able to use those facts to save his neck.

More importantly, the Doctor taught me that if someone is in trouble, and you can help, you should,  because it’s The Right Thing to Do. The Doctor’s insatiable sense of curiosity is what usually gets him into each episode’s plight, but it’s his sense of honor that typically makes him stick around. Simply put, the Doctor doesn’t like bullies, and regularly puts himself in harm’s way to protect those who can’t protect themselves. He might not wear a cape or cowl, but the Doctor is a superhero, and I’m not ashamed to admit how much he’s meant to me over the years. Through troubles at school, or at home, through challenges large and small, he has always been there, a constant star in my tumultuous sky.

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Given how important he’s been throughout my life, it’s reasonable to expect me to jump at the chance to finally join the Doctor in an adventure, especially one that – at first blush, anyway – seems to get so many things right. But I won’t. I don’t want to intrude on the world that I know so well. I’ve been an observer, not a participant, for these many years, much like the Time Lords were themselves, according to the show’s lore. My role is to watch, not take part; even if I were inclined to take a hand in the events, I certainly wouldn’t want to try and control the person I’ve looked up to my entire life. Becoming his puppeteer would reverse our relationship – suddenly, I would be the one saving the day as he looked on from the sidelines, and that’s not something I’m really comfortable with.

Philosophical musings about my relationship with a fictitious character aside, there are practical reasons I don’t want to play, too. If the game’s good, fine, but what if it isn’t? If the controls are mushy or the design is tedious or God forbid the whole thing is buggy, then I won’t quite be able to look at the Doctor quite the same way again. He’ll still be several hundred years old and overly fond of jammy dodgers, but he’ll also be the hero who sold out for a cheap and dingy buck. That’s not fair, but I stopped seeing the Doctor as just a character a very long time ago.

So I won’t be playing The Eternity Clock. But I hope it’s good.

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Susan Arendt is Managing Editor of The Escapist. Follow her on Twitter, especially if you like pictures of cute things: @SusanArendt.

Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

9 thoughts to “Tick, Tock Goes the Clock”

  1. I’ll let you know how it is. I’m on board for it.

    It may very well be bad, and in fact my expectations are EXTREMELY low. I’m seriously doubting we’ll get an Arkham Asylum/City-level treatment of the license, and at best it’ll likely be a bit of playable, fan service fluff.

    The problem is that Who isn’t a very gameable subject, quite unlike Star Trek or Star Wars. Even the big, epic storylines aren’t rife with gaming material. This goes back to a couple of not-good board games and a terrible CCG as well.  But yeah, the best Doctor Who game to date is…a pinball machine.

    I’m _totally_ with you about controlling the Doctor. My god, what a terrible idea that would be. I can’t think of a single possible way for that to work and not be WEIRD. One thing that’s great about Doctor Who, across all of the series, is that you the viewer are as along for the ride as the companions are. That’s why they’re in the show to begin with, to give the viewer someone to identify with. You should never be able to truly identify with or understand the motives of an immortal Time Lord. Pressing X to make the Doctor use the Sonic Screwdriver would single-handedly destroy all of the wonderful mysteriousnes- and otherness- of the Doctor.

    As for America and the Doctor, it’ll never happen. Who is much too English for the colonies. There’s that big-budget feature in the works, but unless it’s a Star Trek-level reboot with a budget and fresh faces to match, there’s no chance. Doctor Who in America will always (and might should) be a quirky, weird import strictly for nerds.

  2. Doctor Who is great.

    I like the new stuff, but the old was always my favorite.

    You didn’t really tell us who your favorite Doctor is, though.

  3. David Tennant is so very shouty. I am not a big fan; definitely prefer Matt Smith.

    I am a big fan of Patrick Troughton. I love his classic ‘base under siege’ stories

  4. Allow me to play as either David Tennant or Christopher Eccleston (sp.) and I’m sold.  David being the best doctor of the three new doctors, and Christopher because he’s so damn goofy looking.

  5. There’s only one correct answer to this, right? A tie between David Tennant and Tom Baker. Troughton is good though, I did like his stuff.

    I actually liked Peter Cushing, but really only because I’m a Peter Cushing fanatic (see my Gameshark picture)…hardly a canonical Doctor though.

    Tennant really blew me away…he was the first _cool_ Doctor, and in a really genuine, not forced way. I mean, come on, he’s using the Tardis is that one show to go back in time to see Ian Dury and the Blockheads. How awesome is that. I would do stuff like that if I had a Tardis. Hell, if I were a companion, he and I would be going to all kinds of concerts. “Hey Doctor, you wanna go see Echo and the Bunnymen at the Royal Albert Hall, 1984?” Then, of course, we’d wind up in some misadventure and miss the show, but still.

    Another thing about Tennant that’s just right for me is that he has that occasional dark edge, but it’s not over the top and angsty like Eccleston (who I think is one of the _worst_ Doctors).

  6. “What it lacks in scientific veracity it more than makes up for with sheer imagination.”

    Truer words have never been spoken. That statement perfectly encapsulates what I love about Doctor Who so much. No idea is too big, too crazy, or too impossible.

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