The Game: The Master strikes again! The evil Time Lord has trapped the Doctor’s first seven incarnations. You assume the role of the Graak, a telepathic entity created by the Doctor in the event of just such an emergency. You must travel to different time zones to rescue the Doctor’s various incarnations, battling Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians, Sontarans, Yeti, Ice Warriors, Autons, Zygons and more along the way. You may be able to make telepathic contact with the Doctor periodically, or use the time-space telegraph to consult with the Brigadier. In the meantime, the Master challenges you to accomplish various hazardous tasks… (BBC Multimedia, 1997)
Memories: Despite the fact that Destiny of the Doctors is essentially a Doom/Duke Nukem engine with Doctor Who settings, villains and soundbytes, I find this game strangely addictive. Even more than Star Trek, Doctor Who has been a part of my pop culture/sci-fi consciousness since childhood, and there’s something appealing about finally getting to plaster some Daleks for myself rather than watching someone else do it on TV.
Not that Destiny of the Doctors is without problems, mind you. One of my biggest nitpicks is its use of the Doctor Who mythology. I can allow for minor deviances for the sake of game play, but there are some big course changes here. Sontarans can be killed by aiming a bee hive from the TARDIS’ Cloister Room at them and…well, for lack of a better word, firing bees at them. Autons must be killed by turning on a radio, at which point their heads blow off at the sound of what one can assume must only be Radio 1’s most obnoxious DJ. It’s funny, but wide of the mark of the show’s established continuity.
Perhaps the biggest blunder is the game’s treatment of travel in the TARDIS. One sets the controls to track down a specific incarnation of the Doctor, and then…steps out into the TARDIS corridors, rather than outside the TARDIS itself, to find the enemy wandering the halls of the Doctor’s time machine. This is entirely inconsistent with the series, and really makes no sense if you think about it.
On the other hand, Destiny of the Doctors has much to commend it. Newly recorded soundbytes from Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Nicholas Courtney (as the implacable Brigadier) give you hints along the way, and newly-filmed sequences featuring Anthony Ainley frame the game sequences…well, supposedly. Depending on your hardware, you may not be able to view these sequences, which is a damn shame – the photos of Ainley in costume as the Master on the game’s packaging make me really want to see it. (For the record, the Doctors played by now-deceased actors are represented by brief sound clips from their episodes of the show…or by the most godawful voice impersonators you have ever heard. Ever.)
Destiny of the Doctors is, like the series that inspired it, a mixed bag of clichÃ¨s and interesting elements, good and bad. Almost every season of the series had one stellar story, and one stinker as well. And so it is with this game. Some sequences, like the chases with the unstoppable Cybermen and Silurians, are quite tense, and make me want to go back for more. Other sequences, such as the interminably boring arcade-style sequences one must complete just prior to rescuing one of the Doctor’s incarnations, I could’ve done without.
Would Doctor Who fans approve? I think so. And let’s face it – this is the only Doctor Who game around on the current generation of computers (sorry, folks, I think the old BBC Micro games based on the show are just a little obsolete). Oh, what I wouldn’t give to see this game beefed up a little for the Playstation…
Or, better yet, a game where one can set the TARDIS into motion, arrive on some other world, and step outside to explore it. Destiny of the Doctors is a successful experiment in using Doctor Who iconography in a well-worn arcade style game which already existed in other forms. Hopefully someone at Auntie Beeb’s Multimedia wing is working on a game that truly exploits the series and its huge history of exotic settings and beings.