The Game: Somewhere in London, an alien menace is in the early stages of hatching a plan for world domination, and since he’s dropped Rose off to take part in an important historical event (namely, the 1979 Abba concert at Wembley Stadium), the Doctor asks you to help him find it. After the Doctor ties into your remote control with his sonic screwdriver, your first task is to monitor a seemingly normal family at Christmastime for any hints of alien incursion. The Doctor suspects the alien is a Graske, who invades worlds by replacing people, one at a time, with duplicates that he controls. Once spotted, the Graske leads the TARDIS on a wild goose chase through the time vortex, and the Doctor relies on you to help him operate his timeship’s controls in rapid succession. The chase leads back to Earth, but in an earlier era, where the Graske decides to try launching his invasion at a more vulnerable point in Earth’s history. It’s up to you to spot the Graske and then to accompany the Doctor to the Graske’s home planet, where you have to crack the codes to break into the creature’s inner sanctum and then put an end to his invasion plans. (BBC Interactive, 2005)
Memories: Available to viewers of the BBC’s Freeview and digital satellite services, Attack Of The Graske admittedly doesn’t have tremendous replay value. It’s the TV equivalent of a choose-your-own-adventure book, with only one right answer for each multiple-choice decision point. (I suppose that also makes it a latter-day descendant of Dragon’s Lair.) This was carried off on a real-time broadcast by having two program streams running simultaneously: one with scenes befitting the correct answers, and one with scenes that play out when the wrong answer is given (the two could be switched back and forth for the first challenge’s “multi-angle” feature as well). By giving the wrong answer, you would be switched to the “wrong answer” channel, and if you gave the right answer on the next challenge, you would be switched back to the “right answer” channel.
By its very nature, this also made Graske a shoo-in for a future DVD bonus feature, and it has also appeared on the BBC’s Doctor Who web site in Flash form, although available only to British internet users.
With fairly limited replay value, what makes Graske worth even a glance? Like the animation of the aforementioned Don Bluth laserdisc arcade games, the appeal is in the audiovisual portion of the program. David Tennant’s dynamic, almost-hyperactive tenth Doctor is in full swing here, and keeping in mind that this game was clearly aimed at a younger crowd, there’s got to be something completely thrilling about having the Doctor talk to you on TV. Tennant’s Doctor is gently chiding if a wrong answer is given, so as not to be discouraging, but has no end of ebullient praise for a correct response – and is nearly manic at all points in between.
Attack Of The Graske was written by Gareth Roberts, a Doctor Who novelist who got his start with Virgin Publishing’s New Adventures and Missing Adventures books (he wrote the final title in the latter range), and has remained a regular member of the Doctor Who authors’ stable ever since. Sadly, whether or not we’ll see a follow-up to Graske is as uncertain as any Doctor Who cliffhanger. Steve Absolum, the BBC Wales producer behind Graske and a number of other interactive programs produced by the BBC in recent years, drowned while swimming off the Caribbean coast on the day after his latest creation premiered in 2005.
written by Gareth Roberts
directed by Ashley Way
music by Murray Gold
Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Lisa Palfrey (Mum), Nicholas Beveney (Dad), Mollie Kabia (Girl), James Harris (Boy), Robin Meredith (Grandad), Gwyneth Petty (Grandma), Jimmy Vee (Graske), Roger Nott (Older Man), Ben Oliver (Urchin), Catherine Olding (Young Woman)
Notes: Jimmy Vee featured in two roles during the first season of the new Doctor Who with Tennant’s predecessor, Christopher Eccleston; his first appearance was as the Moxx of Balhoon in The End Of The World, with an uncredited return as the “space pig” in Aliens Of London. Unusually, Graske was filmed in a full-frame 4:3 aspect ratio; the series itself is shot in 16:9 widescreen, and this was clearly evident when certain effects shots of the TARDIS and the main titles were seen to be “stretched out” to fill the screen.