Remember, remember, the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason, should ever be forgot.
Welcome to the Junkyard on November the 5th. In the spirit of the day, I will look back to 1605 when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament. So into the TARDIS and back in time we go to… 2011?
In 2011, there were a series of Doctor Who video games released. As I mentioned in yesterday’s review, I’m something of a fan of video games, but Adventure games are hit-or-miss for me. Doctor Who actually has a great formula for good adventure gaming but so far, no one has really mastered the art. But those attempts that have been done so far are not terrible; they’re just not as strong as they could be. In fact, The Gunpowder Plot is most likely the best of them, which should come as no surprise since it was the last in the series. It gave them more time to perfect the formula.
Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill star as their TV alter egos finding themselves in 1605. It takes little time for Amy and Rory to realize they arrived on the eve of Fawkes’ fireworks day. One of the best things about the Doctor Who Adventure games was the “fact finding”. The Gunpowder Plot replaced jelly babies with Doctor Who props and facts about Jacobean life while wandering around the TARDIS interior and London. There are all sorts of props from the show with detailed information about each; click on them, and there are facts aplenty. Dalek eyestalks, staff of the Sycorax and a Cyber chest plate, to name a few. In London, something like 40 Jacobean Life facts can be found throughout the city. All get a blurb worthy of the few seconds of reading they each require. The mini-games that crop up for closing rifts are fun if a bit silly. The game plays pretty smoothly with only the occasional floating book or the very poor lip sync for the characters. Typical of Doctor Who, there’s a lot of running back and forth, looking for the right person, or that little piece of wire that you barely see until you’re on top of it. I found myself going back and forth through the city of London half a dozen times before locating the right person or thing that I needed to complete a quest. If it were not for that, and reading all the facts, the game could probably be completed in about 2-3 hours.
Acting-wise, the episode has its typically great team of the Ponds and the Doctor, and their characters come through their digital personas quite nicely. Rory even gets a gun that basically just knocks enemies out rather than killing them. All the while he tries to be an action hero, quoting an array of movies as he goes along. Story-wise, there’s a fair bit of humor, which is also typical of Doctor Who. “When his brain can’t cope, it closes down!” There’s also a bit right out of Twin Peaks where a wooden plank knocks an enemy right out; I laughed out loud. As the Doctor tells Amy and Rory that he hears everything in the TARDIS, Rory seems shocked. The Doctor nonchalantly states he frequently wears earplugs. It’s the typical brilliant banter that goes on with these three and even on a computer screen, it comes across well. There’s even a James Bond joke thrown in there! The graphics tried to stay true to the time period, honoring houses, clothing and even the desire to carry posies. (The puritanical look with those cloaks and wide-brimmed hats are disturbing… and still somehow cool. No wonder Solomon Kane was so well feared/loved!) There’s even a map of old London to jump around quickly.
As for the actual Gunpowder plot, it starts off looking like a straight-up historical adventure but rapidly changes into Doctor Who. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to the player, but it stays true to itself. Within the first 20-odd minutes of play, we discover the Rutan Host is involved. Of course, that means you-know-who is right behind them. And then in a move straight out of The Zygon Inversion, there’s a standoff with two doomsday devices. I’ll say no more, but I think this derailed the episode as it should have had a tighter focus on a major historical event: that of the actual Gunpowder Plot of the title.
The final image of the game says it all, as spoken by Matt Smith’s Doctor:
Before I go, I’ll teeter on the edge of a “6 Degrees of Who” reference.
Doctor Who and the Gunpowder Plot are linked in more ways than just this game.
Back in 1976, The Deadly Assassin introduced us to a virtual world where the Doctor fights the Master. It was called The Matrix. In 1999, the movie The Matrix was released plundering the idea right from Gallifrey featuring a virtual world exactly the way Doctor Who described it years before. In this Matrix, the villain is Mr. Smith, played by Hugo Weaving. Weaving later played the mysterious masked vigilante known only as V in V for Vendetta, which focused on a dystopian future England. It’s a terrific movie! V planned to blow up Parliament and his mask was none other than Guy Fawkes.
As if those connections are not enough, the brilliant Alan Moore wrote V For Vendetta, what I consider one of the greatest graphic novels of all time. It’s full of brilliant, subtle elements in art and writing (like how every chapter title is a word beginning with V). Know what else Alan Moore wrote? Doctor Who comics between 1980-1981 with Black Sun Rising, Black Legacy, Business as Usual, 4-D War and Star Death. So it may have been purely behind the scenes but Doctor Who and the Gunpowder Plot have been linked before. Never forget it!
Have a fun bonfire day to all our readers. ML