Review of The First Doctor Sourcebook (Cubicle 7)
  • The First Doctor Sourcebook: Cubicle 7 Brings WHO of the 60s To Your Tabletop!

    I write a lot about D&D, but that game is actually a fairly late love in my life; I didn't get bitten by the bug until 1982. Well, obviously - given that I was born in 1972 - that's still pretty early on. However, there's one thing that I've been following for even longer. That thing is Doctor Who. As far as I can gather, I've been addicted to the show since about 1978, and I would not be surprised if I started even earlier. It's been part of my life for a very long time.

    Cubicle 7's "Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space" RPG is a game that I own but have never played. It's a game I really want to play, as the design looks very solid and - not surprisingly - I really like the subject matter. I just need to find time for it amongst all the other long-running campaigns I play. The game had something of a rocky start, with the initial release being the only product in the line for an awfully long time. I wouldn't have been surprised if it ended up being and orphaned RPG, but the flow of products finally started up again, and in this year, the 50th anniversary of the show, they've started on a major project: providing sourcebooks for each Doctor.

    William Hartnell stopped playing the Doctor six years before I was born. In his tenure, the character of the Doctor was a lot different to how it is now, and even the way stories were told and constructed was significantly different to later on. While today, the Doctor gleefully throws himself into whatever situation he finds himself in. Hartnell's Doctor would often only reluctantly enter an adventure. A common start would be the travellers being cut off from the Ship. This is not lost on Darren Pearce, author of the sourcebook; he pays careful attention to how stories differed in this era, and presents us with a lot of advice on how to run an adventure in the style of the First Doctor. Elements such as the extremely unreliable TARDIS, the greater set-up time for adventures, and the greater focus on cultural matters are discussed in the first chapter of this sourcebook.

    The bulk of the book is devoted to examinations of the individual serials of the Hartnell era. These are grouped into chapters, with each chapter detailing three or four stories. It's rather hard to work out why the book is divided into chapters at all; the serials are listed chronologically and there's no real reason for the grouping into sets of three. It seems even odder to my eyes as the three season breaks are all mid-chapter!

    This oddity aside, each serial is handled in a similar manner: there's a synopsis of the serial, followed by notes on the various elements in the story, with stats for the major monsters or NPCs. There is no critical commentary on the stories, instead the particular elements that are notable in a role-playing context are raised and discussed.

    This is well done. Really well done. It would be really easy to just list stats for everything and call it a day, but Pearce instead really brings out what is special and unusual about each serial and brings it into focus for a role-playing game, and then uses them as a basis for suggesting several more adventure ideas in the vein of these classic serials.

    Thus we get discussions of strange malfunctions of the TARDIS, how telepathy could work, and the differences between the first Doctor's take on Earth History (things are fixed and can't be changed) and those of later Doctors. There's a lot of discussion of story structure and particular elements of the story; enough so that even game-masters who don't plan to run a Doctor Who adventure may still find significant inspiration here.

    The book ends with character sheets for the Doctor and all his companions. People more familiar with the game than I can probably speak to how well the statistics model the characters; my chief interest in the book is the adventure-building elements rather than the rules.

    Physically, the book is printed in black and white as befits the era (the books will be in colour from the Third Doctor onwards). There are a good number of illustrations, all photos from the series. I personally find the choice of photograph for Dodo to very puzzling - I think it's at an odd angle and extremely unflattering - but otherwise the choice of photographs are excellent. The book is 160 pages long.

    I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this book. How would Cubicle 7 handle a sourcebook on the First Doctor? The answer turned out to be with great style and accomplishment. By showing how elements of the stories can serve other adventures, Darren Pearce has created a book that makes me excited about not only its use in this game, but in its applicability to other games as well.
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Skytheen's Avatar
      Skytheen -
      Quote Originally Posted by Maxwell Luther View Post
      A smaller, more IMO correction: Dodo's pictures are pretty much unflattering at any angle.
      I just started watching The Ark. Ain't that the truth!
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