I’ve never played a good Doctor Who video game. The PS3 era had 11th Doctor adventures with overly simplistic and repetitive puzzles while blaring the same music on repeat as you explored environments that would’ve been dated even on a PS2. The low-budget charm of the show doesn’t carry over to another medium. More recently, we had The Edge of Reality with the 13th Doctor, overly indulgent in the show’s recent lore and the David Tennant era, with unfinished mechanics and setpieces that failed to hide that the wider world around you isn’t real at all. It’s just a skybox with some loosely strung-together props.
Given that Doctor Who has been trying and failing to make games since the ‘80s, it’s clear that the BBC needs to be more hands-off and instead broaden the brand’s horizon. There’s nobody better to do that with than Lego.
Lego offers something unique for Doctor Who – it can adapt the show and explore its history without having to cram it into a short seven-hour campaign. You don’t need seven incarnations at once like Destiny of the Doctors or an alternate universe 10 as with Edge of Reality. Lego games can span the entirety of a franchise. Star Wars is the perfect example, having just launched a new entry that covers all nine main films in the Skywalker Saga. Doctor Who is much bigger, and you wouldn’t be able to fit all 60 years of its history into one game, but highlights from each Doctor would work, even if it’s just New Who.
Doctors are also distinct enough from one another to warrant different-styled minifigs. The 1st Doctor can be the slow brainy one capable of solving unique puzzles; the 3rd could be more action-packed, throwing haymakers while kicking Sontarans down the stairs; the War Doctor could brandish a Time Lord gun, and the 12th could combine his guitar and sonic glasses to shatter glass. Even among the same character, there’s ample room to give each incarnation their own abilities that fit into Lego’s puzzle design, giving you even more reason to bring the 10th Doctor back to the ‘80s (or is it ‘70s?) to take the 3rd Doctor’s place at UNIT.
Given that Doctor Who is being thrust into the spotlight like never before, arriving on Disney Plus, starring Sex Education and Barbie actor Ncuti Gatwa, and being talked about by celebrities like Ryan Gosling, there’s no better time to capture the magic in games. We could see Ncuti’s first season adapted with highlights taken from Doctors 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13, making for a total of six ‘episodes’, following the original Star Wars: The Complete Saga format. Sprinkled in there we could have secret levels for the 60th Anniversary, The Five Doctors, and the TV movie. There’s a great Doctor Who game out there that could help springboard its popularity even more than the new era already is.
What’s more, Doctor Who in Lego isn’t an unprecedented idea. The series appeared in Dimensions, and it had a fairly interesting mechanic. When The Doctor dies, they regenerate, eventually circling back around to the 1st, letting you pick and choose from your favourites. But Dimensions was akin to Skylanders, as you needed toy pads and physical Lego sets, something that limited its availability. It was also launched in 2015, eight years ago. We’re overdue a return to Lego with Doctor Who, as that was the best we’ve had in terms of a strong Doctor Who game, only this time it should be the focus, not a mere inclusion.
How Doctor Who will approach games in this new era of popularity remains to be seen, but as the audio dramas, novels, and show thrive, leaving games as the afterthought with low budgets and half-baked ideas is a waste – Doctor Who has limitless potential to break into games, and Lego would be the perfect opportunity to unlock that potential.
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