Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Doctor Who - Attack of the Graske

Here's an oddity, an interactive Doctor Who adventure featuring the new Doctor, David Tennant. Shown on the BBC's digital 'red button' channel following the transmission of The Christmas Invasion, Attack of the Graske was written by Gareth Roberts and directed with a great deal of flair by Ashley Way. In fact, I admired the direction so much that I kind of hope that Way gets a crack at a proper episode sometime. Especially impressive was the way the camera moved and swooped and the revelation of detail in and around the TARDIS console which has been missing from the TV episodes so far. Back to the plot, and the idea is that you use your freeview remote control (or whatever remote is appropriate) to make on-screen selections at different points in the show. These then dictate which direction the narrative follows ... well that was the idea, but in practice, and in perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the show, it was pretty impossible not to follow the narrative as if you chose the wrong option then the Doctor either did it for you, or nothing significantly different occurred as a result. This was a bit of a wasted opportunity then, though maybe the constraints of budget meant that only a limited number of options could be available ... still, I would have thought that with a little more imagination, they could have come up with something better and more interesting to 'play'. The first puzzle is to decide which one of a family is possessed by an alien ... easy if you happen to be watching the camcorder footage but impossible otherwise. It was Mum for those who want to know such things, but if you get it wrong, no matter as the narrative carries on. Then we meet the Graske, a short fellah with pointy bits on his head. I wonder where the new series would be without Jimmy Vee, unsung hero of the show. From playing the Moxx of Balhoon and the alien Pig, now he's another alien being, a collector of sorts who replaces life forms with Graske replicants in order to take over the planet (or something). We now have to follow the Graske in the TARDIS and choose which controls to operate to do so. Again getting it all wrong changes nothing and we end up in England 1883 and have to follow the Graske's DNA trace to locate him. Getting it wrong makes no difference and we find ourselves with a rather nice street scene of child beggar and other Victorian characters. But the Graske is spotted and captures the beggar before transmatting off again. The Doctor is in hot pursuit and the TARDIS arrives on the planet Griffoth (no idea of the spelling of this, but it sounds right). Three air locks later (the answers are: Symbol 2; '89'; and key '1') and we're into the Graske's storage facility where there are all the life forms it has replaced. The production missed a trick here as aside from the Slitheen, there seem to be no recognisable life forms at all - why not include some old monsters? Or even be mega sneaky and include something from the 2006 season ... or maybe they did. The stored Slitheen is released by a ricocheting blast and chases the Graske around the complex and we now have our final decision to make: do we put the entire place in stasis or return everyone to their rightful place and time? This is the only point where the decision results in a different ending: choosing 'stasis' seems to be wrong as everyone is then trapped and the Graske replicants can continue to spoil Christmas for the family. Choosing 'return' results in a happy ending, the life forms returned and a happy family Christmas. As you make the various choices during the game, the Doctor, in both voice over and in shot has different lines depending on your progress. For example if you correctly spot the Graske hiding on Earth, you get a line about Opera, but if you fail, you get a random comment about liking mangoes. At the end, if you got it all right, the Doctor congratulates you with: 'You were amazing. Might even pick you up one day', wheras if you get things wrong, it's: 'Not good enough ... yet. But you weren't that bad - have another go.' I would rate this as a fun experiment. Something which shows the possibilities of the technology in taking the viewer on an interactive trip. The system seems straightforward and should be convertable for use on a standard DVD, with menu selections taking you to the different sections of the story. The scope of the script seemed a little limited, but perhaps this was itself hamstrung by committees and everpresent budgetary requirements. A shame if this was the case as the concept has a lot of potential which wasn't really realized here. I have no idea for how long this little adventure will be available or if it will find its way onto a DVD at some point in the future. It's worth looking out for as David Tennant is superb, and gives a far better demonstration of his power and charisma, and perhaps what his Doctor will be like, than most of The Christmas Invasion, where he is snoozing in bed as the world goes to pot around him, or confused with regeneration trauma.

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