The Five Doctors

by Kevin O'Shea

Science Fiction

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Dr Who trapped in a Vortex of the 1980s, January 17, 2011
by smartgenes (Newcastle, UK)

The Five Doctors is a Spectrum game of 1986, playable today in one of the various emulators for the platform (ZX Spin and Spectaculator are two of my favourites; on the Android mobile there is Marvin, ZX Droid and another which escapes my memory right now). It is based on an actual episode of Doctor Who which is vaguely within my memory, in which I recall Tom Baker was stuck in the vortex (because he didn't want to star in the episode)

This game begins nicely, with an interesting introduction, though the plot is based upon the TV episode/book so this might be expected. Unfortunately, unlike the plot, you only play one of the Doctors. The opening graphic is rather good for its time though. I assumed I was playing the Fourth Doctor, but fair play to the author, your scarf is described as Edwardian, which could make you the third or fifth, though the particular scarf looks like something the 3rd Doctor would wear. Anyway trainspotting aside I discovered I wasn't the fourth doctor later on.

One of the first things I found in this game was the need for the old alternative for LOOK, which is REDESCRIBE or R for short. EXAMINE didn't function, instead LOOK was used to inspect objects, which made me think, yes, why not look at objects rather than the quaint and unusual examine which we typically use. Objects tended to be close to their intended usage points. This may have made the game easy, but on the other hand it beat the whole "take a pebble from the sands of Tatooine to be used to throw at a spider in the Forest of Endor"-type puzzle. Overall the world was believable despite the crude descriptions, even though at the same time so many different Dr. Who enemies appearing was unbelievable. But those of you who remember the episode as I do, will realise that the story takes place in a fantasy zone (years before Keanu's Matrix) and this is mentioned explicitly in the intro anyway.

In a fossil piece like this, one doesn't try too many obscure inputs, but "enter code" came back with the generic response "just enter a direction", which was disappointing. A definite bug occurred when I tried BREAK MATCH was told timelords don't break things and was instantly transported elsewhere. There is a maze, but it is very easy. When I was finding the game itself very easy I noted that I still had a score of only 30%, but progress was hampered by a computer terminal where I had to type a certain number in. This was made more difficult by the fact that the game was being emulated on my Android mobile (using Marvin) and I had to use virtual keys to get the numbers up (and ALT & M for the decimal point). Of course, the game author could hardly have predicted this given that the game is over 20 years old. Despite the age, the game's parser is more limited than other games around in 1986. As far as entering the access code goes, ENTER, TYPE and INPUT and entering the number itself all drew a blank. At the risk of a spoiler, to avoid looking at a walkthrough it is necessary to (Spoiler - click to show)PRESS KEYS which is the point where the game failed for me. Coincidentally enough it really did fail after passing this point, as it proved impossible to go up in a following location, which kind of placed a nail in the game's coffin. As "up" is given as the needed command in the walkthrough, I presumed the game was unwinnable, as the computer responds "eh?", however if you type LOOK again it appears maybe you have moved, but that makes no sense at all as REDESCRIBE is the command for examining a location. Then supposedly you can go up several times to see (Spoiler - click to show)different letters on the stairs but that didn't even work for me. I know this is the domain of bizarre 1980s plot-lines, but I couldn't see any rhyme or reason in it (and the solution didn't work for me (Spoiler - click to show)every time I typed LOOK and went UP I could only see the same X on the stairs, but according to the solution the letter changes each time.. I thought maybe it was because I hadn't operated the Time Scoop machine, but I tried that, then entered the computer code afterwards, and still had the same result)... I would love someone to explain it to me, but truly it appears that the Doctor is stuck in the vortex here.

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