‘Dr. Who’ downloads into game space

BBC launches first of three online adventures games

In the U.K., “Doctor Who” the TV show has a new rival — a “Doctor Who” computer game that’s free to download from BBC.co.uk.

The first of four games in the “Doctor Who — The Adventure Games” series made its much-heralded bow in Blighty on June 2.

All the signs are that “City of the Daleks” — developed by U.K. games designer Sumo Digital, which has developed titles for the Nintendo, Xbox and Sony platforms — will mark yet another successful regeneration of the sci-fi TV classic.

For the Doctor’s first and somewhat belated journey into the games space, the BBC, unlike the Time Lord himself, looks to have left nothing to chance.

All four games — the remaining three will be released between now and the fall — have been overseen by the show’s chief scriptwriter, Steven Moffat, and Charles Cecil, a veteran of videogame production who worked alongside helmer Ron Howard on “The Da Vinci Code” games.

Matt Smith, who plays the 11th doctor, and Karen Gillan, cast as his assistant Amy Pond, have recorded dialogue specifically for the games.

The games’ scripts were penned by “Doctor Who” screenwriters Phil Ford and James Moran.

“If you look at the history of ‘Doctor Who,’ kids have always played the Doctor, but they’ve had to do it in playgrounds, in their imaginations, in their bedrooms or they’ve had to do it with action figures,” says Simon Nelson, head of BBC multiplatform who commissioned the games. “Now we’re putting them in control of the Doctor in a wonderfully realized game setting. We’re enabling them go to places they’ve never been before.”

For hardened gamers used to taking out hundreds of alien commandos in one exhausting session, the “Doctor Who” games might seem a little on the tame side.

But mindful of the reaction from the Corporation’s many critics, who may raise an eyebrow at the publicly funded BBC financing computer games, the “Adventures” were designed deliberately to be in step with the org’s public-service ethos.

“We researched the games industry extensively, focusing on narrative-adventure games as being just right for the ‘Doctor Who’ brand,” says Iain Tweedale, the BBC’s interactive editor.

“Part of the issue here is that the Doctor doesn’t go around killing people, so a first-person shooter was never an option. A third-person adventure game, where brain rather than brawn is the name of the game, felt more appropriate.”

So will this latest spinoff from one of the most lucrative BBC properties ever be available to “Doctor Who” fanatics outside Blighty, including the U.S.?

The short answer is “almost certainly,” but don’t expect “The Adventure Games” to be free in markets other than the U.K.

“We’re exploring commercial options and still working out the details,” says Nelson.

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