Doctor Who game developers on the "weirdness" of David Tennant's return
The launch time for Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality has arrived, and the developers have told us all about David Tennant's return.
David Tennant returns to the world of Doctor Who today with a special voice appearance in Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality, a video game that sees Tennant's Time Lord sharing a screen with Jodie Whittaker's incumbent version of the famous TV hero. But this return did come with a bit of "weirdness" thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Launching today on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality actually began life as a 2019 VR game called Doctor Who: The Edge of Time. But with the new beefed-up version, you don't need a headset to play, and all of David Tennant's material is brand new - Whittaker was the only Doctor in the original VR version of the game.
In an exclusive interview over Zoom prior to Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality's launch, producer Russ Harding told RadioTimes.com, "It's packed with Easter eggs, obviously, for Doctor Who fans, and like lots of nods to previous episodes." He also told us that new levels and altered gameplay mechanics have been weaved into the experience to expand the game and make it better suited to consoles and controllers (as opposed to its original home in VR).
Harding added: "But I suppose the big opportunity, being able to expand out on those worlds, was when we started to look at the narrative." The Reality Virus that formed the central threat in the Edge of Time VR game is still present in The Edge of Reality, but the scope of the chaos it causes has expanded.
"So that gave us the opportunity to start looking at, exploring, bringing in some more favoured foes," Harding explained, "and really starting to mix things up a bit." This time, the Reality Virus has also roped in the Cybermen - like Tennant, these metal menaces were not in the VR game, but they're present and correct in The Edge of Reality.
Expanding the scope of the game from its humble origins in VR also allowed Harding, in his own words, "to look at some new environments that we could take you to. And of course, the Reality Virus and time itself gave us the opportunity to maybe introduce a second Doctor. So that was something that was quite fun to get to play with."
Developer Stewart Gilray chimed in: "The backstory to that is fun, because the original conversation we had was, 'How do we expand this? How do we introduce more to this? Do we do bring in a known companion or do we bring in a Doctor? Ooh! Let's bring a Doctor in!'
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"And we all sat around and we voted on who we wanted to get in the game. And the weird thing was that the one that came out number one in everyone's list was the 10th. So obviously, David Tennant is rather popular with the old Doctor Who fans, at both [development companies] JAW and Maze Theory. And, thankfully, we got to work with him, which is great."
Working with David Tennant would be surreal for any Doctor Who fan, but doing it in the middle of the pandemic makes it even stranger. As Gilray puts it, "There was weirdness because we were, when we recorded the audio last summer sometime, I think was July or August last year when we recorded David - because obviously, COVID was still a very big thing. It still is now, but then it was even bigger.
"So David was working from home with a blanket over his head with a microphone and a laptop. We're all sat like this, four of us on a Zoom call. There's David, there's Gavin [Collinson, writer], there's me and the producer from Maze Theory. And we're all going, 'Hmm!' And we're all sticking our fingers in and saying, 'Can you just try this a different way?' And at the end of the call, we went, 'Huh. We were directing David Tennant!'
"It was a little bit weird, but fun as well at the same time. So that was interesting. And what got me was, he's just so down to Earth about it all as well. And he even came to us and said, 'Actually, can I try these two lines in a different way, please?' And we're like, 'Okay!' And some of the things he was putting forward, we hadn't thought about, and conversely they've kind of gone back into parts of the game as well. Not just the line, but the way that he wanted to deliver it, we've actually reworked some of the scenes to work with that."
Harding is quick to praise each of the game's two Doctors, saying, "Both Jodie Whitaker and David Tennant are just like, they are just so good at the Doctors they play. It's just such a great session - always really quick." Speaking of speediness sparks off another memory for Gilray, who adds, "To that, we actually booked David for a couple of hours or a whole morning I think, and we had it done in 45 minutes!"
When Doctor Who fans pictured David Tennant's return, they may not have envisioned it being 45 minutes under a duvet, but we'll take what we can get! Neither developer wanted to spill secrets regarding what Tennant gets up to in the story, so we'll just have to jump into the game now and find out for ourselves. Allons-y!
Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality is out now on PC, PlayStation and Xbox with a Nintendo Switch release to follow. You can check out the brand-new launch trailer below.