BBC Announces Plans to Offer Four Original "Interactive Episodes" of "Doctor Who"

--Also Makes Children's Radio Reports Available through Red Button
--Commissions Second Series of "EastEnders" Broadband TV Spin-Off

The BBC last week announced plans to offer four original "interactive episodes" of its long-running scifi series, "Doctor Who." Entitled "Doctor Who--The Adventure Games" and available free of charge on, the "interactive episodes" will take the form of downloadable computer games for PC and Mac that will allow players to assume control of The Doctor and his human sidekick, Amy, as they embark on new adventures that complement the latest season of the TV series, the corporation says.

According to the BBC, the new games have been produced by a team that draws on "the very best talent" from the worlds of TV and gaming: they are being executive produced by Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis and Anwen Aspden of the BBC, in partnership with well-known video games creator, Charles Cecil; and are being developed by game designer, Sumo Digital, using stories and scripts from Phil Ford (co-writer of "Doctor Who--Waters of Mars") and James Moran ("Severance," "Torchwood: Children of Earth"). The project was commissioned for BBC Online by the Vision Multiplatform team, and is being driven by BBC Wales Interactive, the BBC says.

The new games will feature digital versions of the show's stars, Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, who have also provided voice-overs. The games will also feature music from Murray Gold, the composer for the TV series; as well as a cast of actors playing both new characters and traditional Doctor Who enemies. "Children don't just watch 'Doctor Who,' they join in," the show's executive producer and head writer, Steven Moffat, said in a prepared statement. "They make up games, invent their monsters, create their own stories. Now, there's something else--now, they can be The Doctor in brand-new episodes. 'Doctor Who--The Adventure Games' will offer fans of The Doctor a unique opportunity to enter his world, face his challenges and grapple with his deadliest foes. By developing these games alongside the new TV series, we've been able to weave exciting narrative strands with the very finest game design to create a new kind of Doctor Who, which can be enjoyed by the whole family." Added "Doctor Who" executive producer, Piers Wenger, who also happens to be head of drama for BBC Wales: "There aren't 13 episodes of 'Doctor Who' this year, there are 17--four of which are interactive. Everything you see and experience within the game is part of the 'Doctor Who' universe. We'll be taking you to places you've only ever dreamed about seeing--including locations impossible to create on television." And added Simon Nelson, head of multiplatform for BBC Vision: "A few years ago, we couldn't have dreamt of commissioning such an innovative form of drama. By integrating the creation of these 'interactive episodes' with the development of the TV series, we've been able to create amazing two-hour dramas, in which you control the action. We've all imagined what it would be like to come face to face with some of the universe's most terrifying monsters--now, viewers can find out for themselves. Establishing new forms of drama is exactly what the BBC should be doing. By aiming these 'interactive episodes' at the broad audience of the TV show--unique in British television, in that it encompasses at least three generations--we're aiming to encourage the family to gather round the PC or Mac in the same way they do the television. Driving computer literacy is a keystone of the BBC's public service remit and we expect 'Doctor Who--The Adventure Games' to be hugely popular in the homes of Britain this year."

While the BBC says that it is keeping the titles of (and apparently most details about) the four "interactive episodes" secret for the time being, it promises that they will "take players on a journey throughout time and space, including one location from the 'Doctor Who' series which has never been seen before on screen," and that players "will encounter new and original monsters, in stories which form part of the overall Doctor Who canon." The first of the four episodes/games is scheduled to be available for download in June, and the BBC says it will reveal its title at a special press event in Sheffield on April 21st.

In other BBC news:

  • The corporation recently made available through the red button a series of radio news reports that had been created by 11-14 year-olds under the auspices of an initiative called BBC School Report. The initiative, which takes place annually, pairs schools with BBC mentors who help groups of students to research, prepare and present live news broadcasts that are also distributed via the BBC Web site. According to a blog posting from the BBC's David Twyman, making the radio reports available through the red button allowed the BBC Red Button team to further its ongoing experiments with visualizing radio. The project "enabled us to explore what radio on television can be whilst exploring a new piece of software so see what extra options it could offer over our normal services," Twyman writes. "Using it, we were able to design a visual display for the radio service on the red button that also brought together multiple picture galleries and text messages sent in from schools, which could be easily updated by the team."
  • The corporation has commissioned a second series of "EastEnders: E20," its broadband video spin-off of its long-running soap opera, "EastEnders." The new series, which will be authored by the same team of 13 writers, aged between 17 and 22, that authored the first series, will premiere later this year on the "EastEnders" Web site with a run of 10 14-minute episodes, and will subsequently be televised as five episodes on BBC Three. It will be packaged with behind-the-scenes videos. According to the BBC, the first series of "EastEnders: E20" garnered over half a million viewers when it was made available through the red button, and generated over 3 million requests on the "EastEnders" Web site and the BBC iPlayer. "'E20' was one of the most ambitious and successful multiplatform projects we've commissioned," the BBC's Simon Nelson said in a prepared statement. "It was brilliantly realized by the 'EastEnders' team, introduced new writing and acting talent, and threaded audiences and plotlines between the main and spin-off shows. We had no hesitation in commissioning another series, something which will delight the 17,000 fans who've been calling for more episodes on the 'E20' Facebook page."