On Champions of the Galaxy, Doctor Who, and continuity

Doctor Who, or it could be Star Wars or Harry Potter or any other expansive magical universe. Today’s subject, dear students, is continuity. For Christmas I

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received a wonderful book from my cousin Elaine. She knows I’m a fan of Doctor Who and she gave me “Doctor Who: The Vault” by Marcus Hearn. It’s a large coffee table book full of inside information, photos, and collectible memorabilia from the legendary Doctor Who show. I have been enjoying it greatly. My love of Doctor Who started like a lot of others in the Tom Baker years, then my interest subsided. Baker was a hard act to follow. When the show came back in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor I was mildly interested. But David Tennant and Matt Smith brought me back all the way and now I am a devoted follower, even toting around a sonic screwdriver key chain (another Christmas gift!). The history of Doctor Who is long and complex given it’s been on TV since 1963. In “The Vault” I read a story where at one point in the 70’s an influential fan club formed for the show. Producer Philip Hinchcliffe found the fan network to be an invaluable resource and he said: “We use them sometimes. We say ‘Can you tell us what happened ten years ago with such-and-such a character?’ Because they’re hot on continuity and keep records. We get into deep water with them if we do something which they think destroys the continuity of the program.” This immediately made me think of the fans of Champions of the Galaxy and the same issues I face. Champions of the Galaxy has become a complex story and mythology, in some ways more complicated than Doctor Who. With Doctor Who there’s one main star and focal point (played by different people, yes, but ONE main character, the Doctor) and he has several companions and supporting characters. Champions of the Galaxy on the other hand has many main characters and hundreds of characters overall! It’s a lot to keep track of across 44 game editions and 27 years of GWF action! That’s why I try to work with at least one game fan each time I write a new expansion. Creators aren’t as knowledgeable about their work as fans because fans allow themselves to fall totally into the fictional world whereas the creator by instinct doesn’t look back but is thinking ahead about new stories and characters. So in the end game fans make a remarkable contribution to on-going mythological worlds by acting as the Continuity Police. Continuity makes these worlds deeper and richer by providing structure and a sense of history. I find myself often asking game fans questions like: “What is Star Warrior’s real name? Have I ever mentioned that somewhere?” or “Did Monolith ever have a feud with Havoc?” because perhaps I want to put them on the same team in the next expansion and their previous conflicts should not be overlooked or glossed over. Sometimes newcomers are intimidated by such history. I recently recommended the Doctor Who show to a friend and he said he’d probably love it but it’s such a large undertaking to just jump into such a vast body of work. The same could be said of Marvel Comics or just about any well-developed fictional world. It seems like all or nothing. But like Doctor Who starting with Champions of the Galaxy isn’t as daunting as it seems. You can watch one episode of Doctor Who from any era and be entertained. With Champions of the Galaxy you can start playing with the original starter set from 1986 (even with new color game cards if you want!) or in 2119 or 2125. Those are the three most popular jumping-on points. Each of these starting points are simple and straightforward, readily understandable and enjoyable. Then if a person loves the GWF (who wouldn’t!) then they keep moving forward and eventually backward in time to fill in the gaps! (Moving forward and backward in time…sounds like Doctor Who!) So a tip of the hat to our fantastic game fans! They help me keep two feet on the ground so my mind can wander to outer space and other dimensions. They help maintain continuity while my job as a creator is to disrupt continuity with new directions and stories. It’s Yin and Yang, a wonderful process and balance that entertains us and makes the world a better place…both for fans of Doctor Who and fans of Champions of the Galaxy! Until Doctor Who uses the sonic screwdriver as a foreign object…