BBC Launches First Doctor Who Virtual Reality Episode
The BBC has finally released the first episode of Doctor Who: The Runaway in virtual reality. The Runaway is based on the popular classic British sci-fi series and is an animated mini-episode which is set in Tardis. The viewer is cast in the role of Doctor Who’s temporary companion and the episode lasts only 13 minutes. The film genre lies somewhere between an episode and a game.
Jodie Whittaker will reprise her role in the show as a time-travelling protagonist. Her character was animated by Passion Animation studios. In the VR episode, the viewer wakes up in TARDIS after a space collision with a teenage space bomb called Volta who is part a timed bomb and part a moody teenager. BBC had described Volta as “a strange and magnificent ball of living energy”. The viewer is immediately immersed into the Topsy-turvy world of Doctor Who as the Doctor who will attempt to guide the cute but unstable Volta back to its home planet.
The episode will include a number of interactive elements. There is a point where the viewer will be a pilot in the Time Lord’s ship or where they use a Sonic Screwdriver. However, the VR is more of a drama piece than a VR game. The plot of the film comes out in the witty monologue delivered by Whittaker which adds to the entertaining gameplay. The viewer and the Doctor will be in a race against time to handle the surly temperament of Volta -who is primed to explode- as they guide him back to his home planet. Along the way, they have to navigate around tricky obtacles and battle various dangerous distractions including galactic busybodies who would want to derail your mission.
The 13-minute virtual reality film is available for free on Viveport and the Oculus Store and you will be able to use it with various VR headsets including HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. If you own the Samsung Gear VR and the Oculus Go headsets, you can check out the BBC VR app and download the 360-degree version of the film. However, this version has a shorter runtime of 11 minutes instead of 13 minutes.
The BBC VR hub, which produced the virtual reality film, stated that it will provide users with a Pixar-quality animation in spite of the fact that it was produced “on a BBC budget”. The quality of the animation in the Runaway will provide viewers with the clearest view inside the Thirteenth Doctor’s TARDIS. The environment is more brightly lit than in the TV show version. As the plot in the film unfolds, viewers will at times get a peek around the corners in order to see more of the console. The script of the film will also provide some surprises. There will be points where the action in the film will develop suddenly away from the center of attention. Unlike other galactic adventures, you will not be planet-hopping. Rather, you will be kept mostly stationary so there aren’t opportunities to freely explore the environment.
This is however not the first time that the film has been animated. The BBC animated a number of missing series in the 60s and the Tenth Doctor David Tennant appeared in The Infinite Quest and Dreamland adventures. In 2005, an interactive version of Doctor Who also appeared with the Attack of the Graske through a red button on the TV sets. However, this is the first virtual reality version of Doctor Who to have been created.
Doctor Who will also be showcased in more than 40 libraries across the UK during BBC’s VR tour across the country. This will enable people without VR headsets or those who have never experienced virtual reality to have their first glimpse while taking VR to a much broader audience of enthusiastic VR fans.
The brief Runaway will be the only Doctor Who glimpse that fans will get this year. The crew will be working on series 12 of the show that is slated for release in early 2020.