Doctor Who fans are all getting an early birthday present today, the “Whodle,” an addictive and entertaining Google doodle game. It is their most ambitious doodle ever, which celebrates the Time Lord’s 50th anniversary. Players in Australasia were the first to get a go at the game, as it pinged onto homepages at midnight. By the end of today, in all earthly time zones, there could be thousands of hours of productivity lost.
The ambitious project has been put together in just a brief few months. Unsurprisingly, there are a fair few Doctor Who fans among Google employees, and one of these added the idea to the potential doodle list four months ago. A petition from fans with over 4000 signatures added to the impetus to go ahead.
Google then turned to an in-house Brit, Matthew Cruikshank, to take on the project. He’s only been in California for a year but is also responsible for the Saul Bass and London Underground doodles. With a team of four he got on with the gargantuan task of boiling down 50 years worth of Doctor Who into key components. He had never designed a game before, but he modestly attributes that side to the techies. He just, he concedes, art directs, creates the assets, sets the visual tone, designs the characters and does some animation.
Cruikshank really wanted to “celebrate a national institution” and he identified three essential points. Most crucial was to pay homage to each of the Doctors. The second and third most iconic features were the Tardis and the Daleks.
To capture the essence of the Doctor’s time traveling, Cruikshank was anxious to have a spirit of movement and energy. Having the play stuck on one level would have defeated that so he pushed for a multilayer platform game that would allow him to zoom about.
The BBC were delighted when they heard about the concept and have been fully co-operative with development. They even dug through the archives to find authentic sound tracks, which include the actual Tardis “whoosh.”
The idea for the 8-bit game is based around the six letters in Google. Players select their favorite Doctor and use him to navigate to grab a letter, then back to the Tardis and onto the next task. The timer is ticking so it’s not just the Daleks, and other foes, that cause nervous tension. Each of the 11 Doctors has his own game ascribed to them. All over the worldwide web today, even non Doctor Who fans will be enjoying the “whodle” Google doodle game.
The official birthday is tomorrow, November 23rd, when the eagerly awaited special episode The Day of the Doctor will go to air. The “whodle” is by way of an appetite wetter for Doctor Who fanatics, before the main event. Some will have been watching the longest running science fiction program on television since it began in 1963. In the very first episode, the Doctor, played by William Hartnell, went back to the Stone Age and was captured by cave men. The theme of regeneration, with each successive Time Lord handing over the mantle to the next, is no doubt the kernel of genius that has helped keep the show so fresh.
As each new generation has discovered Doctor Who for themselves they have been rewarded with a viewing experience that moved with the times and reflected them.
It is often said that the early show was very much a product of the post world-war era. The Daleks have long been thought to depict metaphorical Nazis. One of the influential writers of that time, CS Lewis, is attributed with the seed of the idea for the Tardis, with the wardrobe in his Narnia books. Lewis actually died the same day Kennedy was assassinated. The day after, November 23rd 1963, Doctor Who slipped onto the screen.
Doctor Who historians have noted how the early Doctors were highly suspicious of computers. Up until the 1970s most computers on the show were huge, terrifying and unreliable, often malign. In 1966 episode The War Machines they are akin to mad monsters. The Doctors have all subsequently gotten more familiar with computer technology and now all 11 of them are diving around on just about every computer screen in the world today, albeit as animated avatars.
The Doctor Who “Whodle” Google doodle game is even more impressive when taking into consideration how quickly it was designed and implemented. Millions will be comparing scores and times, already trending on #DrWhoDoodle. You do not have to be a Time Lord to face down the Daleks today, but you share a mission. Do not get exterminated!
And for those who are still finding the waiting unbearable, game or no game, here’s a sneak preview:
By Kate Henderson