Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Amy Pond's History Hunt is an educational game on the BBC's Doctor Who website, about a tenth of which features specially shot footage of Amy in a silent and poorly looking TARDIS.

The Doctor has lost his favourite painting, and has gone out looking for it. Amy on the other hand believes it to be inside the TARDIS' vault. Breaking the fourth wall, she invites the viewer to watch umpteen video clips and visit external websites to find the answers to general knowledge questions about several of the historical figures who the Doctor has met in recent incarnations.

Answering three questions on each correctly reveals a digit of the vault's combination number. Once you've got the whole string, the vault opens and you're rewarded with a downloadable pdf of the short text story The War Of Art by Paul Cornell. This recounts the adventure that the Doctor has been off having without Amy while you've been playing the game. (he's been looking for the painting in a futuristic art gallery)

The historical characters are:

Winston Churchill
Vincent Van Gogh
Agatha Christie
The Romans
William Shakespeare
Queen Victoria (the monarch, not the East End pub)
Charles Dickens (the writer, not the muppet)
Pompeii (the town, not the football team)
Stonehenge (the landmark, not the WWF wrestler) (alright I just made that up)
RMS Titanic (the ship, not a typo for the Royal Sergeant Major with demotivated troops)

The source for each video clip can be anything from actual Doctor Who episodes, to Timewatch, to Rolf On Art. Probably the most awkward though are the ones from Doctor Who Confidential. Somehow, seeing David Tennant being interviewed in costume talking about how convincing the set looks kind of feels like the makers of the game are just giving up.

I pretty well never watch Doctor Who Confidental, but it was while viewing its montage of clips of Agatha Christie in The Unicorn And The Wasp that I realised something encouraging. In order to lay their own music over their montage, they had taken the clips from a version of the episode which had no music track of its own. As the music was what had rendered this episode unwatchable for me, it gives me hope that there just might be music-free Doctor Who releases available further down the line.

Anyhow, each figure also comes with an audio clip of Amy giving their potted history, however the two whom she has met - Winston Churchill and Vincent Van Gogh - are the highlights. For these inserts she's actually on camera in the TARDIS, as opposed to just being a voice-over. In Van Gogh's case, she's talking with real sadness about the friend who she knows later died. While the rest of the game is patently fluff (drawn TARDIS walls and all), here it's hard not to take her sadness seriously.

While the end reward of a text story about the Doctor is fun, it's a surprise that we never get to see the painting that both Amy and the Doctor have both been searching for. (it's the one from The Pandorica Opens)

Still, recognizing the lightness of its context, author Paul Cornell has gone for a similarly light-hearted short story about androids of famous painters, which I found reminiscent of the Red Dwarf episode Meltdown. That the Doctor finds a painting of himself by Andy Warhol, featuring all eleven of his faces, presumably in different colours (he keeps popping back to 1966 to pose) should give you an idea of its tone.

"His knives sliced through the air, and for a moment the aliens leapt back, fearing that he was trying to harm them -

But, as they discovered a second later, paint was flying from his knives, paint which, wherever it landed, made pieces of their armour and weapons seemingly vanish.

This was the thing they had often heard of, and only sometimes experienced. The terrible colour that others could see and they could not. The thing lesser species called… blue.

'Fire!' yelled the Arucha leader. 'Destroy the wielder of blue!'

The aliens opened fire at once.

The Picasso android's limbs were splintered into a broken shape. One eye was twisted around onto the wrong side of his face. He fell to the ground, unable to continue the fight.

'You have only made me more interesting!' he yelled after the aliens as they ran on."

If you're playing this, it'll probably make more sense to prioritise watching Amy's biog before the rest of the elements on each historical character, as she often finishes by advising you to next click on one of the other links for more information. (which makes no sense if you run her clips last) Also Agatha Christie's page features a piece about historical characters in Doctor Who generally, so she might make more sense first. Amy's biog on Winston Churchill features her acknowledging that you've now got the hang of how the game is played, so he's a good choice for second. Her tearful monologue about Van Gogh might make his segment work best at the end.

Placement of the whole story though is an interesting one. The War Of Art makes great reference to Van Gogh's painting of the TARDIS from The Pandorica Opens, yet every Amy story following this (at time of writing) also features Rory, who is not even mentioned in this. And yet, given Amy's breaking of the fourth wall throughout, it's therefore reasonable to suppose that Rory must surely be the person to whom she is addressing all her dialogue. I mean you could argue that she's talking to herself, but then you'd have to account for where Rory is.

The absence of Richard Nixon from the list makes it unlikely to come after The Impossible Astronaut / Day Of The Moon. I don't like to add anything between the Ponds' wedding and honeymoon, as they should obviously run on, so that pushes it back to after A Christmas Carol. Amy's wearing a skirt, so for that reason alone it wouldn't run on well after Space / Time, so there we are. Of course she's not wearing a wedding ring either, but for a newlywed that's hardly impossible. After A Christmas Carol, and before Space / Time then.

All told, Amy Pond's History Hunt took me about two hours to play, but that's only because I watched / listened to all the clips in their entirety.

On the other hand, your knowledge of history is probably much better than mi - uh, Rory's.

Available to play here.

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