After finally completing Bioshock Infinite this week I sat back, thought about the story, tried to unravel it and expand my thoughts on the games storyline and lore. As I sat there I thought to myself “there is only one thing I sit down and think about like this, in this much detail”, The answer to that was, Doctor Who. It occurred to me that Bioshock Infinite is the best Doctor Who story every written, and more Doctor Who stories need to be like this.
For the rest of this piece you have to remember a few rules. Booker and the Doctor are interchangeable, when I say “The Doctor” you can replace it with “Booker” in your head and it will still make the point I’m putting over. The same goes for Elizabeth and “The companion” all the other similarities of swappable names I will point out as we go.
So let’s dive into the reasons why Bioshock Infinite is the best adventure the Doctor will never go on.
All the best Doctor Who episodes start with an air of mystery and unknown. The Doctor is on a boat heading for an unknown island with 2 strangers who are talking very mysteriously and with funny mannerisms which resemble a few Doctor Who characters but I’ll get into that later. As you quickly make your way to the only point you can get to, The Doctor easily solves a puzzle which opens up his transport. He climbs into his “small” ship which launches him into the unknown until he finally lands in a city which is very alien to him, Columbia.
As he looks around in awe you can almost imagine what The Doctor would be saying at this point “A city in the sky in 1912…brilliant!” *pause as he thinks for a second “Impossible and completely mad but brilliant!” The wonder and intrigue of this alien city which would be out of place in 1912 Earth would be irresistible to The Doctor and even Booker in the game gives of a sense of “wow” to his reaction. Obviously The Doctor and Booker would have different reactions, I’m not saying that Bioshock IS a Doctor Who story as obviously the main characters have very different personalities, but The Doctor would not be out of place here if the story was adapted properly.
The Doctor would not be able to resist exploring Columbia and as he stumbles upon a festival he has not seen on Earth before he would be intrigued and go to it. On his way he would see a picture of either himself or a trait about whichever Doctor is in Columbia, for example a bow tie for number 11 and nobody in the city wears one so not to be mistaken for him, as he is a wanted man and a false prophet (something that a villain would call The Doctor). Naturally he would pull the winning lottery number and be presented with the first decision the player is faced with. Throw a ball at a couple who are being persecuted or throw at the organizer who is the equivalent of a small henchman. The Doctor would become outraged and try and throw the ball at the announcer before being stopped and finally having to do what The Doctor does best, run.
Obviously this is where the biggest difference would be. All Doctor Who fans know that The Doctor would not shoot people, especially the amount that Booker does in the game, so we would have to assume The Doctor keep outsmarting and out running the enemies.
The Sonic Screwdriver in this game is the Skyhook. Although in this game the Skyhook is not a god tool that can solve every problem The Doctor comes across but in fact solves certain obstacles like the Sonic Screwdriver used to. Also it doesn’t do wood. The refreshing thing about this Doctor Who story is he isn’t an all knowing smart-arse who instantly knows everything about where he is, which has become a Doctor staple of the recent series. The mystery is only deepened when The Doctor DOESN’T know everything which he would not in the narrative.
During the journey The Doctor goes through you meet “the guide” role of the story. The Luteces who have a great similarity to River Song would drop in, give “help” to The Doctor then disappear for little reason and have more mystery than answers for you. As the game progresses you learn more about these people the same way The Doctor learns more about River Song and realises that they are helping you but have a somewhat dark background.
Eventually Booker finds Elizabeth, or The Doctor finds a girl who is unbeknownst to her, imprisoned and being watched like an experiment. The Doctor is angered by this and helps free her and open her eyes to the outside world and she of course becomes the companion to The Doctor. The parallel of phrases of the motivation for Booker and The Doctor would be that Booker is motivated by “bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.” The Doctor’s equivalent would be “I never know why, I only know who” which would be a fitting phrase as to why Elizabeth would be The Doctor’s companion.
Elizabeth makes a perfect companion to The Doctor, the perfect balance of the following sidekick and the self-reliant heroine. She does not suffer from the Amy syndrome of being a screaming crying wreck one minute, only to be sword fighting a pirate or commandeering a ship the next. Elizabeth also has that “special thing” that every new companion since the 2000s continuation of Doctor Who. Rose absorbed the time vortex, Donna was prophesised as “The Doctor Donna” and had a biological metacrises with him, Martha help the companion spot while T Davies thought of a genuinely good sidekick character…okay so not all his companions are special. But Elizabeth was special before The Doctor found her, and the fact she can rip open doors to other universes would terrify him “Are you afraid of god?” “No, but I’m afraid of you.”
The patriots and handymen are like the Darleks or Weeping Angels of the story. They are a big threat, but there is something bigger controlling them. They can kill you and they will try to kill you and kidnap your companion but defeating them doesn’t win the day until you take down the mastermind. If Comstock is Davros then the patriots are his Darleks, although if this story was written into a fan fiction I would like to see the patriots and handymen make a stay as a fresh villain.
I’m not kidding here, I’m about to dive into spoiler territory if you are planning on completing the game go and do it now then come back, if you are not planning on getting the game stop being stupid, get the game, complete it and come back. This is your last warning before we get into spoilers.
Towards the end of the game you start to jump through tears into parallel universes, The Doctor would do it if he had to but be reluctant as well. As you travel through time and space through these tears The Doctor knows he has to stop The Prophet at all costs. When you finally kill him and the craziness of the different universes start to unravel around him Riversong and Elizabeth start to explain to The Doctor everything he hasn’t figured out. Until the eventual realization of who Comstock was. An older, bitter, self-righteous and preachy version of himself from the future. He is a future regeneration of himself. Horrified by this The Doctor and his companion reluctantly work out that the only way to stop The Doctor becoming The Prophet is to kill him. Finally The Doctor makes the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good of the future, he has seen what he becomes, he hates what he becomes, so he stops it the only way he can think of. As his companion helps The Doctor with his sacrifice the screen fades to black and the credits role.
As the credits end The Doctor wakes up in his “small” room and looks around, he’s confused; he knows he died so how can he still be here? Where is his companion? He walks into the next room where he thinks she is and says “Elizabeth are you there?” The screen cuts to black and four small words burn into the blackness “Time can be rewritten…”
So that’s how Bioshock Infinite works as a Doctor Who story, but why is it the best one ever written? The one thing that this story has over almost any given episode of “new Who” is that there is an air of mystery throughout the whole game and you genuinely don’t see the twists coming. A good Doctor Who story is a story that surprises you, not one where you can predict what’s going to happen. A story twist isn’t a twist if you see the twist coming, it’s just a thing that’s there and generally your reaction to it is “eh.” When Bioshock has a twist it really twists. Booker being Comstock is one of the best “oh my god” moments in gaming history, and it would work just as well with The Doctor finding out he is The Prophet. A running theme of recent Doctor Who episodes is The Doctor becoming darker and embittered by everything he has seen for 900 years and there are hints to him turning evil. Bioshock as a Doctor Who story would be the perfect execution of this turning evil event, as it doesn’t give you an annoying “Oh look out for this!” throughout the game. A perfect example of the annoying “look out for this” in a Doctor Who series is the “he will knock 4 times” story arc. No matter how subtle you think you are making the final four knocks that ultimately lead to The Doctor regenerating, you’ve killed the shock factor of the 4 knocks over the past series of episodes where someone will knock on a door 4 times to the point where viewers are like “Really? We know this isn’t where he dies so stop trying to fool us and look impressive.”
Mystery, wonder and excitement are the emotional reactions to playing Bioshock Infinite, and they stay with you throughout the entire game. That’s how a Doctor Who episode should effect the audience and more importantly, how The Doctor should be reacting to situations. It’s not interesting to see The Doctor visit a new place and instantly know what’s going on, who is responsible and how he is going to solve it. Elizabeth herself would become a story twist herself within a Doctor Who story. As Booker you witness her powers from behind the viewing glass, if The Doctor saw something like that in a floating city in 1912 America he wouldn’t be able to resist taking her along with him. Her powers are explained in drip feed form, not everything is explained in a huge semi-impressive ranting speech at the end and the genuine fear Booker feels towards her and The Doctor would feel towards her would be a great new Doctor/Companion chemistry.
So there you have it, with a couple of small changes Bioshock Infinite is actually an amazing well-crafted Doctor Who story and to its benefit, it’s not based in 21st century London. The Doctor discovers a new place of unknown origin, he discovers that not everything is as great as it seems. He finds a companion to look after who proves to be more than meets the eye and eventually is the most important thing in this story. He faces a villain that not even he could have guessed who it would be and ultimately wins the day…with a twist (after all it is Doctor Who).