By Lee Travis
Who's Companion? Oxygen
A crew of a space station activates a distress beacon which beckons a time-traveling wanderer and his companion, who are tasked with saving the remaining crew from a walking nightmare in the void of space. This is not a plot to a video game, though it could easily be, but rather the premise of this week's Doctor Who episode "Oxygen." The Doctor and Bill's adventure is packed with video game tropes and narrative threads throughout the episode.
"Oxygen" is not a video game episode about video games. Rather, the episode takes what works from narrative-driven first person action adventure and adds charm, a pinch of hard science, and a dusting of cooperate greed to create an interesting blend of a Doctor Who episode. From the moment The Doctor and Bill arrive on the derelict space station, the time I had spent in Rapture or Columbia from the BioShock games came to mind. More recently, however, I cannot escape the iconography of Prey, which is also set on a space station with few survivors.
Furthermore, a game mechanic is placed on everyone in the space station wearing an oxygen breathing suit. So many breaths are allotted per user before more have to be purchased. Panicking is not advised. These microtransactions benefit the company who owns the mining station but invokes strong memories of pointless or frustrating in-game transactions that have become rampant in the game community from publishers.
A plot twist, which is mandatory in games these days, is revealed to be that the very suits that are keeping everyone alive are being controlled by a nefarious ne'er-do-well. As more and more survivors are picked off and become members of a zombie hoard, Bill's suit malfunctions. Through some quick actions by The Doctor, aka quick time events, Bill is rescued. However, her luck does run out.
From what feels like the best ending (The Doctor is really good at navigating those dialogue options) The Doctor is able to turn the zombified controlled suits back to normal, freeing their hosts and returning their humanity. The day is saved. Roll the credits.
Is it a stretch to say that "Oxygen" is only inspired by the video game industry? Possibly. Doctor Who draws inspiration from a wide field of sources. However, some of the similarities are inseparable. Storytelling in video games has reached a respectable point. Why can't a culturally important show like Doctor Who draw inspiration from immersive worlds that we willingly spend hours playing?
Would you kindly leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of "Oxygen" on Twitter @lostthenumbers?