In 2023, the British science fiction phenomenon doctor who will celebrate its 60th anniversary. Over the decades, the show has reached a level of cultural significance, but while the current version of the show is still going strong, there was a dark period in the early ’90s when it all but disappeared. Magazines, comics, and novels kept the series relevant to fans, but the Doctor’s adventures and popularity continued in arcades via a pinball machine.
Pinball can trace its origins to the late 18th century in France and is credited with starting the 20th century wave of board games. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Doctor Who pinball machine launched by Midway (under the Bally brand) in September 1992, designed by Bill Pfutzenreuter (Pfutz) and Barry Oursler, a duo who created more than three dozen pinball machines. pinball games among them, including ones based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Dirty Harry.
Doctor who was kept alive by Pinball
the doctor who The TV series had been put on indefinite hiatus in 1989, and the 1996 Paul McGann TV movie wasn’t even an idea yet, but the BBC was still looking to license the property. Doctor Who Pinball featured the first seven Doctors, each paired with a unique scoring feature selected by the player as the game progressed. In addition to hitting balls around the board and trying to hit bumpers and light up icons, the machine had a unique time expansion unit.
It was a movement mechanic with different levels, challenging players to block balls and collect targets, all in hopes of opening up the game’s multi-ball mode. In the fine tradition of Doctor Who comics, themed artwork covered the cabinet and the game featured an illuminated TARDIS on the bottom right of the board and a Dalek ornament. The game also used a digitized version of the series’ famous theme song and audio clips from all seven Doctors. Sylvester McCoy, the Seventh and current Doctor at the time, recorded his own dialogue specifically for the game.
Doctor Who’s pinball machine was very complex
Within the game itself, the First Doctor would grant players an additional ball that led to a video mode. The Second Doctor gave more time to make a combo shot to double the score. The Third Doctor allowed a greater opportunity to score extra balls. The Fourth Doctor facilitated the card collecting mode. The Fifth Doctor allowed the player to double the Jet Bumper score, while the Sixth Doctor increased the field of play shot multiplier by an additional half point. Finally, the Seventh Doctor granted an extra shot when the Time Expander was hit, allowing for faster multi-ball blocking.
All of this was done on a mini-playground that goes up and down, which includes several shooter gates (adorned with little images of Daleks) and an in-game video feature where the player has to fight the Dalek Emperor, who reveals himself. like Dalek. creator Davros. If all of this sounds incredibly confusing, it was. The rules for Doctor Who Pinball were much more complex than those of other pinball machines released at the time, which unfortunately didn’t help its popularity. Although the game is beloved by collectors, casual players had significant trouble understanding the game’s complex and ever-changing rules.
How Doctor Who Pinball Survives To This Day
These pinball machines lasted in arcade settings for several years before the establishments began to disappear in the early 21st century. Decades later, a digital version inspired an online update, dubbed Doctor Who: Master of Time, which released in 2016. Based on the original pinball machine but focusing on incarnations of the Doctor that debuted after the classic series, the newer version featured a new voiceover recorded by (then current) Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi. and Michelle Gomez who portrays the devious Senorita. It also included voice clips from other NuWho doctors. The updated version is still available for purchase online.
While video games featuring the Doctor have been hit or miss over the years, Doctor Who Pinball Machine certainly kept the Who fandom candle burning during a bleak time for the franchise. It also served as a bridge between the Clásico doctor who and the Modern era of entertainment, paving the way for the franchise to hit the 60-year mark. While it doesn’t fully stand the technological test of time, it’s a product of its time, a wonderful piece of nostalgia, and it ended up being just as complex as the source material.