Doctor Who? No its Doctor What!!!

In episode 65, Mark and Richard discussed the many (in)different attempts to bring the greatest TV show in the world from the humble home micro to the latest generation of gaming consoles. We thought we covered every last one of them, however, as with The War Doctor who appeared from nowhere (and made absolutely no sense) we have discovered a new ‘non-canon’ entry into the pantheon of Doctor Who computer games.

In 1986, while the Trial of a Timelord was underway on TV, CRL Software released Doctor What! for the Spectrum 48K computer.  Just like his TV counterpart, Doctor What ! also travels in time and space in something called a TRYDIS which looks like a souped out Police Box.


When previewed in the October issue of Sinclair User they hyped up the release of this software extravaganza like so:

‘Doctor What! is a new arcade adventure from CRL. It features four Doctors . . . What, Why, When and Where. No Who for obvious legal reasons (expensive licence that one, guys!). The four Doctors have travelled back in time to watch the Big Bang at the aptly named Big Bang Burger Bar. I guess they took over the concession from the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The object of the game is to get each Doctor the Jellybaby of infinite wisdoms.’

Despite the preview’s attempt to make this adventure sound like a cross between Terminus / Hitch-Hikers and The Five Doctor’s, when the reviews finally hit they were, alas, not particularly kind!

Crash Magazine:

“What the hell is this? WHEN can I pull the plug out please? WHERE does it go? and WHY? the hell release it? Just a few of the questions I asked myself when I started to play this rubbish. Dr. What is obviously, from the packaging, supposed to be a rip off of the BBC’s Dr. Who, and a very dismal effort it is. The graphics are average, sound is practically non-existent, and playability is kept to a minimum. I shouldn’t think many people would go wild over Dr. What — that is if CRL don’t get sued first.”

Overall Score = 17

Sinclair User:

A questionable program featuring Doctors What, Where, When and Why… but don’t ask where Who is in case the BBC decides to sue. Obviously all these interrogative medicos are no relation to the televisual time-traveller, even if they do have time machines shaped like police boxes. You get the idea? Its plot could finish the TV series faster than a decision to let Bonnie Langford sing and dance her way out of danger every week. It all concerns hang-overs and a trip to the Jelly Baby of Infinite Wisdom — which gives you an idea of the sort of party the Doctors were attending to get in this confused state! But despite all this Hitchhikers Guide to Time Travel-style parody, at heart these four travellers remind me more of another hero whose name begins with a W… Wally Week! The game is just another example of the ‘pick up objects and find where to use them’ school. The puzzles are refined by the use of four characters, each trapped in a different era, but able to bring each other vital objects thanks to their trusty time machines. But in the end a program should reach into the future, and I couldn’t help feeling that the time destination for this one was set for a good two years ago I was left with only one question in my brain — why release this at full price in this day and age?

Overall Score = 6

Whether this release fell afoul of JNT’s yellow Highlighter of Death is unknown, however unlike many other titles Doctor What! wasn’t ported over to either the Commodore 64 or Amstrad CPC and was quickly forgotten…until now!

As we briefly mentioned in our Merchandising Melancholia podcast, Aron Challinger has recently obtained a copy from eBay and has kindly taken some photos. It’s in very good condition for its age, but as the Sinclair Spectrum wasn’t a big seller in Oz we are unable to see if the program will load off cassette tape.  However, if you feel the need to relive this particular adventure via an emulator the file can be downloaded from here.


But if you have a spare 25 minutes check out the full walk-through video!

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