Drawn with a black ballpoint pen, “Doctor Who in Game-Ball” was a twelve-page ‘epic’ based upon the plot that the Meddling Monk had somehow managed to trap the TARDIS crew within a VIC-20 home computer. The renegade Timelord then forced them to play various computer games in the hope that they’d be killed. Clearly a storyline heavily inspired by the 1982 Walt Disney Productions science fiction film “Tron”.
However, although at the time I did own one of Commodore’s 5kb RAM machines, my parents had more recently replaced it with a Commodore 64, and as a result all of the games played during the tale are actually my favourite ones (of the time) for the more powerful computer. “Game-Ball” also came at a time when I had settled into a somewhat consistent and distinctive style of drawing, which although still somewhat different to my current artwork, clearly enabled me to produce my cartoon strips at a good rate.
The first two episodes of this magnum opus would be based upon the computer game “Crazy Kong 64” by “Interceptor Software”, a 1983 “Donkey Kong” clone which saw the First Doctor hurdling giant barrels, clambering up ladders, leaping over fireballs and defeating a giant ape with a large mallet. Once the game had been successfully beaten however the Meddling Monk immediately loaded a second title into the computer…
“Spy Hunter” by “US Gold”. To be honest I don’t recall actually being overly impressed by this computer game. However I was totally enamoured with the 1983 arcade machine by “Bally Midway” as it came with a sit-down cabinet, steering wheel and gear stick. Either way the next two parts to “Game-Ball” would depict the TARDIS crew driving in the fictitious G-6155 Interceptor, made famous by the arcade game, avoiding head-on collisions with oncoming suicidal cars, dodging machinegun fire and finally blowing up gun-toting helicopters in a go-fast boat.
The next video game, the 1985 “Rambo: First Blood Part II” by “Ocean Software”, was based upon the Sylvester Stallone film and was probably more famous for its excellent Martin Galway soundtrack then its actual gameplay. However it gave me ample opportunity to transform the First Doctor, via a bi-generation with the game’s main sprite(!?!), into a muscle-bound killing machine, complete with head bandana, massive portable machinegun and huge hunting knife. And in a serious departure from his televised counterpart, my Timelord merrily massacred his opponents with nuclear bullets and knife slashes to the torso.
Episode Seven of “Game-Ball” would provide a brief respite to the continuous stream of video games as the VIC-20 broke down and the Meddling Monk desperately tried to repair the home computer before the TARDIS crew escaped its internal workings back to the time machine. Needless to say at the conclusion of the page, and with the big blue box in sight, the Doctor, Steven Taylor and Katarina are once again caught by a multi-coloured loading screen and transported inside the game “Breakout”.
This single page episode was actually based upon my love of the 1987 arcade conversion “Arkanoid” by “Imagine Software”; a video game developed by “Taito” which was a considerable improvement upon the original Seventies “Breakout” by “Atari”. However I felt that the name “Arkanoid” wasn’t as well-known as that of “Breakout” thus drew the Meddling Monk holding a copy of a cassette with the older game’s title emblazoned upon it. In many ways the episode was actually quite similar to those involving “Crazy Kong 64” as the eleven panels portrayed the Doctor, Katarina and Steven dodging giant balls and leaping in between the gaps in brick blocks.
The final computer game to feature in this adventure was actually the first Commodore 64 programme I bought, alongside “Football Manager” by “Addictive Games”, and that was the licensed film tie-in “Ghostbusters” by “Activision”. This is one of my favourite games of all time, and even these days I will occasionally have a game using an emulator programme. As one can imagine not only did this plot twist enable me to sketch out the TARDIS crew in grey overalls with proton packs, but got me drawing some spooky spectres and a haunted house. As a nod to some of the first voice sound effects within a home computer game, I even had Doctor and his companions name themselves the “Geek Buckors”, as that is how the computer game sounded when it's sound chip tried to verbalise “Ghostbusters”.
The conclusion to “Game-Ball” is utterly bizarre and features two pages of complete nonsense. No computer game is actually featured or mentioned, though I get the distinct impressive I was trying to convey the impression that the TARDIS crew had become immersed within an adventure game of some kind. I also believe I was tiring of the story and wanted to finish it quite quickly. Certainly that is the only explanation I have as to why the First Doctor would suddenly find himself submerged in elephant droppings on the planet Nope and be able to simply saunter, covered in mastodon dung, over to the TARDIS. Deciding that they didn’t want to wait for Katarina, the Timelord and Steven depart determined to track down the person responsible for their plight.