Learn To Code With The Doctor!

Another series, another new online venture from the BBC… this latest sees Doctor Who being used to teach kids computer programming skills in an exciting adventure with a Dalek!

UK viewers will by now surely have caught the trailer for ‘The Doctor and the Dalek’, voiced by Peter Capaldi, who urges those who reckon they are up to it join up with one of Skaro’s fearsome killing machines (don’t do it Doctor!) to save the universe by playing a new free game on the BBC website.

Scripted by Phil Ford, the standalone adventure takes in a Dalek saucer, the Sontar homeworld ‘and its vile Clone Chambers’ (their description, not mine) and the Cyber-tombs of Telos. Nice to see the young’uns will learn a bit of Who history while they’re testing their programming skills…

The game is aimed at the CBBC demographic (ages 6-12) and is part of an initiative designed to get children learning computer coding, and the earlier the better. Puzzles and challenges within the game encourage players to ‘program’ the Dalek and build it up to full strength. Whether this turns out to be a good idea for civilisation remains to be seen…

Rather cannily, the tasks within the game are linked to key stages on the computing curriculum, so kids will be learning as they play. Teachers and parents can access educational resources linked to the game from the BBC’s extensive online schools computing site.

Something of a departure, then, from earlier free online gaming efforts from the BBC. The look and feel of the game is very child-friendly and the linked educational aspect makes this a different beast from the Matt Smith-era Adventure Games which were brought to a rather undignified halt back in 2012. Back then it seemed that cost, technical problems with loading and gameplay and the onset of Worlds in Time and The Eternity Clock combined to bring an early halt to the series of games which included The Gunpowder Plot and City of the Daleks, although they can still be found on the BBC site.

In these straightened financial times it’s perhaps understandable that the BBC wants to demonstrate ‘added value’ (horrible phrase…) by linking one of its most popular shows to the national curriculum and doing its bit to promote IT skills among the very young. Whether the kids will go for it depends, of course, on how enjoyable and challenging the game is. I’m probably not best placed to judge, being of a generation when Doctor Who’s link with education went about as far as the not terribly fondly remembered Doctor Who Discovers books…

Have you had a go at ‘The Doctor and the Dalek’ yet? Let us know what you think!

(With thanks to Mark)


Jonathan has followed the Doctor's adventures since the late Pertwee era, and he isn't about to stop now. A charity worker from Hull, he enjoys following Hull City's fortunes, listening to Bruce Springsteen and collecting all manner of Doctor Who ephemera. He blogs about Doctor Who merchandise at www.mydoctorwhostuff.co.uk.

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