Comics Scott Grey's The Flood (art by Martin Geraghty, inking from David A. Roach) contains one of the most creatively heroic decisions in the history of Doctor Who. Which is a statement that probably need unpacking a bit, as Melyvn says on In Our Time.
When the announcement of the return of Doctor Who was made in 2003, the inevitable consequence was going to be the end of the Eighth Doctor in his strip in the franchise’s official magazine.
A stalwart of DWM since 1996, and for a little bit the only brand new adventures featuring the character, until the novels and audios came along and made the continuity of the Eighth Doctor rather more complex. I’ve already discussed this here.
But the question was, how would it happen?
The answers are in the added extras of The Flood’s appearance in graphic novel form, and if you can I’d urge you to go and read that instead of the following paraphrase. It has quotes with actual people rather than the version I’m creating from memory.
The Flood is a ten-part story in which the Eighth Doctor battles the Cybermen in contemporary, well 2004, London. There are cameos from characters who’ve featured across the previous nine years and it’s a fitting end to the series.
Everything is being prepared, Scott Grey’s writing the scripts and then there’s a bombshell.
Russell T Davies offers them the regeneration. He suggests that the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration to Ninth should appear in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine.
Bit of a coup, isn’t it?
The publication schedule was already structured so that Eighth would complete his adventures the month before the new series premieres, so theoretically it would be possible.
Except, pretty quickly a few things begin to the dawn on them, on the magazine and RTD.
Eighth already has a companion in the comics, Destrii, who, though only just becoming a companion in the previous adventure, still has a story arc that needs to be tied up satisfactorily.
But you can’t have her being written out in the Ninth Doctor’s first story. Potential new fans buying the magazine for the first time aren’t going to want to be faced with someone who isn’t Rose Tyler and a mass of continuity from comics they’ve never read.
So you’d have to write her out in The Flood. Ok. The other problem is that by having the regeneration in the comic strip, readers of DWM are seeing the new incarnation before television. Which feels wrong too.
Davies suggested a mechanism whereby Destrii could be written out in a story in which the Doctor existed in the glowy orange mid-regenerative state which only resolved itself the following month. Same problem. See above.
Plus as we discovered in the new series there’s a whole Time War to be fought between the regeneration in the comic strip and Rose. So the regeneration would still be a cliffhanger that could resolve itself in the comic.
If you do read the sections of The Flood which deal with all this you can see the various writers and editors and creators intellectually going around in circles trying to sort all of this out.
The cynical approach would have been to have Dodoed Destrii, not completed her story or what have you, just so that the regeneration could happen in the comics somehow.
The TARDIS just buggers off and leaves her and the Doctor regenerates within however narratively unsatisfying that is. Other comics series have done much, much worse in the drive for circulation. The TV series has been equally cynically in places.
Something I didn’t understand either was how it could be allowed for BBC charter rules, anyway. If, as Russell took an entire Production Notes column in the same magazine to explain, the destruction of Gallifrey on the television couldn’t be the same one from the Eighth Doctor novels because the BBC isn’t allowed to create programming which only makes sense if you read some kind of ancillary merchandise, how could something like a regeneration be in the comic strip series?
With all of these insurmountable creative obstacles, they turned it down.
The regeneration did not happen in Doctor Who Magazine.
Which is commercially pretty heroic. Imagine the publicity! If you want to see the regeneration here it is. Watch the circulation shoot through the roof.
There’s a version of what if might have looked like in The Flood graphic novel, Destrii leaning over the Ninth Doctor’s new body in the Eighth Doctor’s old clothes. But it looks wrong.
Instead, The Flood resolves itself with a proper flourish. Plays about a little bit with the idea that he might regenerate, but ends instead with the Eighth Doctor and Destrii, in a homage to Survival, walking into the sunset, with more adventures ahead.
That feels right and leaves it to our imagination as to just how he and Destrii part company. Though they also put his companion in a leather jacket, the same leather jacket the Ninth Doctor wears, subtly glancing forwards to what’s to come.
Which is actually how it’s always been done. Regenerations have never been shown in Doctor Who Magazine. Incarnations and companions have come and gone with little reference and that’s certainly what happened when Ninth went to Tenth went to Eleventh. A small commemorative story here and there, but in general no.
It’s not too dissimilar to how the character’s novels ended. In the middle of his story, still fighting the good fight.
Interestingly, in more recent years, the nuWho version of the comic has been looking back into its own history. A recent Eleventh Doctor story, the strip’s own contribution to the 50th anniversary was a direct sequel of both The Tribe of Gum/An Unearthly Child/whatever and The Flood.
The comic’s Eighth Doctor’s even glimpsed fighting one of his era’s big enemies.
But exactly how he regenerated remains a mystery. For now.
Music Jade's gone rogue then. Just as MKS's Flatline is released (though only on iTunes it seems, Amazon and Spotify just have the remix EP), the Ewan's decided she can't stand's no more:
"This is a tricky one because I don't feel comfortable lying, saying we're in the studio recording and we're going to bring music out next year, which seems to be the favoured line," she said. "I think it's unfair to fans and we should be honest.That's that then. Until it presumably isn't.
"The band being over is definitely not my choice. I kind of was unlucky in that I came in [to Sugababes] towards the end of the cycle when things naturally came to the end.
"There was so much drama surrounding the group, I think the music just got lost. I don't like all the drama and the negativity. We kind of fizzled out about two years ago."
Science New Method of Molecular Imaging Demonstrated for First Time:
"A Rice University laboratory has improved upon its ability to determine molecular structures in three dimensions in ways that challenge long-used standards.
"By measuring the vibrations between atoms using femtosecond-long laser pulses, the Rice lab of chemist Junrong Zheng is able to discern the positions of atoms within molecules without the restrictions imposed by X-ray diffraction (XRD) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging.
"The technique can capture the structure of molecules at room temperature or very low or high temperatures and in many kinds of samples, including crystals, powders, gels, liquids and gases. It will be useful to scientists who study catalysis, energy storage, organic solar cells and biomembranes, among many other possibilities, Zheng said."
Travel Diary from the highest bike ride in the world. On the highway from Manali to Leh:
"After some hair-raising downhill that tested our riding abilities, our bikes, their braking abilities and all else, we reached Pang, which plays host to the highest army transit camp, anywhere in the world. It was desolate and one wanted to get out of it, quickly. But it was our night stay and the huts made available to us were the best equipped of all places so far. It even had a satellite TV in the huts.
"Having been starved of any news and all else for several days, I promptly turned on the news channels. There was something about Tunda and Hamid Gul and this and that and I found myself switching it off in under 3 minutes. I was happy with my tough physical and mental challenges, and also the tougher challenges that lay ahead. They were still simpler and less complicated than politics and geo-politics and all else. I was surprised, but not perturbed at how I was so dismissive of things that would have been my staple diet at work. I was happier once the TV was switched off."
History Amateur archaeologists discover subterranean slave world under Roman emperor’s villa:
"Underbellies have charisma. The recent discovery, beneath the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli, of a subterranean jigsaw of tunnels and roads, has scholars and tweeters alike aflutter. Some describe this as no less than a chthonic city; others have suggested the network could stretch as far as the Eternal City itself, just over 18 miles to the west.
"The presence of paved, underground streets wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic of ox-drawn carts and passages so slim that only the merest slip of a slave girl might squeeze through posits the possibility of a pallid community of slaves in this sun-drenched region of Latium. Subhumans condemned to a troglodyte existence, shifting supplies so their wine-swilling masters above could be served, invisibly.
"Another compelling narrative is the fact that this “discovery” — reported last week — was made by amateurs, Italian caving enthusiasts who (one imagines) abandon wives, girlfriends and lovers after office hours to crawl through the earth in search of the past."
Music As we continue to mark time until something is officially released, here's Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan's Observer interview. Mostly it goes over the usual ground:
"Consider the she-said-she-said, at least as it played out in the press. Keisha once told Touch magazine that Siobhán had ditched the band, back in 2001, by going to the loo and never coming back. "After three hours we thought she's been in there a bit long," Keisha was quoted as saying, and this repeatable bit of fiction tailed Siobhán for a decade. Siobhán, for her part, once admitted: "We just didn't get on." When Mutya left the band Keisha said: "There was love there but no friendship". Siobhán, in 2004: "It was all hate, hate, hate."The accompanying photos suggest the photographer had been to a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition the day before...
"Well, our mums always got on," Siobhán tells me, over lunch.
"Even when we didn't," says Keisha.
Of mean statements in the past, they agree, "It's important we remember we were kids."
And that toilet thing, says Mutya, "was quite funny."
Siobhán: "But it kind of gets old after a while."
Geography Here is the story of Mount Ruapehu:
"The native New Zealand Maori were people of an oral culture. Part of this tradition included the passing of stories regarding their surroundings. As part of this, much of the surroundings that the Maori found themselves in was imbibed with spirit or personality, and it was the action of these elements that shaped the landscape of New Zealand. Mount Ruapehu was no exception to this and has its own story."