Comics This is it then, the final selection of comics barring cameos and whatever plans US licensees Titan have for future publications. My copy of this graphic novel has the first page torn out. It was bought at the Barnardo's charity shop at the bottom of Church Road in Liverpool (near Penny Lane) for one pounds and I've always wondered how this wanton act of vandalism occurred. If you're at all interested in catching up yourself, all four are due to be reprinted I believe but they're still available at various prices on Amazon and if you're a recent convert and interested in the history of the show, look no further. Big Finish rightly receives a lot of credit for influencing the past nearly ten years (ten years!) of stories, but its impossible not to read something like The Flood and watch the franchise being re-engineered for modern audiences in front of your eyes in comic art and speech bubbles.
Where Nobody Knows Your Name
Just the sort of story which the spin-off universe excels at because it can’t properly be justified in a television series with just thirteen episodes and a budget, this is a moment for the Doctor to stop for a moment and reflect on what it is that he does. Closing Time is the nearest equivalent perhaps, but that also shoehorned in a Cyberman threat, whereas this is just about the Doctor talking through his problems with a kindly innkeeper. At this distance, this surprise won’t resonate with everyone, but as writer Scott Grey mentions in his notes at the point when this appeared, fandom was a pretty closed shop in which all back references made sense without much coaching. Ironically the strip was published at the end of April 2003, at about the moment when announcement was about to come which would change everything.
The Nightmare Game
Being an only child and not having many interested friends, unlike the writers of this I wasn’t really exposed growing up to anything which wasn’t bought for me which generally consisted of odd issues of Spider-Man, Whizzer and Chips and whatever remained comics with the titles cut off the front covers were sold on Speke Market. Which is why until I read the notes for this I didn’t realise that there were more football comics than Roy of the Rovers so entirely missed most of the subtleties inherent in what’s being achieved (or not Hickman and Roberts are still unhappy about the third part). Still it’s good to see the franchise taking a rare retro-nostalgic visit to its own period of production pre-Cold War with a story which feels more like a precursor to Life on Mars. Plus the Doctor’s wearing a recreational fez on the first page!
The Power of Thoueris
Another one shot which feels like a pre-cursor to Doctor Who Adventures in which the Doctor already knows full well what the threat is as soon as it appears to that it can be dispatched within a few pages. It’s notable how structurally, despite the lack of pages, there’s still a need for a one-off companion, that even within the comic, the Doctor doesn’t simply use thought bubbles to convey information. But this also allows Scott Grey to stray into the show’s typical territory of portraying “god” as little more than aliens tumbling into Earth’s history at inopportune moments and he was well aware of the parallels with Pyramids of Mars even changing the name of the antagonist so as not to create inconsistencies within the mythology of the franchise (something Who doesn’t often care that much about).
The Curious Tale of Spring-Heeled Jack
Superb. Spoilers ahead so you’d best stop reading now I don’t have room for the usual textual buffer shenanigans. The companion twist got me, even in graphic novel form and is roughly what I assumed Clara would be. You could see how unsuspecting readers of the strip in 2003 might have assumed that the writers were developing a new companion for the Doctor, someone not unlike Charley, the TARDIS scene cementing the thought and I’d entirely forgotten it what with there being twelve whole years since I originally read this. Knowing the future doesn’t stop its potency either. Everything about CTofSHJ looks forward to the Paternoster Gang stories, right down to leaving a devilish defender at work in Victorian London, though that’s probably more to do with a Penny Dreadfuls and Doyle as joint sources than direct influence.
The Land of Happy Endings
During the wilderness years and beyond, plenty of ink was expended trying to rationalise the TV Comic strips within the mythology perhaps because they’re so beloved by old fans. The New Adventures suggested Dr Who was a creation of the Land of Fiction and here’s the comic strip with its theory that he’s having the adventures the Doctor dreams of having in comparison to the horrible reality of what he otherwise lives. Personally I’ve taken the same approach with them as everything else. You don’t need to explain them. Within the “mythology” they happened to a version of the Doctor in some version of the time stream, just as there’s been a human Dr Who too who looks like Peter Cushing. At a certain point he called himself Dr Who and had grandkids. Then "reality" changed and he didn’t.
The fake-out story seems to have been used in all three spin-off media but not quite in the same way as here, where a story at first appears to be another one of the stand alones, in this case a celebrity historical about Sitting Bull and Custer and werewolves (a pitch which almost writes itself) as had been prevalent recently before dropping a dollop of the overall arc in towards the end of the second part. What’s impressive is that the script then doesn’t sideline either of the historical figures, making them central to the story and indeed somewhat the moment when Destrii is handed a first glimpse at redemption. This is of course in contrast to Let’s Kill Hitler which would later sideline its historical figure, the one which even features in the title, entirely on purpose, in a cupboard, just to be funny.
Sins of the Father
Because every fantasy franchise at some point ends up with a story called Sins of the Father. The difficult penultimate story doesn’t feel that way at all, which as I discovered with the novel To The Slaughter seems to an element of this format, the sense of being part of a continuing adventure even when a section of it is ending. The introduction of Destrii is problematic in these circumstances though. Rather like Ensign Ro in Star Trek and a dozen characters in The West Wing, a lot of energy is expended integrating her into the TARDIS crew even though she’ll ultimately only appear in one more story, albeit one which is ten episodes long and quite important in the development of the franchise ongoing. Perhaps at some point Big Finish could offer us a further adventure in audio form?
Reader, I just sobbed. I was listening to the 50th Anniversary compilation while reading and wouldn’t you know but Murray’s Song of Freedom turned up during the final few pages and I was hit with a wave of emotion, remember what it was like to read these final pages in 2005 on the eve of the show returning to television, the sadness of Eighth’s tenure ending mixed the revolution in the air and well yes, there we are. When writing here in 2013 about the commercially heroic decision not to include the regeneration, little did I realise how important that would end up being in at the 50th when the War Doctor emerged. Because we know that if a regeneration for eighth to ninth had been shown in the comic, sanction by RTD, Moffat is too much of a fan to contradict it. Bye then Eighth, for now. I'll hear you again in Mary’s Story.