THIS SERIES TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVEL "THE CRIMSON
HAND" AND THE TV
EPISODE "THE WATERS
TONY LEE (1, 2, 3),
AL DAVISON (2) &
JONATHAN L. DAVIES (3)
AL DAVISON (1, 2, 3),
MATTHEW SMITH (2, 3),
BLAIR SHED (2) &
KELLY YATES (3)
IDW GRAPHIC NOVELS
RELEASED IN THE UK
BETWEEN MARCH 2010
AND JANUARY 2011.
An anomaly in the
brings the Doctor to
Hollywood during the
Roaring 1920S, where
he makes new friends
and new enemies. But
his actions attract
the attention of the
tion, which puts him
on trial for his life!
MARCH 2010 - JANUARY 2011
Even now, while the eleventh Doctor enjoys his debut run of adventures on tele-
vision, his tenth incarnation continues to explore time and space in IDW’s latest Doctor Who comic series. Called Doctor Who Ongoing by those in the know, and just Doctor Who on the cover, this continuing series of adventures is still going strong in the US. Over here in the UK, at least officially, readers have had to remain patient, and wait for the strips to appear over here in graphic novel format...
Of the six issues collected here, the first two were originally released under the title Silver Scream, but, even as they form their own little adventure, they segue happily into the overall storyline of Fugitive. We join the Doctor as he visits 1920s Hollywood (or Hollywoodland, as it was then), where he gatecrashes a party in order to meet one Archie Maplin. Yes, it does sound an awful lot like Charlie Chaplin, but, bizarrely, rights issues prevented his use. Very strange indeed; I thought that sort of thing only applied to fictional properties, not historical figures. Apart from the fact that references to Donna having wanted to visit the period really draw attention to the fact that Maplin is a stand-in, the character works very well, a Peckham wideboy living the life of a Hollywood star at the top of his game. He’s a wonderful foil for the Doctor, more so than the two companion figures on offer here, Matthew and Emily - a plucky investigator and a plucky would-be actress. Apart from being ever-so plucky, they’re pretty nondescript for much of this, although Emily gets surprisingly bloodthirsty at the end.
Long story short, the Doctor
and Archie have to stop two
alien Terronites, disguised
as a movie mogul and an
actor, from leaching away
young starlets hopes and
dreams so that they can use
them as charisma transplants
and boost their career. An
enjoyably barmy plan, that
one, and one that sees the Doctor placed in some of the most dire peril in pure silent movie style. Author Tony Lee has great fun playing with the clichés here, getting the Doctor into a showdown hanging from a clock face and having him tied to train tracks like a damsel in distress. It’s not the most eng-aging story, but it’s good, old-fashioned fun. Sadly, Al Davison’s art isn’t really up to scratch. It’s not bad, by any means, although his take on David Tennant veers from spot on to way off the mark, but it feels so terribly static throughout. What should be great action scenes are portrayed with a distinct lack of oomph, with the sole exception of a fine full-page cliffhanger to issue 1. Strangely, the only point at which his artwork really seems to fit the story is when we see the action through a monochrome movie camera.
a fire in which she was, apparently, destined to die. It’s a static point
in time, you see, and the Shadow Proclamation scoop the Doctor up
in order to put him on trial for his interference, as the main body of Fugitive begins. Now, in one way, this plays brilliantly with the Time
Lord Victorious events of The Waters of Mars, as the Doctor faces
the consequences of messing around with time. On the other hand,
however, he’s so blasé about it here that it’s hard to see why he got
so excited about changing history in that episode.
In any case, the Doctor’s on trial again. It’d have been nice to use
the comic medium to really bring the Shadow Proclamation to life,
but Matthew Smith (no, not that Matt Smith) sticks to the rather dour space office block
we saw in The Stolen Earth. Still, there are a few more aliens around this time, including shapeshifting Gizou, Krillitanes, Judoon and the mysterious blue-skinned Advocate, and I really do like Smith’s art. It’s simple, but very effective, with a Mark Mignola-esque vibe to
it. Naturally, the trial’s a big set up, and the prosecutor, none other than Mister Finch (well, actually, you know that shape shifter I mentioned…) is out to see the Doctor dead.
The Doctor finds himself imprisoned with Kraden, a Draconian diplomat looking for peace; Brarshak, a sensitive Ogron who hates the Judoon for snaffling all the mercenary contracts; and Stomm, a Sontaran who wants alliances with other empires so that his people can just focus on their fight with the Rutans. All three are being framed, like the Doctor, and look destined to die, and all three are wonderfully written characters. I especially like Brarshak, who almost passes out with the effort of making a speech at one point. Lee builds up the show’s ongoing mythology, but doesn’t forget to provide a rollicking adventure, as it all goes a bit Star Wars and we get space battles and hairs-breadth escapes while the Krillitanes attempt to derail the galactic peace talks.
It’s all tremendously good fun, and promises more to come, as the mysterious mastermind behind the Krillitanes’ plans remains at large and is keeping the Doctor in her sights. So, I look forward to Volume 2, even if the Doctor does insist on picking up his two dreary 1920s friends for a trip in the TARDIS.
Do you remember a couple of years ago, when the bizarre rumour that Richard Hammond was going to be taking over as the Doctor was doing the rounds? This seems to have been based entirely on the fact that he looks - very vaguely - like David Tennant. Quite why this rumour was ever lent any credence is beyond me, but looking at the artwork of Al Davison, which also features a Doctor who looks - very vaguely - like David Tennant, you’d think that the casting had gone ahead.
This is symptomatic of the problems with Tesseract, the strip that lends its name to volume two of IDW’s Doctor Who Ongoing range, collecting issues 7-12. Davison’s art isn’t bad as such - he’s got a knack for creating some interesting monsters - but he clearly struggles with drawing people. His characters range from looking like different individuals from panel to panel, to looking utterly peculiar, pulling expressions previously unknown to mankind.
Still, the artwork is only half the problem with this story. Tony
Lee now foregoes any attempt at a coherent narrative, and
lets his obsession with continuity take over completely. It’s
such a shame, because there’s an interesting idea at the
heart of this strip, when the TARDIS collides with another
craft, folding in on itself and trapping the Doctor and his
new companions within its distorted geometry. However,
this notion is trampled beneath what feels like an endless
parade of fannish references, with old Doctors’ costumes
making a gratuitous appearance on page one, followed by
the ‘shock’ appearances by earlier console rooms, and
allusions to Adric and Turlough. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy
a continuity reference as much as the next geek, but there
needs to be a good story to hang it off. Tesseract collapses
rapidly into rather boring nonsense, with some truly terrible
dialogue that probably supposed to be knowing and funny,
but frankly isn’t.
Still, it’s a necessary part of the Ongoing story, since amongst all this are some significant plot points in the continuing plot. The blue-skinned villainess the Advocate returns to the fray, along with her shapeshifting Gizou ally from Fugitive, and plants the seeds of doubt into the mind of Matthew Finnegan, who’s basically a modern version of Adric wearing a bow-tie. Meanwhile, some very peculiar beings calling themselves the Tef’Aree come into contact with Emily. This mysterious, mythical beings exist outside of time, coexisting at all points in their history at once. Unfortunately, it’s nigh on impossible for even the most skilled of writers to produce dialogue or plot into a non-linear environment without it rapidly collapsing into nonsense, which is precisely what happens here.
Things improve considerably for the second storyline, Don’t Step on the Grass, a four-part story which comprises the bulk of this volume. Martha Jones calls the Doctor back to Earth
to assist with a horde of killer trees. This latest UNIT adventure carries on from Planet of the Dead, but satisfyingly, Lee takes an entirely different tack to that adventure, putting the Time Lord at loggerheads with the military organisation, instead of all the recent Doctor-fanboying and back-slapping. Blair Shed’s artwork is fantastic; a massive improvement on Davison’s, with a fun, cartoony feel that is improved by the stunning colour work by Charlie Kirchoff. This style brings out both the excitement and humour inherent in the story - the Knights Arboretum, an ancient society of warrior gardeners, are a wonderful creation, and the Enochian Angels are an effective monster race.
The Ongoing story comes to a head at the close of this story, with Matthew swapping sides and joining the Advocate. The blue villainess reveals some of her back story here - trapped for millennia in the Time War, she desires revenge on the Doctor for his part in trapping her there, due to his final devastating actions in time-locking the conflict. Meanwhile, Martha is used well, her complex relationship with both UNIT and the Doctor coming to the fore. The story even bridges the gap between her televised appearances in Journey’s End and The End of Time. More continuity points, yes, but this time they serve a purpose, and the story. That’s the way to do it.
The final volume of IDW’s tenth Doctor adventures is concerned with tying up loose ends
and bringing some closure to this incarnation’s adventures. Final Sacrifice itself makes up the entire final run of Ten’s Doctor Who Ongoing series, covering issues 13 through to 16, after which the eleventh Doctor would take over. Also included in this volume are the strips that featured in the American 2010 Doctor Who Annual. The first, short strip is Old Friend,
a sweet story from the annual which ties directly into the main Final Sacrifice storyline. The Doctor and Emily meet an old man who claims to have travelled with the Doctor when he was young. It’s a poignant tale of the Doctor dealing with someone who is both a future and former companion. This companion happens to be called Barnaby Edwards, which I assume is a reference to the multi-talented Dalek operator, writer and director. It seems there has to be some kind of fannish reference in all of Tony Lee’s scripts. Barnaby also hands the Time Lord the remains of Turlough’s journal - or, rather, his faked journal - last seen in the hands of Matthew as he walked off with the Advocate. It’s now in smoulders, which leads the Doctor to deduce Matthew is in trouble, and this is a warning from his own future.
Tony Lee continues his authorship of the Ongoing run, with Matthew Dow Smith providing a distinctive and effective artistic styl that’s, somewhat reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy work. Final Sacrifice resolves the stories of Matthew Finnegan, Emily Winter and the Adv-ocate that began with Silver Scream (and, indeed, ends with it, due to the magic of time travel). I can’t say I feel Matthew made a particularly successful companion in the long run; I found his insecurity and ‘tin dog syndrome’ made him rather irritating, although it made him easily manipulable which is precisely what this story required. Emily, on the other hand, went from being a slightly aggravating woman with a chip on her shoulder into being a forthright and eager companion. It might have worked better if the Doctor had spent some time with her alone before he was dragged back to Matthew and the Advocate. At least the Advocate proved to be an interesting antagonist, driven by vengeance - and understandably so, as it was the Doctor’s fault that the Time War was locked up with her inside it.
Due to the Advocate’s temporal manipulations, she and the Doctor are out of sync. While it’s been days for him and Emily, it’s been two years for her and Matthew. Things have changed, and now the Advocate’s shapeshifting sidekick - finally receiving a name here, LauTan - has turned against her. While she’s set herself up as queen on a war-torn planet, he’s leading the rebellion. Not only that, but this story acts, to an extent, as a sequel to Lee’s earlier one-shot, The Time Machination, bringing in a group of 19th century Torchwood operatives who really should know better than to play around with time tech. The Torchwood angle helps to keep things interesting, providing a similar antagonism as UNIT, only more so, as they specifically see the Doctor as an enemy of the state. The story is pretty eventful, full of double-crosses, as the Advocate attempts manoeuvre those around her purely so that she can set the Doctor up, and force him to sacrifice his companions. In the end, this is what happens, with Matthew taking himself and the Advocate down together to save the planet.
However, it’s not that simple, because the whole thing’s one big time loop. With the Tef’Aree - the strange-looking multidimensional superbeing(s) from Tesseract hanging around - it was clear some temporal shenanigans would be going on. The revelation that Matthew fuses with the Advocate when he destroys her, absorbing her temporal powers and becoming the multi-dimensional entity itself - well, it’s not just nonsense; it’s predictable nonsense. We’re clearly supposed to go “Good grief! I never saw that one coming!” but my reaction was more “Well, I thought it was going to be something like that.” Similarly underwhelming is the revelation that the planet was colonised by Earthmen. “Soul Free! Sol Three!” cries the Doctor, slapping his forehead as he realises the origin of one of the warring factions. Well done bullet. Likewise
their opponents, the Terror Farmers, either from
terraformers or Terra Firma, depending on the
panel. They even get revealed to be the origin
of the Terranites from back in Silver Scream,
which is only slightly more surprising, in that it
wasn’t quite instantly obvious as soon as you
read the name. After all this, even Emily gets to
go back into her own timeline to set things up
for herself. Admittedly, it does tie everything up
with a nice big bow, but this kind of temporal
loopiness takes flair to pull off - this just ends up
being unsatisfying. It’s a shame, because the
bulk of the story is fun and diverting, and could
have ended the series on a high note.
There are a few more stories to fill time before
the tenth Doctor’s final bow, all taken from the
annual. With a script by Jonathan L Davis and
artwork from Kelly Yates, Ground Control is a
simple but enjoyable bit of fun, which sees the
TARDIS grounded by the Interstellar Traffic
Division. The spotty Mister K, who interrogates
the Doctor, is an unusually prosaic antagonist,
but all the more effective for it. It’s amusing to
see the Doctor grounded by such an operation.
There are also some alien space pandas, and
indeed, why not?
Matthew Dow Smith provides both words and pictures for The Big, Blue Box, a strangely touching story about a living, robotic bomb that could destroy the whole world. His name is Douglas. There’s very little plot to describe, but that’s because it’s all in the characterisation. Easily the best story in the book, in its quiet way. It’s certainly far better than the final story, the shockingly bad To Sleep, Perchance to Dream. Al Davison provides everything for this story from script to colours, but he has nothing at all to be proud of. A pointless exercise in nostalgic fluff, this almost dialogue-free piece takes place inside the Doctor’s head as he dreams. Cue a wander through a dreamscape populated by past companions and monsters
with no real story to speak of and little in the way of charm or interest. Davison’s artwork is fairly good when he’s clearly copying from a publicity shot, fairly dreadful otherwise, although some of the dreamscape backgrounds are quite pretty. The only real item of note is IDW’s first, very brief appearance by the eleventh Doctor. It’s probably supposed to foreshadow the Doctor’s upcoming regeneration, but it comes across as just another throwaway continuity reference. A poor conclusion to a volume with its fair share of ups and downs.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2010 - 2011
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
These adventures appear to lead directly into The Waters of Mars, as at the end of Final Sacrifice the Doctor dons his spacesuit and declares Mars his next destination. This placement is further supported by a reference to the prophecy “he will knock four times.”
However, it is stated that this is the first meeting between the Doctor and the Shadow Proclamation since the events of The Stolen Earth, suggesting that these adventures take place before The Darksmith Legacy, when they meet again. This does not sit well as The Darksmith Legacy is clearly intended to take place before The Waters of Mars. We assume, then, that the Doctor doesn’t declare The Darksmith Legacy encounter here for obvious reasons and, for the Shadow Proclamation, that meeting has yet to occur.
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