THESE STORIES ALL
TIME: AUTUMN" AND
"RENAISSANCE OF THE
DEZ SKINN &
MICK AUSTIN &
OFFICIAL PANINI BOOKS
GRAPHIC NOVEL (ISBN 1-
IN MAY 2005.
A GRAPHIC NOVEL
THE PAGES OF DOCTOR
The Tides of Time
The Tides of Time is bit of a weightier volume than the first two Panini graphic novels, not surprising considering that it contains the entire run of fifth Doctor strips from Doctor Who Monthly. Steve Parkhouse is still on hand for writing duties, penning a selection of inter-linked tales with an overarching mythic quality. Parkhouse’s style suits this epic format, and Dave Gibbons’ artwork is of his usual high standard. However, we do get some-thing of a mixture of artistic styles this time, with Parkhouse himself trying his hand, before handing over to Mick Austin and Steve Dillon.
We start off with a story that seems plucked from the legends of old. The Tides of Time is
a stirring seven-parter that crosses time, space and reality, as the Doctor, seemingly taking a holiday in the sleepy village of Stockbridge, finds his weekend cricket match interrupted
by a stray WWII grenade. This is the start of some terrible temporal trickery – time and space are becoming unravelled. The demon Melanicus, a monstrous being intent of
universal destruction, has taken hold of the Event Synthesizer, the foundation engine of reality itself. It’s all vast in scope, so it’s thankful that Parkhouse drops a little humour in –
the first smatterings of his trademark whimsy. As time comes unbuckled, the Doctor, companion-less, picks up a temporary new friend. Sir Justin, a medieval knight, could
have been the cheesiest character ever, but Parkhouse pulls it off with some very genuine-sounding dial-ogue and gives the character a real likeability. Intensely moral and unafraid
of the unknown, Sir Justin is a perfect companion for the upright fifth Doctor.
The story moves rapidly, transporting us to Gallifrey – albeit one rather different to the world we saw on television. It’s a space-age world of hi-tech towers and turrets, a sort of futuristic fortified city. It’s also home to a link to the Higher Evolutionaries. Quite who these high-flying chaps are is never really made clear, but they seem to be a grouping of the most powerful minds in the Universe. Rassilon is there, appearing to be in surprisingly rude health, as is Merlin – meeting the Doctor just as he said he would in the previous, fourth Doctor story,
The Neutron Knights (available in the Dragon’s Claw graphic novel).
Appealing for the Evolutionaries help, the Doctor and Justin are dragged away by the psychic powers of the terrible Melanicus – into a bizarre, surrealist realm modelled on a funfair. It’s a heady, baffling ride, the Doctor and Justin all the time pursued by a shadowy, globe-headed figure… This turns out to be Shayde, a Gallifreyan construct sent to aid the Doctor, and to keep him on the straight and narrow. As the Doctor and his two new companions continue in their quest, to Melanicus’ homeworld, the beautifully bizarre crystalline world of Althrace, the Universe begins to collapse into turmoil, as time unravels. Cue some frightening, evocative imagery as battles across time rip history apart.
In the end, during a showdown with Melanicus, it’s Sir Justin who saves the day. Time reverses, and all is as it was. However, this use of the reset doesn’t hurt at all, coming as
the natural conclusion to this temporal horror, and there are still losses on the Doctor’s side. The Time Lord continues his vacation alone, or so it seems.
Stars Fell on Stockbridge introduces a young man named Maxwell Edison, a UFO-
spotting geek who is ridiculed by the rest of Stockbridge’s populace. Whilst tracking alien emissions, he quite coincidentally happens upon the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Doctor is still hanging around Stockbridge, but has detected signals from a craft in decaying orbit. Taking a nervous Max along for the ride – although he’s convinced that the Doctor comes from Venus (Gallifrey isn’t in the A-Z of inhabitable planets) – he investigates the apparently abandoned spacecraft. It’s a sweet little story that’s really about the Doctor making one man’s life a little happier, and the ending’s rather lovely.
The Stockbridge Horror takes on more serious matters, although it’s still shot through with a rich vein of humour. The Doctor, enjoying his vacation, is horrified to read that a police box has been dug up out of 500 million-year-old limestone. Rushing to where he left the TARDIS, he’s relieved to find it still there, but caked in mud after apparently having travelled without him. Worried, he sets out to investigate, but he has bigger problems on their way; not only have the Time Lords sent Shayde after him, to arrest him for such gross negligence in allowing his ship to alter scientific thinking on earth, but there’s an elemental being after him too.
This strip gives us some arresting images, such as the elemental, black and muscled, stubbornly holing onto to the TARDIS as it hovers in space, and the first ever image of a war TARDIS. However, it’s told in a confusing, disjointed style, and I wasn’t entirely sure why any of this had happened by the end of it (although more hints were on their way, they didn’t explain much either). The switch in artists, from Parkhouse to Mick Austin halfway through is also jarring as their styles are very different.
That isn’t to say that I don’t like Austin’s artwork. Far from it; his unique style is one of the best things about this book. It’s peculiarly cartoonish yet highly emotive at the same time. He takes on art duties for the next two strips, although they’re really one extended story. Lunar Lagoon, is a grim beauty, although why it’s called Lunar Lagoon I don’t know – it’s not on the Moon, and it’s not in a lagoon! Nevertheless, it’s a quietly beautiful story, as the Doctor, still living the quiet life, now on a Pacific island, finds himself up against Fuji, a Japanese soldier who has been hiding in the jungle, and believes that WWII is still going. Parkhouse makes Fuji the antagonist, but never the villain, and his own life is sympathetically portrayed. As US fighters cross overhead, the story plays out to its tragic, inevitable conclusion.
This leads straight into 4-Dimensional Vistas, a time-tangled tale that heads off the ongoing story arc. The Doctor confronts Gus, an American fighter pilot, discovering that it isn’t 1983 as he believed, but 1963 – yet the war really is still going!
“A parallel world… I’m lost in time!
I never arrived back on Earth! Everything was different from the start!”
The Doctor chooses to take Gus along with him, giving the trooper a chance to escape the unending war he’s part of. They track disturbances in time, eventually landing in the Arctic of the ‘original’ Earth. There, we discover that time is being manipulated by none other than the Meddling Monk, who has join forces with the Ice Warriors! It’s not a team-up you’d ever expect, but it’s cleverly done. The Monk – or the Time Meddler as he’s referred to here – has swapped his habit for some tundra wear, but is still modelled on Peter Butterworth. The Ice Warriors look tremendous – faithful to their original design, but beefed up and made more menacing and expressive by Austin’s artistic style. The story is fairly puzzling – I still have no clear idea why the Monk has teamed up with the Ice Warriors – but it’s fast-paced and visually exciting, with a stunning chase scene, in which the Doctor’s TARDIS pursues the Meddler’s (also disguised as a police box, oddly) sideways through time. It’s a baffling but exhilarating story.
The Moderator ends the fifth Doctor’s comic strip tenure, and it’s a change of style and pace. Steve Dillon takes on artistic duties, and ably illustrates this grim tale of an inter-galactic bounty hunter. The greedy Dogbolter, a frog-faced entrepreneur who owns Mars, Jupiter and Venus, wants to buy the TARDIS (time is money, so a time machine could be very useful). The Doctor refuses, making himself a new enemy in the process. The tale ends with a gunshot, as the bounty hunter guns down Gus. As the story closes, centring on the grieving Doctor, for a moment you can genuinely believe he’s taken to revenge…
We also get a bonus strip – Timeslip, an old fourth Doctor strip from Doctor Who Weekly, by Dez Skinn and Paul Neary. Quite why this is in this volume, and not one of the previous two, I don’t know. In any case, it’s a flimsy tale that sees the Doctor pulled back through his incarnations as the TARDIS is swallowed up a space creature. Essentially, it’s an excuse to get the first Doctor back in the strip to save the day, and it just about works as a silly bit of fun.
Altogether, bonus strip not withstanding, this volume is a heady ride through time and space. The fifth Doctor’s graphic adventures, supposedly tied together as one long string
of events, can become somewhat confusing, but when the stories are told with such fervour and illustrated with such style, it’s hard to quibble. Not only that, but this volume sees DWM truly carving out its own piece of the Whoniverse, with its own mythology, and its own version of Gallifrey, introducing recurring characters such as Rassilon, Shayde, Max
and Dogbolter along the way.
Excellent stuff, all told.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2008
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
These strips all appear to take place between the audio dramas Circular Time: Autumn and Renaissance of the Daleks. Autumn takes place in Stockbridge, whilst Renaissance opens with the Doctor travelling alone and Nyssa exploring 13th century Rhodes, suggesting that Nyssa was in Rhodes “while” (if that’s the right word) the Doctor partook in his Doctor Who Magazine comic strip capers.
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