Doctor Who #1


Or – “Reverse The Polarity Of The Neutron Flow!”


Even among the geeks of the world, there are social sub-strata.  Comic geeks, f’rinstance, are slightly more acceptable than cartoon geeks (no offense to the cartoon geeks among us, but at least people have been conditioned to think that our hobby is worth money.)  But one of the rarest of geeks, at least in Central Kansas, is the Doctor Who fan, or ‘Whovian.’  Waaaay back in 1984 or so, I was hooked on the adventures of the Fifth Doctor and his companions, and finally, after decades of inactivity, Doctor Who has returned in a culturally relevant way.  So, how well does this book capture the madness that is the Doctor?

Doc1.jpgPreviously, on Doctor Who: There once was a planet, called Gallifrey, where a race that eventually became known as the Time Lords harnessed the power of time travel.  Their laws forbade any manipulation of the timestream (sort of like the Guardians of the Universe, but with better hats) but many of their number broke this rule.  Eventually, it became common for the Time Lords to extend their own lives, even mastering regeneration, the ability to fashion a new body when the old one is injured or dying.  Many of the Time Lords chose names for themselves that served as much as descriptions as nomenclature: The Master.  The Rani.  The Monk.  The War Chief.  The Inquisitor.  The Valeyard.  And, above all others, The Doctor, who travels the universe trying to heal it and keep it healthy.  (As an aside, Doctor Who is the name of the SHOW, and is never used in reference to the character, save as an occasional in-joke.)  The latest incarnation of the Doctor (Number 10) travels the universe with his companion, Martha Jones, last survivor of his race, doing stuff and saving junk and being rather fantastic and all…

This issue starts off with a brief history of the Time Lords, ending with their destruction during the Time War, and explains how only The Doctor survives.  “Those that admire him call him the Lonely God.  Those who respect him call him The Man Who Makes People Better.  Those who fear him call him The Oncoming Storm.  Those who REALLY know him, however, call him…  reckless and irresponsible.”  Cut to Martha and The Doctor careening throush space, destination unknown, laughingly looking for something.  Martha reminds The Doctor that he bet her that he could help her find ‘perfection’ and he sets course for an abandoned space-station diner, the greatest place in the universe to find…  a chocolate milk shake.  Heh. 

The charming twosome exit the TARDIS (the big blue police box that serves as his time craft) and enter the restaurant, surrounded by a dazzling array of alien life forms (including what looks like a Klingon) and barely miss being grabbed by a sinister hand from a dark doorway.  It’s all very Scooby Doo, and quite cute, really.  Martha tries the shake, reminding the Doctor that he promised there were machines in the TARDIS to keep the fat off her, and he replies, “Oh, yes.  I think.  Anyway, with all the running around we do, the pounds will just fall away.”  It’s a testament to the writer that I can clearly hear the voice of actor David Tennant (who portrays the Doctor) reading those lines.  While Martha downs her shake, he notices a nearby lizardman sweating, and tells him how silly he is for trying such a disguise.  The creature runs away, and he remarks to Martha that it wasn’t a lizard, but a “Gizou,” a shape-shifter, and his curiousity is piqued.  Planets have been blown up because of less, I might add.

The Gizou rushes off to contact his mysterious employer, indicating that whomever he is trailing vanished somewhere on the station, just before being disintegrated by the same hand that nearly grabbed Martha earlier.  Miss Jones and her associate find the remains soon after, and the Doctor reads the inscription on his bracelet (the only surviving artifact) before realizing that he needs to get away… a second too late.  The mysterious hand from the dark doorway strikes again, cracking him squarely on the head, and revealing itself to be a Sycorax, an alien monster from somewhere in the vicinity of planet Omicron XII (watch out for the exploding squirrels!)  Martha interferes, and the Sycorax binds her hands, dragging her along as he carries the Doctor to his hidden lair.  Martha tries to get him to explain himself (with a little guidance from the not-as-knocked-out-as-he-seems Doctor.)

The Sycorax reveals that he’s collecting last survivors of various planets, and that The Doctor will serve as one of the centerpieces of his collection, just as said centerpiece rises and brandishes his sonic screwdriver.  The Sycorax draws a sword, but the Doctor shatters it with his screwdriver, and threatens to free all the last survivors from confinement and let them take their shots at their captor.  The Doctor sets the creature’s ship to head straight to a nearby planet he knows, and offers the monster it’s freedom.  Unfortunately for the Sycorax, it’s own greed dooms it, as it runs back into the exiting ship to steal Time Lord technology.  As The Doctor and Martha exit, the creature realizes that the Time Lord’s promise to free all the prisoners was for real, and he’s now alone with all the aliens he duped and imprisoned.  As for our heroes, the quickly arrive back in London, but as the Doctor exits his TARDIS, he remarks, “That’s not good…”

But the exclamation serves only as a cliffhanger, as we don’t see what they’re looking at.  The whole issue takes place at a frenetic pace, racing from event to event in entertaining fashion, but I’m sure the speed isn’t for everyone.  I imagine it works better knowing the characters already from the television show, but Gary Russell’s story isn’t bad at all.  The art is likewise pleasant, somewhat cartoony, but never distractingly so, and is well-handled by Nick Roche,  capturing the essence of actors Tennant and Freema Agyeman without seeming posed or forced.  It’s an interesting start to the series, and I’m not disappointed, even if there was more confection than heavy drama here.  Doctor Who #1 ranks an impressive 3.5 out of 5 stars, and I think the story should stand up, even for the casual Doctor fan…