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


Yes, I know that’s the pet phrase of the THIRD Doctor, but it’ll take a real hardcore Doctor Who fan to correct me.  Of course, I’m used to the feeling of being the one guy who knows about stuff, even amongst my fellow geeks.  My knowledge of Legion Lore, f’rinstance, often gets me strange looks, even in the comic shop.  So I was pleasantly surprised a few years ago when the revamped and relaunched Doctor Who television series actually gained an audience and became once again relevant, rather than a decades-old piece of ephemera that only real ultra-geeks knew about…  Now, the Doctor (#10, for those keeping score) is in comics form, and it looks like we’re going to get a look into all of his lives, 10 stories for the price of one!

DW1.jpgPreviously, on Doctor Who: The Forgotten:  Born on the legendary planet Gallifrey, little is known about his life.  In his youth, friends called him Theta Sigma, and the goverment agency U.N.I.T. called him John Smith, but to millions of grateful people across the galaxy, he is known only as ‘The Doctor.’  His people’s gift of regeneration has given him multiple lives, and he’s dedicated them to traveling time and space, educating the ignorant, helping the helpless, healing the sick, and just generally being a genius.  His latest incarnation is one of the youngest yet, and through a complex series of events (an army of rhinocerous-headed monsters in black leather and the transportation of an entire hospital to the moon, actually) he has come to be accompanied in his travels by a young medical student named Martha Jones.  Using his personal time machine to travel the universe, they’re about to fall into what feels like a very particular trap…

The story opens with the Doctor lying on a stone floor, slowly returning to consciousness, and reciting what he knows.  “I’m the Doctor.  I’m a Time Lord, from Gallifrey.  I’m over nine hundred years old…  and I have NO IDEA where I am.”  He sits up with a sudden start, and Martha rushes in, exclaiming that he’s alive.  “Always one for the obvious statement, aren’t you, Martha Jones?” he cheerfully replies, and they try and figure out where they are.  He suddenly recognizes the Seal of Rassilon, an ancient glyph of his time lost people, and finds that it is real…  but it shouldn’t exist.  He walks on, identifying each piece, remarking that these items were obviously collected by a time traveler.  “I wonder if there’s anything of mine here?” he asks, just as Martha points to the big glowing sign that says “The Exhibition of The Doctor.”  Martha finds herself faced with nine mannequins, each wearing a specific, familiar (to me, at least) costume.  Martha marvels at the supreme ugliness of his “Sixth Doctor Coat,” but The Doctor has more practical worries than fashion disasters of decades past.  “There’s no WAY that someone could have done this,” The Doctor remarks, “NOBODY knows about all nine.  Nobody still alive, anyway…”  The secrets of his lives died with the Time Lords, he thinks, but as we cut to a remote location, we see a mysterious shadowy figure watching The Doctor and Martha on a monitor.  The Doctor says that he’d be LOST without his previous lives, and his stalker replies, “Let’s test that hypothesis out.”

Suddenly, the Doctor collapses, and Martha quickly tries to aid him.  He gets up, and starts to complain that, once again, they’re stuck without his TARDIS and only his sonic screwdriver, when he realizes that he doesn’t remember anything before his current regeneration began a couple of Christmases ago.  Unsteadily, the Doctor walks back through the museum, and Martha is surprised to see all the nameplates disappear from the displays.  Returning to his own display, The Doctor finds himself weakening, and Martha grasps at the first item she can find, handing him a cane that sits in front of the first dummy.  The Doctor finds himself reminded of a story, a story that happened to him a long, long, time ago, when he was an old man.  Travelling with his granddaughter Susan, and two schoolteachers, The Doctor found himself in ancient Egypt.  As has always been his custom, he and his companions are captured and brought to the pharoah, just as an assassination attempt occurs.  The Doctor unintentionally blocks the poisoned dart with his cane, and all hell breaks loose.  The elderly Doctor finds himself half-dragged away to his TARDIS, and escapes within seconds of being skewered by spear-carriers.  Back in the museum, The Doctor explains that he left his grand-daughter on Gallifrey, and that Barbara and Ian made it back to Earth, but trails off.  Martha melodramatically cries that she won’t let him give up, and the Doctor pauses.  “I can see RIGHT up your nostrils.”  Heh!  The mysterious shadowy man watches from his control room (with a prominent black goatee, something that has certain connotations to a Doctor Who fan) and sneers that he wants the Doctor to be damaged enough to regenerate.  The mystery man pushes another button, causing the Doctor to once again collapse.  He realizes that one of his hearts has stopped, and gasps a last word.  “Goodbye, Martha…”

This is a really good Doctor Who story.  It’s a really well-drawn comic book.  It’s a good story in general.  I’d have to say, in fact, that Pia Guerra was born to draw Doctor Who, nailing both the hard-to-draw David Tennant (Doctor #10) cheekbones and the somewhat-hard-to-find-photo-reference-for First Doctor as well.  I came in a fan, so my assessment will certainly be a bit biased, but this book is the total package, with tension, character interplay, a historical flashback, a compelling mystery in the plot, and even that most difficult of all portions: drawings that look like the real people from whom they’re drawn.  Doctor Who: The Forgotten #1 earns a well-deserved 5 out of 5 stars, giving us possibly the best-written Doctor Who comic book story to date.  I highly recommend it (along with the DVD collections of the first three seasons of the new show) but I have to say I’m especially looking forward to the issue that gives me the Fifth Doctor (my favorite) in action…


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. A Pleased Whovian
    September 10, 2008 at 10:35 pm — Reply

    I couldn’t agree with you more. :)

  2. Bean525
    September 10, 2008 at 11:32 pm — Reply

    Really? I’ve had this issue for a couple weeks now, waiting to be read, but the previous IDW series was really disappointing, I’ll be sure to crack this one open now.

  3. Scar
    September 11, 2008 at 12:29 am — Reply

    Pertwee only used the phrase “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” once during his own tenure and another time during his re-appearence in ‘The 5 Doctors’.
    He usually used the phrase “Reverse the polarity” or variations thereof.

    Yes. I’m that geek. :D :P

    Still, nice to have this issue reviewed by someone who is obviously very aware of the Doctor’s history and feels the same way I do about it.

    Although I am wondering about Susan being left on Gallifray. She was left on earth fighting Daleks as I recall.
    A mistake or a retcon do we think?

  4. September 11, 2008 at 7:38 am — Reply

    Doctor 10 also uses variations of that expression, so you’re safe.

    Great to see this site is back. Took me ages to cotton on to the fact that you were back at all. Have been catching up on the podcasts. They’re superb. A lot of fun to listen to while I’m working. Thank you.

    all the best.

  5. Slappy
    September 11, 2008 at 4:59 pm — Reply

    While Susan was indeed left on Earth during the 22nd Century, we must also take into consideration that she may have been involved in the Time War. If this was the case, then she is dead (since all his people are dead except for the Master but without memory). The likelehood that he brought her to Gallifray during this period is very likely. While there are many stories that are not considered canon, there are also many untold stories (Martha with a Bow & Arrow in “Blink”) thereby leavin the possibility of his memory truth without being a retcon.

  6. Carswell
    September 11, 2008 at 7:31 pm — Reply

    They SO captured the spirit of the old “cranky” 1st doctor.
    And it had Ian!
    I loves me some Ian.

  7. Craig M.
    September 12, 2008 at 3:53 am — Reply

    I really enjoyed this and look forward to the rest, especially the 4th doctor. Oh, and did anyone else catch the in-joke to David Tennant being a fan of the 5th?

  8. Phil Pickford
    March 27, 2009 at 8:11 pm — Reply

    Oh Dear
    Lots of Yanks who can’t spell Gallifrey (fry, fray etc.) telling us about how much they know-the old geek badge of honour. The fact is that really fans don’t care-the trivia is a bonus-it’s good stories, well told, that count as Russell T Davies and before him Verity Lambert, Barry Letts, David Whittaker etc. knew all too well. This is derivative claptrap and poorly drawn too-look at any recent Marvel, DC output to check.

    • March 28, 2009 at 9:18 am — Reply

      I can spell Gallifrey just fine, thank you. :)

      And I rather enjoyed this entire series, derivative or not. As for poorly drawn, I think Pia Guerra did an excellent job with her portion of this series, and I might also note that I find a lot of recent Marvel and DC output to be more than a little bit poorly drawn itself.

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