You kids today don’t know how good you have it when it comes to your Doctor Who. Sure, occasionally we have months-long waits between series or breaks in production, but there was a time where there was no new TV Who being made at all. So, what happens when your series hits a big milestone but there’s no programme to celebrate it? Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Doctor Who Magazine #272 – Happy Deathday! awaits!
DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE #272 – “Happy Deathday!”
Writer: Scott Gray
Artist: Roger Langridge
Colorist: Stan Goldberg
Letterer: Roger Langridge
Editor: Gary Gillatt & Alan Barnes
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $6.40
Current Near-Mint Pricing: N/A
Previously in Doctor Who Magazine: For more than 20 years, Doctor Who was a Saturday night tradition in the UK, appealing to children and adults (albeit not 100% equally) and surviving changes in personnel, focus and even premise, as well as repeated recasting of the main character. Such changes would have been fatal to a less-beloved concept, but it seemed that nothing would ever stop Doctor Who. Several disastrous decisions during the Sixth Doctor’s run (as well as reputed personal beef between the BBC Controller and Colin Baker, the actor in the Sixth Doctor’s garish coat) led to a suspension of production in 1985, and Baker’s unceremonious exit not long after. The show never quite returned to its former glory, and was cancelled after Season 26, with Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor walking off into the sunset. It was several years before any new televised Doctor Who arrived, in the form of a TV movie debuting Paul McGann’s Eight Doctor, but come 1998 and the series’ 35th anniversary, there was no TV show to celebrate the anniversary.
Fortunately, Doctor Who Magazine (aka Doctor Who Monthly/Weekly) was around to fill in the gaps, thanks to its monthly comic strip featuring The Doctor in action. Sometimes, it even includes all eight of him.
Though he only had the single movie appearance, The Eighth Doctor was active in novels, in radio plays, and as the incumbent Doctor, had the starring role in the DWM strip, leading to an awkward moment as Eight finds himself plucked from the time stream by unknown (but clearly monstrous) hands.
The sound of a familiar voice reveals to The Doctor that this isn’t just another day at the space-monster-stoppin’ office, but indeed a massive breach of the protocols of time travel itself. Not only are the rules of time being broken, they’re being broken on a scale never before seen in his lifetimes…
…all of ’em. I’m amused that this issue is drawn by Roger Langridge, whom I know best for his Muppets work from Boom! Studios (later reprinted by Marvel), especially in his stylized-but-still-recognizable takes on the previous Doctors. But what nefarious presence could bring together all eight incarnations from his personal timeline? The Master? The Rani? Davros?
Naaah, turns out it’s some new schmuck…
Pay attention to the Fourth Doctor’s talk of macadamias, it’s important later. The villain of the piece, The Beige Guardian (a colleague of the Black and White Guardians, best known for the Fourth Doctor’s ‘Key To Time’ adventure arc) may have a duck on his head, but he has a great deal of power and a willingness to break the chronosphere in order to get his revenge. Taking the first slice of cake, he opens his terrible mouth and devours it whole, including the “candles” known as the Second and Sixth Doctors. Our heroes (who previously worked together in the Season 22 serial ‘The Two Doctors’) quickly gain their bearings, finding themselves in a disused space station…
The Guardian’s plan to use the Doctors’ greatest foes against him/them gets underway fast, but the true entertainment value of this story comes in the copious references, from the Second Doctor’s “stock pose” to the reappearance of a little-known monster from ‘The Five Doctors’ and a lampshade-hanging on the Time Lord’s love of punny language. The Beige Guardian moves to the next slice, chucking the Fourth and Seventh Doctors into a strange abyss, where the Bohemian and the Schemer discuss…
With barely even a thought, the Doctors bury an army of foes under an avalanche before lamenting the state of Gallifrey’s health service and insisting that someone should research the issue of regeneration allergies. Another army of villains is dispatched to deal with the team of the Third and Fifth Doctors, in the hopes of murderlizing them as well.
Cue the fighty music and the Venusian aikido…
…also a well-placed cricket ball. Three and Five, their foes dispatched, gather their wits and prepare to give the Guardian a surprise, while Two and Six continue their high-speed flight from the horde of Daleks, during which Ol’ Sixie is reintroduced to the Machiavellian brilliance of his second self.
The Wildean Wit Enforcer’s offensive weaponry makes short work of the Dalek army, while the First and last (circa 1998, anyway) Doctors take advantage of the Beige Guardian’s distraction to make their own play, with a giant fork serving as artillery…
As he did a few years earlier, in concert with his Second, Third and Fifth incarnations, The First Doctor had figured out the entire plot and wasn’t afraid to talk over his younger self to explain it…
The young woman in the final panel is the Eighth Doctor’s companion, Izzy, who is the “monster” from the opening sequence, while our Doctors may or may not only exist in video game form. I’m amused to see a case labeled “The Thirteen Doctors” in the second-to-last panel, as only fifteen years later we did get to see an adventure with thirteen Doctors in action during ‘Day Of The Doctor.’ The history of the Doctors in comic strip form is a long one, dating back to 1977, with the Eighth and Ninth Doctors appearing in more comic adventures than in live-action form. While this story is quite tongue-in-cheek, it’s easy to see the affection the creators have for the Doctor Who property, especially during those long dark days when no new TV Who was forthcoming. DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE #272 – “Happy Deathday!” is a lovely artifact of a lost era, the kind of thing that only comes from deep fan love, with quirky, but energetic art, and clever scripting, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. I recommend that all Whovian-types spend a little time digging for DWM back issues, as the features are wonderful, and the comics are icing on a very nerdy cake.