Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 6

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 6
"The One" - Part 1 (of 2)
Written by: Rob Williams
Art by: Simon Fraser
Colours by: Gary Caldwell

River Song takes the spotlight in this sixth issue of the Eleventh Doctor comic series, following the shock revelation that the Doctor was breaking her out of the Stormcage prison to help him locate the Masters' TARDIS. Rob Williams wastes no time in establishing their unique dynamic on the page, playing with this pre-”A Good Man Goes to War” status of the Doctor having no idea who River Song actually is. Williams does a tremendous job at bringing River Song to life on the page, effortlessly channelling Alex Kingston's multi-faceted portrayal of the character. It's great to see the banter between her and the Doctor, with her teasing him about her knowledge of his future, but also the very real relationship beneath this surface flirting, when she tries to restore his confidence and offers him her TARDIS diary to snap him out of his self-doubt. While she may divide viewers in her appearances on the TV show itself, she is a tremendous addition to the cast of characters in this second year of adventures and I hope she reminds a strong presence in the remaining nine issues of this story-arc.

Simon Fraser returns to art duties after a two issue hiatus and absolutely reinvigorates the book. While I enjoyed Warren Pleece's art, Fraser's style feels much more dynamic and action-packed as he uses a variety of visual flourishes to inject pace into the story. I particularly liked the panel where he clicks his fingers to open the TARDIS doors and the group of companions rush towards the reader. It's a great image that showcases the juxtaposition of the TARDIS and the outside world – a visual that is often used to similarly great effect in the TV show itself. My favourite panel of the whole issue is where the Doctor throws River back her diary, demonstrating a return to the clever, confident trickster no longer plagued by the self-doubt of his past actions. Fraser also has a tricky action sequence to choreograph as the Doctor lures the Then and the Now to the TARDIS and then slingshots it to the time-locked wall allowing them to crash through the other side. Despite the complexity of the sequence, Fraser manages to interpret it well, allowing the reader to clearly understand the motion and action of the events.

While the inclusion of River Song shows a willingness to embrace “New Who” continuity by the series' writers, the conclusion of the issue which reveals that the Master's TARDIS is stored on Shada, the lost prison planet of the Time Lords was a particularly “deep cut” of classic series continuity. “Shada” was the un-produced TV serial for the Fourth Doctor, written by Douglas Adams of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fame. To see it referenced here is a particularly nice slice of continuity mining, much like Absalom Daak being brought from the Doctor Who Magazine's strips into the Eleventh Doctor's era. Unfortunately, I never watched the episodes of “Shada” that were made, nor have I read the book which was later published, but I am eager to see how the Doctor and his crew of companions instead to traverse the deadly prison planet to locate the Master's TARDIS. I have also developed a theory surrounding the Squire, following the clues given by River Song – she states outright that she wasn't a companion of the Doctor, but later says that she clearly does know the Doctor. I may be going out on a limb here, but I think The Squire is an incarnation of The Master, hidden in plain sight, and much like the Professor Yana incarnation, she will awaken and turn evil. In fact, she may even regenerate into the Professor Yana version at the end of this storyline.

This was an excellent episode of the ongoing mystery surrounding the Doctor's war-crimes and his efforts to clear his name. I love how Rob Williams and Si Spurrier are adding more and more nuggets of Doctor Who continuity into the adventure, really cementing this storyline into the DNA of the TV show. This series is packed with enough twists and turns to leave the reader out of breath and begging for the next big reveal. Williams and Spurrier have managed to turn what some may consider optional expanded universe material into vital, must-read stories for fans of the TV show. If you're not reading this series, you're missing out on some of the strongest and most rewarding Doctor Who adventures for some time! If you're a fan of the Time War and the early Eleventh Doctor era, then you need to be reading this stories – luckily, Titan Comics have been collecting the stories into trade paperbacks, so go back and check those out and then come back here for the next review!

Score - 9.6 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor (Vol. 2) # 6 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website. Be sure to put in a standing order for the upcoming issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

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