Tony Fyler lives to serve you.
The Eleventh Doctor stories from Titan Comics so far have all been part of one long arc, the arc of a corporation called ServeYouInc. It’s a different kind of enemy for the Doctor, harking back to the likes of The Sun Makers, because, as he points out in this issue, you can’t just reverse the polarity of its thingummy-whatsit and be home in time for tea. You have to plan. You have to wield some mighty economic power. And in this episode of the story, the Doctor does just that. It’s an interesting insight into the character of the man who turned up in A Good Man Goes To War having called in favours to take on a whole religious army of run-of-the-mill nutters. Here we see him doing the things we never saw him do on screen – planning behind the scenes, calling in those favours, and building the strength of his hand. Then, when he’s ready, he goes into his own very personal form of battle, for the best of reasons – he’d probably be out to stop ServeYouInc in any case, but in Issue #8, the company hurt Alice, one of his latest travelling companions. And while the Tenth was a Doctor increasingly aware as he got older that the people standing next to him were seldom safe, the Eleventh always had a fire in his belly – if you came near the people he loved or cared about, he’d tear down your world to stop you, and he wouldn’t very often say that previously obligatory sorry.
And so it is here – when the Doctor goes into battle, he’s done his homework, he’s stacked the bases, he’s done everything he should have needed to do to win this one. And there are two great on the money Eleventh Doctor ‘coming to get you’ speeches here – which should be a clue.
To give him his due, by the time the Doctor reaches his eleventh body, some things are as easy as he thinks they should be. Not many, but some.
But not today.
It’s more or less in this part of the story that you need to have read some of the earlier issues. It’s in those earlier issues (soon to be handily collected and re-sold in a single volume) that some of the seeds for this part of the story are sown. The story on the once-Paradise planet of Rokhandi is a particular necessity, because it’s there we met a blob of writhing, negativity-sucking goo, which the Doctor essentially made terminally sick with a bit of complicated thinking. The epilogue to that story is the prologue to this one – that blob was only a separated bloblet, it seems, an apple cut from a much bigger, blobbier tree, and when the bloblet went kablooey, Daddy woke up.
As it happens, it did that on the day the Doctor went to war with ServeYouInc. Meanwhile, the company’s Talent Scout, who we’ve seen in a number of stories in this thread, looks very much like he’s running the whole operation. He’s never met the Doctor by this point, which means he’s experiencing things in a radically different order than both the Doctor and his companions and we the reader. Things are getting seriously timey-wimey around here. But just as in an earlier issue the Talent Scout was able to take over the Doctor and make him a puppet of ServeYouInc, so here, the Doctor has clearly misjudged and underestimated what he’s up against, as shown in a great split panel at the very end of the issue from Boo Cook. Cook’s work here, allied to that of colourist HiFi, is particularly superb – there are images of the Tardis in space, images of the ServeYouInc home asteroid, and images of the waking up of blob-Daddy which all make you take a sharp breath.
There are also some beautiful storytelling touches from Al Ewing in this issue – the Doctor arranging for his second incarnation to pay for some of the stock he’s buying, a name-check of the planet Vortis and so on. They’re little things, but they help connect the story to Doctor Who’s long history and anchor it particularly in Matt Smith’s interpretation of the world’s favourite Time Lord. And this is the ultimate point – it feels real. It feels, with the combination of the storytelling taking a very Moffaty-Woffaty turn, the dialogue being rendered with an excellent ear for the idiosyncracies of Smith’s performance, the eye-popping visuals which would have been achievable on screen and the particular pacing of the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures being reproduced in two dimensions, like this could be a viable part of a real alternative or additional season of adventures which the Doctor had while the Ponds were busy not making babies at home. The whole thing feels authentic.
Where perhaps this issue is slightly less successful than some others that have come before it is in the pacing. Yes, there are three big plot developments – one at the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end – but ultimately that’s your lot here, the rest of the time and page-space being taken up with the planning and preparation the Doctor does, the really good speeches, some sudden, creepy peril and a hair-breadth escape. In itself, none of this is a bad thing, but when you consider the amount of ground that was covered in each of the first two episodes of this story, there’s a chance you might find yourself feeling like this is the ‘filler’ episode before the big showdown. It’s probably unfair to think that – as we say, there are three big plot developments, lots of Eleventh Doctoring, a healthy dose of peril and an escape, so arguably, what more do you want out of an episode of Who? It’s only really when you start to compare episode to episode and remember the amount of storytelling involved in those earlier issues that this episode begins to look a little padded.
The joy about series arcs of course is that they keep you coming back. If you’ve read any of the Eleventh Doctor stories from Titan Comics, you’ll more than likely have been drawn into the ServeYouInc storyline. This is the point at which that storyline starts to develop beyond hidden hands and shady Big Bads to something more interesting. You’re not going to want to miss it.
The Eleventh Doctor #9 is released Wednesday March 4th. Check out a 3-page preview here.
To find your local comic store visit: http://www.comicshoplocator.com/
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk