The CEO will see you now, says Tony Fyler.
Remember that pre-credits sequence from The Next Doctor, with Davids Morrissey and Tennant side by side, both being the Doctor?
That’s the territory we’re in for a lot of issue #10 of Titan Comics’ Eleventh Doctor stories. That sense of ‘what the hell’s going on here?’ pervades, but there’s also a lot of ground covered – and a lot of great fan references along the way. Alice, the Doctor’s ‘lead’ companion, complains about the infantile language he uses and about the use of ‘science fiction clones’ to explain things (a particular fan gripe after Series Six, with its Gangers and Tessalecta and suchlike ‘clones’ of the Doctor), while there are also sightings of an enormo-Tardis (as seen on Trenzalore), an updated version of the Doctor’s fob watch, and proof that the Eleventh Doctor at least would have been in favour of cosplay, fanfiction, and a female Doctor somewhere in his future. There are even call-backs to Martha Jones and her year of yell, with the importance of storytelling being key to this issue. Really – lots of ground covered.
There are technically three versions of the Eleventh Doctor at play in this issue – the good, the bad and the getting by, and each of them reflects an Eleventh Doctor with whom you can identify from the TV adventures. Bringing them together in a way that satisfies not only the fan curiosity of the reader, but also a way that evolves the plot and brings it practically to a conclusion while also delivering one of the sickly sweet endings for which this Doctor had an occasional penchant is pretty far up there in the challenge stakes. Writer Rob Williams pretty much manages it, inasmuch as it feels satisfying when you read it to the end, not only in terms of a standalone issue, but also as part of the ongoing Eleventh Doctor arc. As is often the way with the Doctor, but feeling particularly relevant to this Doctor who would ‘go on’ (given the place of these stories in his timeline) to make hard decisions like giving up travelling with Amy and Rory before their adventures lead them to their deaths, and who runs to things and people before they flare and die, it’s his companions who show him the way not to wallow, the way not to dwell on his sacrifice and the way to get up off the floor and do something to save himself, and save a planet in the process.
It’s a metaphor made almost literal, as when the Doctor pulls himself together, the main danger in the issue is vanquished, and the Tardis helps deliver that slightly gooey ending. Beneath the goo though there’s a hard philosophical underpinning – what would happen if the Doctor was ever truly happy? What would have to be sacrificed from the Time Lord we know to make that happen, and what kind of universe would it entail? Within that, in a particularly impressive rant from Alice, is the sort of moral the Doctor normally delivers – no-one is ever really happy all the time, that’s not what life is about. Life is about the ups and downs, the happy and sad, the journey and who we take it with and how we remember those we lose along the way. It’s a slap in the face that the Doctor needs in this issue, and Alice Obiefune, more than most companions, is able to deliver that slap from a place of pain – she’s still mourning the loss of her mother, and the horrible thing that was done to her mind by ServeYouInc in the wake of that loss, and now, thanks essentially to the Doctor being weaker than her and giving in to the panacea for pain that the company provides, she’s having to run a kind of highly unusual guerrilla war with all that pain still raw.
Meanwhile Jones is still exploring the David Bowie parody beyond the point at which it’s technically funny, though here he rewrites a Bowie incarnation as a colourful unitarded superhero, which does reinvigorate the chuckles a little. And ARC, the blob of shape-shifting brain matter, continues to serve little in the way of storytelling purpose, though it does manage to save our heroes’ lives this time round.
Simon Fraser is on artistic duty for this issue and there’s an almost surreal feeling to the panels he delivers that channels some of the best bits of The Rings of Akhaten, uses colour and shade well to deliver both sombre and angry moments and in one panel takes the brave – but so worthwhile – step of colouring it almost entirely black and blank, which delivers a moment of stark mid-issue impact. He also sells the central idea of Williams’ CEO well by having him look familiar but not quite ever entirely right.
Overall then, this is a well-plotted climactic ‘episode’ in the ongoing Eleventh Doctor story arc, and one that punches hard, certainly at, if not above the usual weight of the comic-book. Get out your change-purses, it’s one to pick up.
The Eleventh Doctor #10 is released Wednesday March 25th. 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