Tony drinks in a doozy.
Y’know when people say ‘Ooh, that’s a doozy,’ have you ever found yourself looking at them like they just dropped in from another planet, and thought to yourself ‘What in the name of sanity’s a doozy when it’s at home?’
Problem solved. We now have a definitive measure of dooziness.
The Four Doctors #3 is what a doozy looks like.
It starts with a click that will be heard around the universe – the uniting of three squabbling Doctors in the frame of a photograph that is due, one day, to begin the end of the universe. Again.
From there, there’s a potentially deadly ‘Bing’ annnnd then lots of running. There’s a bit of kit that will send a shiver of breathless anticipation through your spine, and then a thing which isn’t so much a big bang as a colossal ‘Whooooah.’
There’s some great use of imagery from the most recent iteration of the time vortex here by Neil Edwards to symbolize the dilemma our Doctors and their friends find themselves in. And then, you need to prepare yourself, notsomuch for a magical mystery tour as for a nightmarish history tour as we go back along the 21st century Doctor’s timeline, replaying some of his worst and most terrible moments. In strictly Dickensian tradition, each of the three Doctors gets a turn at seeing the vision of their worst moment, and with a lovely time-twisting logic, for each of the Doctors the moment is yet to come, while for each of us as Who fans, they’re in the past. I’m going to nail my colours to the mast here and say for me, the most shocking of the visions is that granted to the Tenth Doctor, which seems to rip his very hearts out in a properly ‘death of Tiny Tim’ way. But in terms of advancing the message, the Eleventh takes the prize, while for pushing the plot along, Captain Grumpy wins by a light year. The message, by the way, is lightly sewn into the pattern of the issue, and the story as a whole, and there’s a degree of fundamental dooziness about it too. Like all the best Who, it’s a message that has specific relevance to the players in the story, but it can be applied to every single one of us – the consequences of action and the consequences of inaction, of accepting the universe as it is, without stirring from our comfort zones. The Doctor of course, given a choice between doing something and doing nothing has decided he ‘doesn’t do living in fear’ – though for at least two Doctors, this is pre-Trenzalore – and gone to poke the inevitable end of the universe with a stick. While his companions are more than a little miffed about that, the visions show the alternative to the Doctor doing what he does, in shards and moments when he could have taken the easy path, but didn’t. There’s a telling sense here that he actually does do ‘living in fear’ – but that the fear is of what he himself could become if he didn’t fight the good fight.
That’s actually referenced in an earlier issue – ‘We’ve got the Valeyard coming up sometime soon’ – and when you think about that in a story as Doctor-rich and time-twisting as this one is, you start to do a little counting (especially if you’ve recently listened to The Last Adventure). The Valeyard is supposed to be from somewhere between the Doctor’s Twelfth and final incarnations. With the War Doctor adjustment making the Eleventh Doctor the Thirteenth incarnation (thank you, Steven Moffatt, for rendering elegant sentences a thing of the past), what does that actually mean for the ‘Twelfth Doctor,’ we wonder – especially as this issue unfolds.
Not for nothing, but it’s a thought that rather arrests the mind as we head into Series 9 too…
This issue should in all likelihood see the start of a new hashtag all over Twitter - #TrustCornell. I say that because apparently there was some net-based grumpiness last time when the War Doctor didn’t appear. He doesn’t appear here either, in line with Cornell’s assertions that the War Doctor only appears in Issue #1. And before the chorus of Chihuahua-like yipping from fans begins about how that’s a rip-off, there’s only three Doctors, yadda yadda yadda, Cornell also said at the time there was a very specific reason the story was called The Four Doctors, despite the brevity of the War Doctor’s appearance. Now shush. Breathe. Read the hashtag again. And know that there’s a way in this issue that all of this makes sense. Everything’s all right. Cornell has you covered.
The story moves on in leaps and bounds in this issue, despite a main device that has every opportunity to feel like a diversion – three visions take up a lot of storytelling space, after all - but the point is that they’re crucial to the story itself. While, yes, giving a nostalgic thrill and an occasional kick in the throat when we learn what might have happened had our hero gone another way, the visions advance our understanding of the situation he’s facing here and now, telling the story while delivering messages, and in this case stunning visuals from Edwards, whose technique of filling the page and the panel with richness continues to make each issue feel like a banquet.
There’s a call-back to the Time War behind the visions, a patented Ye Olde Weapon of Devastating Power, and the trip we take here, while shocking, also draws us closer and closer to the truth, with an ending that, while we see it coming, is all the more satisfying for that, because it will undoubtedly spin the next issue off in a whole new direction. Also, for anyone who’s ever wondered what Billy Connolly would look like playing the Doctor, there’s a special treat.
Cornell’s grasp of the Doctor Who Universe, both old and new, and his gift for nuanced dialogue really sells the ongoing drama and banter, while Edwards’ style, as we’ve mentioned, is a sumptuary for your eyeballs. Do his Doctors look photo-realistic? Not really, but in their stylized depiction, the Doctors are sufficiently there in terms of body language to sell them to fans as much more than costumes with people in. Besides that, Edwards’ skills sing when required to go beyond the ordinary – the time vortex shot is a thing of beauty, especially with slivers of potential future visible within it, shots of the Tardis in space are richly coloured versions of an on-screen CGI shot, and the big panels that show the actions of our Doctors in their visions are vastly imagined, showing precisely the combination of creativity and engineering you need to sell extraordinary scenes to fans of this show. You can imagine them built and real and three dimensional, and yet breathtakingly bizarre enough to be only possible in Who.
The climax we reach here is, in its own way, similar to the end of Issue #2 – the declarative cliff-hanger, rather than the accidental variety – and it spins our brains over and above their normal revving speed to wonder what could possibly be going on behind the scenes to make this all fit. One thing we can promise you though is that, given the dooziness of this issue, you’re going to want to get issues #4 and 5.
We already do.
Issue #3 of Four Doctors is out today.
To find your local comic store visit www.comicshoplocator.com/, and then run there quickly.
You can find out, check out all the variant covers here, and
watch the trailer here.
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