Tony Fyler’s all turned around.
There’s a little disorientation about the fact that this is part 1 of a story, because, to be fair to it, it follows right along in pretty much the middle of the crisis of the previous story. The last two episodes of that story, which saw the Tenth Doctor and Gabby Gonzalez mixing it with antique hunters – seriously, the Antiques Roadshow was never like this – for a possible fountain of youth, or a possible Something Else Entirely, built their tension steadily. If this makes sense to anyone, there was a lot of cello in the background music (think Jaws), with one or two fantastic moments – the Tenth Doctor suddenly becoming the Ninth again, though that was sadly, quickly dealt with, the setting out of a flat black triangular Something from deep space, heading to Earth with a tone that could have gone either way. This issue, to extend the desperate comparison, the cello is speeding us dramatically, the sense that something bad’s about to go down intensified by the Tenth Doctor flapping about, rushing everywhere, throwing the words ‘Quantum Harvester’ about in that trademark way he had, as though he expects everyone to go ‘Oh blimey, not a Quantum Harvester!’ – and by the fact that the obelisk arrives, still talking to itself about the last time it was here, annnnnd describing New York as a ‘termite mound.’ Everyone’s entitled to their architectural opinion of course, but that doesn’t sound good for us. It also doesn’t sound like a new beginning, but like part 3 of a continuing story.
The tonal balance is kept mostly the right side of ambiguous in Nick Abadzis’ ongoing or starting-again story here. The only thing that’s troublesome about that is that it’s kept ambiguous mostly by there being a lot of running around and panicking and nothing enormously scary or definitive happening to define the tone one way or the other. Yes, there’s a big scary-looking obelisk from outer space hovering over New York. Yes, it’s quite chatty to we the reader, even if it has yet to say anything to the humans in the story, and it talks about having come to Earth millennia ago, and how much everything has either evolved or mutated, which harks back to great villains of the past, like Light from Ghost Light and Azal from The Daemons, but to put it in cliff-hanger terms, no-one’s died yet, so we’re able to keep an open mind about the fact that ageing film star Dorothy Bell has merged with some alien entity – the Quantum Harvester the Doctor was yelling about – rolled back the years, a la Fountain of Youth, and gone off around the city, ‘improving’ it. So far, that’s been a largely beneficent thing – adding stories onto a hospital and tricking it out with all the latest lifesaving kit, adding about twenty floors to the Empire State Building…y’know, just because…building brides to Jersey (which Gabby is quick and accurate to tell her New Yorkers will probably hate. Yes, it’s a bit of a bugger trying to get around a city that’s being treated like a Rubik Cube as Dorothy carries out her ‘improvements’ – but so far, they are what she says they are: improvements. The trouble presumably begins when she finds things to improve that no-one agrees need improving.
There’s also a worrying hierarchy to remember – Dorothy and the Quantum Harvester are now one thing, apparently subservient (though possibly not happy about it) to the obelisk thing – but that too has a master, which it’s trying not to wake up until it finds what it’s looking for. Again, when big black scary triangular obelisk that travel through space and exercise architectural judgment don’t want to wake something up, it could just be another day in Alpha Centauri, but frankly, I wouldn’t want to be the guy with the alarm clock.
Then of course there’s the cult. Can’t beat a good cult. The people who originally sent a woman who’s a bit handy when it comes to cold-cocking Time Lords after the artifact are still here, proclaiming the Dorothy-Harvester either a goddess or the harbinger of the gods. Frankly, you should never use people who use the word ‘harbinger’ as though it’s any kind of normal, but they’re still here, summoning the obelisk, attempting, if not to talk to it, then to stick a big neon sign on their heads saying ‘WE ARE HERE!’ And the Doctor’s being forced to work with them, despite the fact that they know about his UNIT work and are waving guns about.
Cos that’s a good idea.
What I’m trying to say and taking too long about is that there’s lots of potential for conflict, explosions, maiming, death and the end of the world, but we reach the end of this issue before any such interesting things happen, so as yet, it could all still go a bit Close Encounters and have a happy ending.
It probably won’t – but it could. But again, that’s the disorientating thing. It feels like the ending should be along any minute now, as thought there should be a part four and maybe a part five and then this one long story of the artefact and the obelisk should be done. It feels deeply disconcerting to get to the end of this comic-book and discover it was part 1 of anything, because nothing ended last time and nothing began this.
Is it any good? Yes, there’s plenty of running and flapping and we learn about Quantum Harvesters and add twenty floors to the Empire State Building and find out about a cult and do all kinds of fun, crazy things. It’s just you’re left with the nagging sense that the reason the lack of actual action and peril makes sense – you wouldn’t put all your action and peril in episode 1 of anything, after all – only makes sense if it’s clear when you read it that it’s a first part of something new, despite the lack of any conclusion last time and the picking up right where we left off this time.
I’m going for a lie-down. You go out and get this issue – there’s lots to enjoy and plenty of tension-cello. Just remember – Part 1. Honest.
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