Tony wants more Effrid.
Part 1 of Medicine Man, the latest Tenth Doctor and Gabby story from Nick Abadzis, was something special in its lyricism of language, Abadzis giving Munmeth the Neanderthal who turned his hand to many valuable skills a kind of eloquence that was engaging to read, and opened the mind to wider ideas, like our modern judgments of civilisation and how viewer-centric they can be. Doctor Who’s come a long way since The Tribe of Gum.
Part 2 is less engaging, focusing more on plot than character, and allowing a Pertwee-style lull after the challenges of the story appear to have been overcome, where people stand around talking, congratulating each other on having done it.
The turn the story takes is also somewhat less satisfying than Part 1 led us to hope for, bringing in a touch of Vengeance on Varos, a sprinkling of Gladiator and a species of alien antagonist that look a little “Meh” compared to the realism of the humanoids in the story, a little Hartnell-budget in their realisation by Elena Casagrande.
Does that mean it’s one to avoid then?
Well, no, not really. There’s plenty actually going on, and the Doctor leads a rag-tag band of would-be fighters to unite and face their common foe (we mentioned the sprinkling of Gladiator, right?), though it would have to be said that Gabby has the more interesting adventure in this part of the story, teaming up with her own rag-taggers of a far more eclectic nature led by a human named Effrid Blunk, and playing the companion’s role right to the hilt. Besides, for all the diabolical alien threat looks a bit uninspiring, Casagrande’s panels and pages are overflowing with gorgeousness in this issue, giving (perhaps perversely) both claustrophobia and scope to the storytelling. There are beautiful through-forcefield shots too, the quality of light and colour changing to reflect different realities. It’s just that the nature of the scenario is something we’ve seen before, and the alien villains have a feeling of Hartnellish, Web Planety naffness about them that pretty much detaches the reader from any reality of threat they might post, so after the eloquence of the first part of this story, this part feels a little like business as it usually was fifty years ago, and comparing them side by side leads to a kind of confusion common to TV two-parters, where a fundamental change of tone makes you wonder if you’re really watching (or here, reading) one story at all.
That said, there are consequences to the ending of this story that do that most Titan of things – technically ending this story, but doing it in such a way as to make it clear the story’s not actually ending at all, and that there’s more to come, either directly or in some issues’ time, to take the whole thing to the next level. It’s one of the few annoying things about the Titan Who range, but it’s an irritation forced on Titan by the nature of its product. In the same way as The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived/Face The Raven/Hell Bent could all be seen as a single four-part Ashildr story with interruptions in between, or the history of River Song could be seen as a series all of its own, with distractions, so Titan does the same to its episodes, but because our in-built expectation is for comic-books to be more linear in their storytelling nature, it instinctively feels ‘wronger’ to divide long stories this way. Still, it’s a necessary wrongness that has even applied to what was fairly clearly the ‘series arc’ of the ServeYou Inc story, so let’s all get over ourselves. The ending makes us ponder what’s to come, without, if we’re honest, giving any particular amount of oomph to the notion of a cliff-hanger.
Would we be keen to meet the villains of this piece again? No, not really – as alien menaces go, they’re not among Abadzis’ best. But there’s a sneaky little bit of Robert Holmes-style work going on here, because we would be keen to see a sub-cast of these characters again. Certainly, Munmeth the Neanderthal burns himself strongly into our consciousness in both parts of the story to make us want to know more of his story and adventures. But more especially, the reason Gabby has a better adventure here is that she has it with Effrid Blunk’s distinctly Guardians of the Galaxy-style group of freedom-fighting miscreants, and this lot, certainly, we’d like to see more of in future ‘episodes’ of this story or others, because they have their own mysteries, their own scope. These technically secondary characters help enliven this issue, a service it very much needs, and end up largely stealing the show simply by virtue of the imaginative scope it took to pull them together and the attitude and differences, they display. In fact, like the TV Paternoster Gang or Sarah-Jane’s pubescent investigators, Effrid Blunk and his gang could be the comic-books’ first potential ‘spin-off’ group, so simple and so character-rich is their potential. So this issue is worth getting for them, certainly, and for the consequences revealed at its end, as well as Casagrande’s cool artwork.
Part 2 of Medicine Man is hardly classic Who, but it is worth picking up for all these reasons. It’s also an example of a maxim that, given the recent announcement that 2016 is going to be an almost entirely Who-dry year from the BBC, even non-classic Who is still better than much that’s available. Buy The Tenth Doctor 2.5 now, and take your medicine.
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