Tony takes a wrong turn at the submarine.
There’s a line in one of the better Series 8 stories, Jamie Mathieson’s Flatline, that you need to pay attention to. Given that the story plays with dimensions, and weight is a function of dimensions, you could be forgiven when you hear it for just thinking it’s a line of banter.
‘[The Tardis is] always lighter. If the Tardis were to land with its true weight, it would fracture the surface of the Earth.’
‘Yeah, maybe a story for another time,’ says Clara.
Welcome to another time.
If you’re just joining us, in true Twelfth Doctor style, we don’t have time to bring you up to speed. Go out now and pick up issue #2.9 of The Twelfth Doctor (and, unless you’re especially keen on walking or want to get some extra geeky steps in your day, pick up issue #2.10 while you’re there, it’ll save you a trip once you’re done with this review). The short version is: creepy house, missing children, rooms growing and growing and growing out of nowhere within the house, creepy but useful angel-shaped artron energy-eating aliens going nutso and looking for a banquet. Basically, there’s a house with a dying Tardis inside it, and the Tardis is…for want of a less disgusting term, prolapsing rooms into the space of the house. Add a distinctly creepy clock chiming backwards in a countdown, and you’ve got yourself a ball game. Or at least the world’s most complicated game of hide and seek.
George Mann – in case you’ve been asleep for a couple of decades and are just getting this – is bloody good at pacing. He can judge an issue by what needs to be in it, and pace his writing accordingly. This time out, having given us the cliff-hanger of discovering that the dying Tardis was, in fact, a dying Tardis at the end of issue #2.9, he paces issue #2.10 as though racing a bullet into the heart of that counting down clock, with the probable destruction of the Earth as the consequence should the Doctor, Hattie, and the owner of the house not make it on time.
The whole issue is pretty much one long chase scene from Page 6 on, briefly interrupted by emotional reunions – the Doctor needs to find the console room of the dying Tardis and get it the hell off the surface of the Earth before its dimensional spillage cracks the world open like an egg and destroys the planet we inconveniently live on. Oh and yes, rescue a couple of missing children and their father along the way if at all possible.
What one long chase scene gives you is two things. Given that you’ve set up your scenario in the previous issue – creepy artron energy aliens ready to devour anything a bit time travelly inside a time machine, big bonging clock countdown of doom, prrrretty much doing the job of the cloister bell, only more scarily, missing children lost somewhere in a dying, quite a bit alive, Tardis belonging to who knows who – it gives you a pulse-pounding race against time in a time machine. In point of fact, it gives you what the last two episodes of The Invasion of Time should have been but so, so weren’t. And, as an extra special bonus, it also gives you Rachael Stott faced with the challenge of how to best visually convey the humungo-massiveness of the rupturing Tardis, and some more of its oddly juxtaposed, Eschertastic rooms.
Stott is a very, very good artist. You already know that if you’re at all a fan of the Twelfth Doctor comic-books – this has certainly been a shining year for her portfolio. Issue #2.9 gave her a chance to play with Tardises, and she went entirely to town, delivering a vision that matched Mann’s properly scary premise. Here’s a hint – it’s nearly November, and Stott’s rounding out the year on a high. The pace of this issue means there’s perhaps not quite as much time to stop and look around this time as there was last, when her ‘Marauder’s Map’ backdrop was a witty read in and of itself, but even on the run, Stott’s determined to make the most of the opportunity to play Tardises, including at least one Escher tribute, and a Page 10 spectacular that does fantastically mind-bending things with space, as well as fitting rows of cottages into the Tardis, and something that looks distinctly like a cave full of Kontron crystals, Timelash-fans (Yes, fans. I can’t be the only one, dammit!).
But it’s not just about the demented space-twisting potential of the backgrounds. Stott gives good people, etching emotional stresses into many moments along the way on this grand chase through the dying Tardis, which not only makes the situations and the characters feel real, but also adds additional spins of energy to Mann’s central premise and pacing. While the Doctor’s racing to save the world from the dying Tardis and the effects of the Spyrillites (the artron-junkies), it’s never a bad idea to ground the drama of the chase in a mother trying to find her missing children – it raises the stakes and personalises them at the same time, because whereas we’ve rarely had the chance to save the world, the instinct to save the people we love is inherent and hits us where we live.
We’re not about to tell you whether everyone makes it out of the twisted maze that is the dying Tardis alive, but we will tell you it’s Hattie’s farewell issue (though in the modern era, with a time machine, who knows?) – the guitarist from the far future bows out of the Twelfth Doctor’s life in this story, and we’ll miss her; as a way of getting over the melancholy of Clara’s exit, and as a template for how to reinvigorate the Twelfth Doctor in the post-Impossible universe, and bring new elements and instincts out of him, she’s been an object lesson for the writers of Series 10. In a universe where anything is possible, more time-travelling Hattie would be A Very Good Thing Indeed, thankyouverymuch.
We really hope you took us seriously at the start of this review. If you didn’t, this’ll be the part where you go out again in the uncertain late October weather and head back to your comic-shop of choice to pick up issue 2.10 of The Twelfth Doctor. Mann and Stott do good work together. You’re a Doctor Who fan, you deserve good things in your life. Go get some of the good stuff, and get your pulse racing as you run with the Doctor and Hattie to save the world from an ever-expanding Tardis. Go on – it’ll make your week.
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