Doctor Who: Thirteenth Doctor - TIME OUT OF MIND Review @ComicsTitan - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Thirteenth Doctor - TIME OUT OF MIND Review @ComicsTitan

Tony gets festive, with barely a ‘Bah, humbug!’ to be heard.

The Thirteenth Doctor’s an awkward one.

At least, she’s awkward in comic-books because, like the Tenth, her default position is enthusiasm, rather than, say, the survivor-guilt of Nine, the off-beat bandy-legged Chaplinry of Eleven or the taciturn left-field enigma of Twelve. By basing their everyday personality in smiles and banter, both Ten and Thirteen render themselves a little more tricky to actually pin down, both in terms of the subtleties of their faces for comic-book art and the quirks of their personalities in terms of driving stories forward.

Which is why you need to choose your writers and artists well when you’re delivering a 13th Doctor story, especially if that story is going to replace the old tradition of an on-screen Christmas Special. We know she has a thing for New Years, but does the 13th Doctor even Christmas, Fam?

Course she does – again, the keynote of her personality, at least prior to the debut of Series 12, is that initial reaction to her regeneration – moments of bafflement growing into a grin lit by inner sunlight and an ‘Oh, brilliant!’ There’s almost literally nothing more Christmassy, more ‘Child waking up to see that Santa’s been’ than that reaction. Perhaps perversely given the harsh truths of TV scheduling, there’s almost never been a Doctor more suited to Christmas Specials than 13.

Step forward then, Jody Houser to write the 13th Doctor’s festive comic-book special, and the artistic team of Roberta Ingranata, Giorgio Sposito and Valeria Favoccia to turn that story into over a hundred pages of Christmassy artwork, coloured by Enrica Eren Angioline and Tracey Bailey. All hands on deck – Team Tardis are going on holiday!


You heard me.

Annnnd you know how well the Doctor’s determination to have a holiday usually turns out. This time though, in a particularly New Who vibe, the Doctor lets the Tardis pick the destination – more, as she says, even than she usually does. And all is fun and games at a kind of Space Disneyworld until Graham tries his luck at the interstellar equivalent of a coconut shy, and loses. When you lose at this particular game, it turns out, the vendor wins more than your money, and the chase is on to rescue Graham, and lots of other hapless ball-chuckers, from his clutches. Bwahaha…

Here’s an important thing about the vibe of the 13th Doctor’s era that’s perfectly captured in this comic-book. There have been days and they’ve been many, when that story of companion-capture and rescue and winning through, would in itself be quite enough story to weave at least an ordinary, non-Christmas story out of.

Here, in the era of the 13th Doctor, that’s barely act one of the storytelling. It’s the sneaky mince pie you snaffle on the way to the Christmas Dinner table. Houser captures this sense of having a mini-adventure that leads to a chilly, minor-key, hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck realisation, that draws us further into The Bigger Adventure perfectly, because while there are a good number of panels devoted to showing us the reality of this Graham-centred malarkey, it turns out each of the Tardis Team have different memories of what happened and how. That in itself is a significant thread that leads them to a bizarre conversation on a planet that each of them swears blind they’ve never been to before, and the now-traditional moment of 13th Doctor determined scrunch-face of definitive involvement comes when it’s revealed that someone somewhere is operating a slave workforce for nefarious purposes – it’s not exactly a sweatshop of elves, working themselves to death to make all the toys in time for Christmas, but if you squint your eyes, you can get there. Has something gone wrong with the Doctor’s mate Jeff, or is there something even odder going on?

Spoiler alert: there’s something even odder going on.

The something even odder involves the logical, folklorically-established enemy of Christmas, delivered in a way which is more than a horn-tipped head-nod to the Nimon – mythology and technology combined for purposes which on the one hand are nefarious, and on the other hand are almost inevitable. There’s even a touch of Monsters, Inc about the inevitable aspect of this storyline, the lengths to which people will go to get what they absolutely need, even if what they absolutely need involves hurting other people, being key to the drama. There’s also – and you won’t believe how pleased we are to write this down – an elf with attitude, much hiding in impossible closets (Thank you, CS Lewis), and a more-than-solid handful of lovely callbacks to Doctor Who of old, synthesised into the new. There’s the setting right of memories, the sonic-twiddling dismantlement of techno-gubbins, and the freeing of perception-filtered slaves, all en route to a slap-up Christmas lunch, a wreath of holly on the Tardis door, an extra, cheeky mince pie just when you think you’re stuffed to bursting-point with twinkly goodwill, and essentially, everything you’ve come to think of as essential from a Doctor Who Christmas Special.

But there’s also a distinct 13th Doctor vibe to the whole thing. What does that mean? There are beaming smiles at the Fam, and declarations that 13 has chosen her friends well – that kind of ego-boosting, confidence-polishing thing at which the 13th Doctor is especially adept, blending ‘infinite secrets of the Time Lords’ with ‘Northern Mam, wiping smudges off her charges’ faces before sending them out into the school of the universe’ in her approval of her pals. There’s also a somewhat trademark declaration of who she is and what her plans are (look out for that in a signature panel of gorgeous artwork). There’s sitting quietly with confused folk, all Patrick Troughton cross-legged and respectful, and there’s the assured unravelling of a deeper reality in speeches that are less grandiose than some of her predecessors, but more empathetic, hitting characters more quietly and deeply where they live to move the action along. Ultimately then, what you get from Mind Out Of Time is an entirely believable 13th Doctor Christmas Special that you’ve never yet seen on-screen, handled by a writer strongly attuned to the rather tricky personality-essentials of the 13th Doctor, and delivered with some solidly twinkly and resplendent artwork (the villain-reveal is another key page over which to stop and drool).

Along the way, there’s also artwork which – as with early Tenth Doctor releases from Titan – is more notional than specific, the 13th Doctor’s face being another tricky one to pin down in its essentials, but this sense of proximity, rather than precision, is more or less fitting for a story determinedly moving forward at pace, rather than necessarily lingering in one place for too long. As Christmas stories on TV are notorious for this need of pace so as to capture and keep the attention of various relatives wandering through the room as well as the hardcore fans in the household who shush at them every time they ask stupid questions, you actively go with this sense of forward motion. And it’s important not to overstate this element too – whenever the ‘camera’ of the panel is supposed to be focused on the 13th Doctor’s face, she’s recognisably there, which means that sense of rapid forward motion and occasional facial sketchiness is more a deliberate pusher of pace than it is an indicator of deficiency on the part of the artists.

Time Out Of Mind then is a selection box of good things, from an initial premise that’s familiar to Who fans from as far back as The Romans – Team Tardis on a holiday that goes a bit wrong – to a distinctly Chibnallian chill as the initial story becomes only a marker of something deeper and darker going on, through a festive adventure very much in the Russell T Davies vein, that pits the newest of the Time Lords and her Fam up against the forces of an existential anti-Christmas evil, allows them to win through with a bit of twiddling, a calm speech or two, a bit of a stand taken and a determinedly silly hat, and straight on for the pleasure of Christmas Dinner. It’s a thing of surprises, and smiles, and that ‘You shouldn’t have, but I’m glad you did!’ reaction that all the best Christmas presents bring. If your relatives are senseless clods and didn’t get it for you for your Christmas, do yourself a favour and give yourself a belated Christmas gift. January’s harsh – make yours better with Time Out Of Mind, available now.

Tony 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 day, he 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

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