Doctor Who: TIME LORD VICTORIOUS #1 Review @ComicsTitan - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: TIME LORD VICTORIOUS #1 Review @ComicsTitan

Tony reigns victorious.

And so we begin. We take our first step on the big multi-media, multi-Doctor adventurefest that is Time Lord Victorious.

Technically, we began in A Dalek Awakens at the Doctor Who Escape Room by Escape Hunt, but thankfully, on the basis that access to that individual location is likely to be swamped by interest in the Time Lord Victorious series, there’s nothing storyline-specific in A Dalek Awakens, so you can come to Titan’s first offering in the sequence as though it’s the first real act in the story.

So what do we have?

Well, first of all, we have a catch-up. In recent Titan Doctor Who, the Thirteenth and Tenth Doctors shared some time and space, resulting in a horrifying paradox which ultimately flung the Tenth Doctor into a reality somewhat different from that of his TV tenure.

Defender Of The Daleks explores what happens when he wakes up in that new space and time.

We’re not going to lie to you – it starts off slow. Quite a few panels – hell, even quite a few pages – are taken up in the Tardis with the Tenth Doctor talking to himself about why he can’t remember anything about his latest adventure.

When he lands and opens the door though, there’s a riff on the classic ‘comedy Who’ skit by Stephen Moffatt, The Curse Of The Fatal Death. Daleks, by the truckload, doing the whole ‘Exterminate!’ thing, and then…not exterminating anything so much as a ferret. The Tenth Doctor naffs rapidly off, only to be met with – more Daleks. He does it again. Daleks! And again. More blimmin’ Daleks! Like a woman on the internet beset with trolls, the Tenth Doctor cannot rid himself of the blithering Daleks, so he does what you should never do with trolls – he engages them in conversation.

A few things happen then. Firstly, he realises that these are mostly old-style blue and silver, pre-Time War Daleks, for an odd and interesting reason, and secondly, he gets to meet the Emperor of the Daleks. Not the Remembrance of the Daleks, Davros-capsule Emperor, and not, either, the New Series Emperor of exploded casing-wings surrounding a lonely Dalek mutant in a jar. This is pure, uncynical but still probably profitable nostalgic button-pressing, as we go back to the ball-headed, stubby-eyestalked Emperor from the like of TV Comics. Weirdly, this will even make fans who never read the TV Comic strips, and who may not even have been born when they were released, oddly nostalgic. It’s a call to something fundamental in a shared fandom-consciousness of what the Dalek Emperor should look like. It looks damn good, and fans everywhere will nod in appreciation when they see it. The joy of this of course is that Time Lord Victorious can absolutely have its in-story cake and eat it. It’s made clear fairly early on that this is not a time-space continuum in which the Tenth Doctor as he is…belongs. So this could well be an ‘alternative’ Dalek Emperor to any and all seen on screen.

When he (not for nothing, why is ‘he’ always thought of as a he? Daleks reproduce asexually, so presumably individual Daleks have no concept of either sex or gender among their species?) is revealed, we get quite the doozy of an infodump. It’s a story-chunk that will see the Tenth Doctor sent to Skaro on a mission to save the Daleks – and indeed, everything else in the universe – from a new Big Bad. A Big Bad even the Daleks think of as pretty damn loopy. Bigger than the Daleks, badder than the Doctor, they’re basically faced with a terrorist threat that defies all concepts of logic. It just wants to kill. Everything.

The danger of inventing sudden uber-Big Bads in Doctor Who is that we have a long history of seeing species like the Daleks be bad. So the tendency to oversell the new Big Bad by report, by the Daleks quaking in fear at its mention, is frequently pushed beyond fan tolerance levels.

There’s a viable argument that Defender of the Daleks is guilty of that – the new Big Bad is (gasps of surprise in a Tennant-era supervillain), a legend from the Dark Times which turns out not to be so legendary after all. The danger is that the audience folds its arms against the notion and refuses to have any of it.

If there’s a saviour from that urge in Defender Of The Daleks, it actually comes in the form of a very unusual Dalek. The Emperor Dalek in this story improves enormously on its pure nostalgic hit if you imagine it speaking in Nick Briggs’ dementedly deep Dalek Emperor voice from early New Who.

When you meet the Daleks’ Prime Strategist, it’s worth reading its dialogue in the voice of Marvin, the Paranoid Android from the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. A Dalek…who no longer cares whether Daleks live or die, this miserable, antiquated Dalek is older than the Emperor, and has been stuck away on Skaro, in charge of the Vault of Obscenities.

Yyyyeah. Because while they may not go a bundle on a sense of humour, never let it be said that the Daleks don’t do melodrama.

When the Doctor and the Prime Strategist get together, there are more treats in store than the issue has delivered up to that point. Quite apart from anything else, you’re on Skaro, so the artwork by Roberta Ingranata and colourist Enrica Eren Angiolini shifts from its largely gold and orange tones – both the Tenth Doctor’s Tardis and the Dalek architecture of the time have that bronzy orange tint – to a more old-fashioned palette of shadows, greyness and dark places. But you also get some interesting gracenotes to previous Dalek stories – there’s a somewhat Exxilon city vibe to the vault, which is, as the Doctor notes, full of death-traps, when a nice library and the occasional swimming pool would be far better uses of the space. There’s a certain reluctant buddy-movie quality to the partnership between the bouncy Tigger-Doctor and the apparently depressed Strategist too, which leavens the slightly odd sensation of déjà vu.

The Daleks en masse recruiting the Doctor to deal with an enemy even they fear, through a death-filled labyrinth of Dalek hell?

That’s Asylum of the Daleks, isn’t it?

Heading into a vault to retrieve preposterously named superweapons? That has a hint of Day of the Daoctor and its Moment, no?

Wel, yes and no. Writer Jody Houser gives the whole thing its own distinctive sense, and the nature of the new Big Bad is at least more interesting than ‘All the Daleks even we are scared of.’ There are certain similar beats, yes. But of course the joy of writing for previous Doctors is that you can stand on the notion that this happened before Asylum of the Daleks. So you could retrospectively, timily-wimily argue that the reason the Eleventh Doctor was only inquisitive, rather than downright incredulous when the Parliament of the Daleks came calling is because it’s not above or beyond the Daleks to call him in from time to time, as they do here..

Does it work, as the first instalment of a new multi-media, multi-Doctor extravaganza?

Honestly…yes and no.

The fact that it takes a while to get properly going, and that when it does, it lays the groundwork of the story through significant infodumps makes it feel very…shall we say Chibnallian? its editing. The familiar notes from ‘subsequent’ TV stories like Asylum of the Daleks, The Day of the Doctor and The Witch’s Familiar mitigates some of the pleasure of seeing the Tenth Doctor swanning about on Skaro. And the new Big Bad feel a touch overhyped, and by the end of the episode have yet to do anything to really justify the Daleks’ fear of them.

So there are certain excitement-dampeners at play in this opening salvo.

That said, the Tenth Doctor in full chatty flow with the comic-style Emperor is worth paying the entrance fee for, and the depressed, battle-scarred Prime Strategist would certainly be worth the price of the comic-book on its own – especially when paired with Captain Cheeky Chops, happily wittering on about the alternative reality in which Daleks have a thriving movie culture. Imagine Alan Rickman voicing the Strategist and you’ll have lots of fun with it.

So does it work? It would be harsh to say an outright no – there are story elements that need further investigation and that draw you in to the long haul. But the disassociation from mainstream Tenth Doctor era history doesn’t help you buy into the life-or-death relevance of the story, the story editing, even for a first issue, is uneven, and by the end you’re not entirely convinced it’s delivered as much as it should have.

In fact, knowing it’s the first instalment in a much larger adventure is probably the key reason why, after reading this, you’d go on to the next issues and episodes in the Time Lord Victorious. There are many treats promised along the way. That the series kicks off with the comic-book equivalent of a crystalized ginger, rather than a strawberry surprise, is a little surprising. If you were undecided going in, it’s less certain than it should be whether this first instalment would persuade you to spend the considerable amount of money that getting the whole Time Lord Victorious sequence will ultimately demand. But as a curious bubble of alternative Tenth Doctor history, at least in the Emperor and the Prime Strategist, there’s enough to reward you for buying this particular instalment.

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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