Tenth Doctor Year 2 #2.3 - Cindy, Cleo, and The Magic SketchbookBookmark and Share

Thursday, 16 June 2016 - Reviewed by Dan Collins
DOCTOR WHO: TENTH DOCTOR #2.3 (Credit: Titan)
Writer:Nick Abadzis
Artists: Elena Casagrande and Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Comicraft'sJimmy Betancourt
On Sale: December 2, 2015

In the previous two issues we saw Gabby and the Doctor out and about, once more gallivanting around the universe after stopping the destruction of Earth. While they are away, Cindy settles down to read the diary that her best friend gave her. She is hoping to finally learn the truth about this mysterious Doctor.

If I had to use just one word to describe this comic, I would probably go for… Bold. Why? Well let’s start with the overall story itself. This is a Doctor-lite issue. You know what I’m talking about, like those episodes where the actor playing the Doctor is on vacation and so they write a whole story that barely features the character. It has been done well with phenomenal stories like Blink. Sometimes though, they come up short, Love and Monsters being the most notorious example, though I personally enjoyed it.  Here we are just three issues into this “second season” of Doctor Who comics from Titan, and they are already taking a risk by excluding the two main characters from this story.  Both the Doctor and his companion Gabby are physically absent for the entire issue. We the reader are ultimately being guided by two of the more unlikable characters from previous story arcs, Cindy and Cleo. This could have been a disaster, maybe even should have been a disaster, but it wasn’t.  Mostly because Cleo has finally shed some of that hard exterior and revealed that she’s more than the thug who knocked the Doctor around during their last encounter. Cindy had a bit of a turn around too, though I feel like that has a lot to do with the second bold decision in this issue, the choice of storytelling device.

Here we are in a Doctor-Lite episode and the first page shows Cindy sitting on a NY park bench holding her best friend’s diary. She opens up the book and we are transported into the diary. We aren’t watching Cindy reading, but rather seeing with our eyes what she is seeing.  The pages are no longer comic book pages with panels, speech bubbles and captions, but instead paragraphs of text off to the side with quick sketches in the middle. Even the colour of the pages changes during this portion of the story.  And it works well! We get a mini “origin story” that tells us a little tale about how Cindy and Gabby bonded over a scary situation when they were just children. She then uses that feeling of terror and excitement to describe life with the Doctor. These diary pages also work really well as a catch up. If new readers came on board when “season 2” started, they might not know all about the Doctor. Here, through Cindy’s eyes, the audience are reintroduced to him, given a quick primer on just what sort of man the Doctor is and the stage is set for his reappearance most likely in the next issue.

There is a lot more to this particular story than just seeing what Cindy is reading. The book itself becomes the plot. There is something off with the diary. The pages are changing, almost alive. They start warning her how dangerous it would be if it fell into the wrong hands. Those hands belong to Mister Ebonite, the owner of the black market auction house. Dressed all in black, with his elongated and pinched face, he is giving off weird vibes long before he pulls out a flying skull and sends it after Gabby and Cleo. With weird mystical or magical powers that will undoubtedly actually be alien tech in origin, he gets the upper hand. When things are looking really bad for our rag tag misfits a familiar face makes an appearance. Even though this issue has been out for quite a while, I won’t spoil it for anyone who is planning to eventually get around to reading it. All I will say is that it was a pleasant surprise!

 

Over all I really enjoyed this issue. The diary portion was great. The little cartoons that accompanied the text were cute and perfect. I missed a bunch of the early issues in this series and so I benefited from the recap as much as any other reader would have. Both Cindy and Cleo get some great character development that makes them more likeable and relatable. Even if they hadn’t started endearing themselves to me, the twist at the end of the issue was more than enough to keep me coming back next month.

 

Bonus Strip: A Rose By Any Other Name By Rachael Smith

 

Rose-The-Cat wonders why the Doctor isn’t using his moping chair anymore, only to discover that he’s found all the companionship he needs inside a videogame.





Tenth Doctor Adventures #2.2 - The Singer Not The Song - Part 2Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 3 April 2016 - Reviewed by Dan Collins
Tenth Doctor Adventures Year Two # 2 (Credit: Titan Comics)

Writer:Nick Abadzis

Artist: Eleonora Carlini

Colorist: Claudia SG Ianniciello With Azzurra Florean

Letterer: Richard Starkings and Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

Release Date: Oct 21, 2015

An auditory virus is affecting the musical Shan’Tee, turning them into nightmarish Nocturnes. The Doctor has been forced to leave Gabby to fend for herself as he attempts to trace the path of the contagion and put a stop to it. His companion has her hands full as hordes of Bovodrines, normally gentle “air cows”, are being stampeded toward the building where she’s taking shelter. The virus has also gotten inside and is beginning to turn some of her friends.

Last issue was the beginning of what they are calling the second season in these Tenth Doctor adventures. It’s a fresh storyline but with all the same familiar faces from the first year. Writer Nick Abadzis starts the arc off with just a two part story, this issue being the conclusion. I find it a little strange that they kept it tightened down to just a two parter. While the storyline is actually incredibly thin, a little more development might have made it into a more traditional three issue arc. Or alternately, if they had removed some of the padding this could easily have made it into one jam packed comic and been a dynamite standalone story.

I have to confess to being underwhelmed by the conclusion. The previous issue was pretty enjoyable. The Shan’tee were neat creatures and their infection and transformation into the malicious Nocturnes was well played. The mystery behind it was intriguing. All of that seemed to unravel for me. Maybe it was just they seemed to be going for a false sense of urgency. We started the story with the end, Gabby standing in a building under attack from the Nocturnes while everything around her is being destroyed by the Bovodrines. Will the Doctor save her? Yes. Of course he does. After all, how many times has the Doctor failed a companion and had them die? It has happened of course, but not too many times. Starting at the end was a neat creative choice, but I don’t think anyone was really worried about Gabby. The tension they were trying to create just wasn’t there for me. On top of that, the way the Doctor managed to reverse and remove the virus barely made sense. It was very anticlimactic and had none of the flair that usually comes with one of his rescues.  The last page was a nice surprise though. With this adventure done, the pair return to the TARDIS and are confronted by Anubis again. He appears to remind the Doctor that they have unfinished business from the precious story arc. It was a nice touch.

Despite my criticisms of the length and the ending, I did actually enjoy the main portion of this story. It was entertaining. It just fell a little flat at the end.
 

Bonus Strip- A Rose By Any Other Name by Rachael Smith

I almost forgot about the strip this month as they tuck it way at the back of the digital bundle, behind pages of alternate covers and the synopsis for the next issue.  I was rewarded for searching it out though. I tend to criticize these strips as being very hit or miss, some I like but many do nothing for me. Well this one is another hit. The Doctor and Rose (the human, not Rose-The-Cat) are finally reunited.





UtopiaBookmark and Share

Saturday, 12 March 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
John Simm as The Master in Utopia (Credit: BBC)
 Series Three - Episode 11 - "Utopia".

STARRING: David Tennant, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman
WITH: Derek Jacobi, and John Simm

ALSO STARRING: Chipo Chung, René Zagger, Neil Reidman,
Paul Marc Davis, John Bell,
 Deborah MacLaren,
Abigail Canton, and Robert Forknall

Written by Russell T Davies,

Directed by Graeme Harper

Music - Murray Gold

Produced by Phil Collinson

Executive Producers: Russell T. Davies + Julie Gardner

Originally Transmitted 16th June 2007, BBC 1

The first in a series of retrospective reviews covering stories missing from the Doctor Who News archive.

 

The David Tennant incarnation of everyone's favourite twin-hearted iconoclast was enjoying a second full series on TV in 2007. Back then with Martha Jones as the able and beautiful new companion, played by up-and-coming star Freema Agyeman the show was continuing to provide excellent entertainment and role models for men and women in equal measure.

And overall, the production and writing crew began to combine the emotional weight of Series 1 with the heady hi-jinks of Series 2. At its peak, the Third Series of modern Doctor Who was the show at its very best, but it did still have some notably weaker efforts in places. To my mind, it was only the following year when showrunner Russell T Davies totally perfected the formula and came up with a great TARDIS crew, great one-offs, and a really fulfilling linking arc.

The Tenth Doctor/ Martha collection of travels and timelines, did however keep those viewers, who may still have missed the amazing chemistry that Tennant and Billie Piper shared on screen, engaged in the present. This episode of course, was one of the stand-outs, and did a terrific job of rewarding the loyalty of those too young to have experienced classic Who, but also came up with the return of a pivotal returning character that long-term watchers and committed fans alike were surely expecting to make another return to the fray. (And hopefully in a more traditional manner than the muddled Terminator homage of the TV Movie).

The Master makes his triumphant return in a fast-paced episode, by making the closing few minutes a powerhouse of revelation and dramatic chutzpah. And what a steal in getting none other than Derek Jacobi to guest star. Here he is just credited with the part of Professor Yana, obviously designed to preserve secrecy. It is an admirable '2 for the price of 1' effort, and succeeds in making the viewer remember this story as having a truly kind man succumb to a cruel twist of fate. Just as we could not dismiss the benign John Smith and think of him as a 'placeholder person', so we can never forget the combination of wisdom and boyish excitement that Yana has in this tale.

The 'Y.A.N.A. acronym' was of course one of the story-arc elements so elegantly laid out in prior episodes in Series 3. The other, and more deliberate hook was the 'Saxon' thread, which even stretched back to the preceding Christmas special - The Runaway Bride. The acronym stands for "You Are Not Alone", and could be read as a positive. For most of Utopia, Jacobi plays the most charming and likeable of people, in some ways even more engaging than the Doctor. Perhaps the message from the Face of Boe in Gridlock was meant as an encouragement. It also looks that way in the company Yana keeps. His own female assistant is very well performed by Chipo Chung, and in make-up terms a finely designed semi-humanoid, who employs a speech pattern of "Chan..tho" to bookend her statements. The two syllables form together to denote her name.

But it still is very clear that Utopia is overall a very bleak tale. Like Frontios, and a few other stories from the Who mythos (such as the recent Hell Bent), it is set at the end of time and sees a group of humans trying to proceed despite the odds being against them. A small camp of civilised people are having to guard against regressive beings, and they put all their hope in a great journey to another world. But of course they do not know if that world will have anything for them. And later episodes quickly confirmed the worst feelings of any TV viewer with an ounce of pessimistic suspicion in them.

Enough character development is spent establishing how close Yana and Chantho are together, that when the Master is unleashed by the spate of 'triggers' that lie within his subconscious, and despite the best intentions of the TARDIS crew, it really feels like a blow towards the captivated viewer. The ability to quickly make viewers care about 'supporting characters of the week' was one of Davies' finest assets in all of his TV writing, and not just this one prime time show. The way that Jacobi announces who he is, the sheer venom he hurls at the bewildered lab-coated and loyal ally of his previous persona, before fatally wounding her, is a moment of top notch thespian malice. "I am the ... Master" is a simple line of dialogue, made into something truly resonant.

David Tennant also has his moments of darkness at times in this story, most noticeably when the Doctor shrugs off the attempt of Captain Jack to re-forge their travelling partnership. In the process the former Time Agent makes his friend fully aware of the impact of being abandoned. He wanted some answers for what we were able to see were Rose's Time Vortex powers causing him to have the dubious superpower of being able to die and revive in the most traumatic of fashions. The Doctor's necessary regeneration into his Tenth self was a process that makes such a conversation with a former ally not the easiest of topics.

Ultimately it is a good thing we get Jack back after having all but no proper sign of him in the main show since The Parting of the Ways; the 'Torchwood' name being a verbal reminder over the course of Series 2. Barrowman makes the most of his opportunities in RTD's deft script, and is able to exude the energy of a man who has forged his own life, but still values the Doctor's friendship and mentorship highly. Even if many viewers did not see Torchwood the sister show in the interim, it matters little over the course of this episode and the next two, as enough exposition is made, without it being too obvious an advertisement for another BBC production.

John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness in Utopia (Credit: BBC)

The music from Murray Gold is typically strong in any given TV story, but this tale  introduces one of my absolute favourite musical motifs. It clearly was seen as strong by those around Gold in post-production as it was to be repeated again in the concluding episodes of this third year to even great effect. Most notably featuring when the Doctor and Yana make progress as a team, it combines both the heroic and the melancholic to exquisite effect. There is also some frenetic up-tempo musical accompaniment to the  action, where the heroes are on the run from the regressive outsiders, and this helps breath life into what flirts with being vaguely absurd.

Although the concept of the savages is a sound one, part of me finds their witless  expressions and gnashing teeth somewhat out of synch with the intellectual and  emotional complexity of the overall narrative. But if one was to just view them as a token  monster and plot device then really this is just a tiny drawback.

Back to some praise again: the cliffhanger leading into The Sound of Drums is truly brilliant. We see a final blaze of glory for Jacobi as he defiantly cries "The Master ..Re-born", and then the most dangerously unpredictable and indeed disturbing regeneration yet is on the TV screen. Of course, in recent times Michelle Gomez has made the part her own and benefited from enough good scripts, great co-stars, (and crucially) screen-time to be that bit more nuanced than the John Simm incarnation. But make no mistake, the renowned Life On Mars actor is still fiendishly good and makes any given scene must-see TV. The ultra-confident, happy-chappy Doctor has now met his equal and opposite. However, it will take a journey or two into the past and across the cosmos, before they finally get their face-off in person.

Utopia is a fine piece of prime time TV in its own right, and it underlines the enterprise and craft of the production team in no uncertain terms. The mega-length finale had got off to a great start, and much more character development and high drama was just around the corner.

 





The Tenth Doctor Adventures Year Two # 1 – The Singer Not The Song Part 1Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 17 February 2016 - Reviewed by Dan Collins
Tenth Doctor Adventures Year Two # 1 (Credit: Titan)
Writer: Nick Abadzis
Artist: Eleonara Carlini
Colourist: Claudia SG Iannicello
Letterers: Richard Starkings and Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Onsale: September 16, 2015

Here we are with a brand new year of Tenth Doctor stories courtesy of Titan Comics. Considering that it’s a new “season” there is very little change from the previous issues. They continue on with the same companion, writer and artist. The most notable change would be the numbering. The publishing company decided to go with a snazzy new numbering scheme this time around so instead of having the first issue of this story arc continue on from where they left off, they start fresh and add a 2 in front to designate year two. So we don’t have issue #16 but rather the slightly more confusing 2.1. Titan must be hoping that their renumbering would attract new readers. Starting with a fresh number one every year has been a proven winner for industry leaders like Marvel. For new readers it may seem like an ideal new jumping on point, while older readers will continue to buy and so it creates a spike in sales numbers and revenue for the publisher.

The format of the story also lends itself to the idea that new readers may be on board for the first time. It’s one of those stories where we come into it at the very end. In this case it starts with Gabby narrating. She’s talking about the Shan’tee, beings who are literally made of music. As she speaks, the the world around her crumbles to pieces.  When she cries out for the Doctor, telling him he can’t be late this time, we are then transported back to where the story started. By beginning at the end we are given a hook to catch all of those new readers who may be unfamiliar with the characters. Then it takes them away from the exciting and catastrophic events to the more tranquil beginning and starts the slow development of the story.

The planet Waputki is the perfect utopia. The Shan’tees music inspires the air-born bovodrines to feed. They are basically a jellyfish type creature except they graze like a cow. The floating air cows create the atmosphere that allows the humans to live and breathe and trade on the planet. Of course there is no such thing as utopia and something has to go wrong. A deadly virus is attacking the Shan’tee. In many cases it kills them out right, but sometimes it turns the beautiful creatures into something terrifying and sinister.

This first issue of year two gets us off to a promising start. I found it well paced and exciting. The beginning at the end worked for me. The Shan’tee are really neat creatures and their evil counterparts (the Nocturnes) are great as well.  

Bonus Strip- A Rose By Any Name By Rachael Smith

Anyone who reads my reviews knows that I seem to have a love/hate relationship with these strips. One month I am going on about how great it is, the next is does nothing for me. It almost seems the writer herself is feeling some malaise as this cartoon literally shows the Doctor and his Cat just going through the motions.





New Adventures With the Tenth Doctor #15 – The Sins Of The FatherBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 2 February 2016 - Reviewed by Dan Collins
The Tenth Doctor #15 (Credit: Titan)
Written by Nick Abadzis
Art by Elena Casagrande
Lettering by Richard StarkingsAnd Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Colorist Hi-Fi
Published September 2, 2015 by Titan Comics

In the previous issue they established that we are dealing with the Osirians, a race of aliens who came to Earth and made our ancestors think they were Gods. We’ve seen them before, most notably Sutehk from the Pyramids of Mars. Now the Doctor is face to face with Sutehk’s son Anubis and they are squaring off over the fate of the entire universe. His family left thousands of years ago and now the Osirian wishes to rejoin them. Unfortunately the device that would allow him to depart this mortal plain is unstable and will destroy everything if used.

As things reach a boiling point here the Doctor is called upon to do his thing and save the universe. But the circumstances are a little unusual. Anubis is not a mad God intent on destruction, rather a forlorn wanderer who just wishes to return home to see his loved ones again.  Because this is a Doctor Who comic, in the end it reaches the expected conclusion. The universe isn’t destroyed. I don’t think anyone would be shocked to know that, but while wrapping up this particular story arc, things are still left open enough that I expect them to revisit this at some point.

I have to fess up to being completely wrong about Cindy. Over the past five reviews I have repeatedly mentioned that I thought she would shed her annoying in your face attitude and rise up to be one of the big heroes of this story arc. It didn't happen. In fact she had such a small role that it makes me wonder why they even brought her along in the first place. Perhaps she was needed as a plot device, something to get Gabby (her best friend and the Doctor’s current companion) from point a to point b. Beyond that she remained an irritating character who just got a little better over this story arc. Poor Cindy even has a terrible final scene where she turns down the Doctor’s offer of a journey through time and space in the TARDIS only to instantly regret it the second they dematerialize.

So over all how do I rate this story arc? It was pretty good. In my opinion it got off to a really slow start when Nick Abadzis took over but it picked up steam every issue after. There were characters who underwent radical changes (Dorothy, Cleo) and characters who defied expectations and stubbornly remained the same like Erik and Cindy.  While it was an enjoyable read I don’t think that there is much substance to it that would warrant revisiting it in the future, unless as a primer when the story picks up again.  If you are looking to read further adventures with the Tenth Doctor and Gabby, their story continues in the Four Doctors mini series as well as the Year 2 adventures beginning with the Tenth Doctor #2.1.

Bonus Strip- A Rose By Any Other Name by Rachael Smith

After a disappointing strip last month, I almost forgot to even read it this month. I am glad that I did. It was another enjoyable page. Rose-The-Cat decides to create a cat flap in the TARDIS door. The change distorts time and space resulting in some funny and interesting moments.





New Adventures Of The Tenth Doctor #14- The Spiral Staircase Part 2Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 17 January 2016 - Reviewed by Dan Collins
DOCTOR WHO: TENTH DOCTOR #14 (Credit: Titan)
Written by Nick Abadzis
Art by Rachael Stott and Leonardo Romero
Lettering by Richard Starkings
And Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Colorist Hi-Fi
Published August 12, 2015 by Titan Comics

Millennia ago the Gods left the Earth. That’s when the Cult of the Black Triangle formed. Generation after generation its members have waited, keeping both the faith and the secret. Now their time has come. The Gods have returned. But will the cult members get rewarded as they think they should? The Doctor, Cindy and Black Triangle gang are transported up to the alien’s ship where they come face to face with the Seeker, an artificial intelligence whose sole purpose is the destruction of all evidence that the Gods ever existed.

For some reason I thought that this was going to be the last issue in the story arc so I was a little disappointed and also excited when I reached the final page and realized there was still more to come. Here we are four parts in and writer Nick Abadzis has everything clicking along perfectly. There are plenty of characters in this storyline that are new but at this point you feel like you know them and understand their intentions and motives. To keep things fresh he changed the perspective on us for part of this book. A few pages in Cindy takes over the narration.  Set up like she is sending texts to her best friend Gabby back down in New York, she describes the attitudes and actions of the cult members and the Doctor as they argue and fight over what to do next. It works as a segue or montage to help show the passing of time onboard in an interesting way.

The Cult of the Black Triangle members were first convinced that Dorothy Bell was their Goddess incarnate. After that they decide that the being who brought them onto the ship must be their God. But it turns out it isn’t even a living being but a program that searches the universe seeking out all the left over artifacts from when the Gods were prevalent. Once found, it destroys them. As with many other stories, these aliens masqueraded as the Egyptian gods we are so familiar with.

Some of my favourite stories, whether they be comic books, novels or even television episodes, hinge on the “something familiar is actually not what you thought.” Doctor Who has done this so many times that you actually have to stop and think for a moment before you can find an item that hasn’t been twisted in that way. And even though it has been done quite a bit, I still love it.  This story is a take on the Egyptian mythology, that the Gods were actually aliens. A concept that has been done before, notably it formed the entire basis of the movie Stargate and the subsequent spin off TV show Stargate SG-1. The show even gets a mention from one of the characters during this issue. But of course classic Doctor Who fans know the idea goes back a lot further than the early 90’s. The Tom Baker story The Pyramids Of Mars quickly comes to mind with the villainous Sutekh. In many ways this might be a sequel to that story, or at the very least a new chapter. Speaking of new chapters, now that I know that this story isn’t done yet, on to the next one!

Bonus Strip: A Rose By Any Other Name by Rachael Smith

The Doctor is getting fat from eating too much ice cream so Rose The Cat decides he should regenerate to get over his lost love and lose some weight. After a couple of really funny bonus strips this one didn’t do much for me. The plus side is that the previous two were good enough that I don’t automatically dislike them anymore.








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