Writer - Si Spurrier, Artist - Warren Pleece
(Assists: Adriano Vicente, Wellington Dias + Raphael Lobosco)
Colorist - Arianna Florean + Nicola Righi With Azzurra Florean
*(Abslom Daak created by Steve Moore +
Aappearing courtesy of Panini Comics,
with thanks to Doctor Who Magazine)
Letterer - Richard Starkings + Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Gabriela Houston
Main cover - Todd Nauck + Hi- Fi
Senior Editor - Andrew James, Designer - Rob Farmer
A cantina bar bustling with life, but also dodgy dealings that result in strife. A 'neutral' zone reminiscent of one of scum and villainy in a universe, far, far, away. After leaving behind the notorious prison planet Shada, and by quite ingenious means at that, the intrepid heroes who are hoping to achieve a just result for their leader - the Doctor - have managed to land somewhere somewhat less intense in terms of immediate danger.
Daak manages to have an audience with an old acquaintance, and soon he is embroiled in a mental to-and-fro battle, rather than the casual chit chat that first seemed on the cards. Surprisingly the Dalek killer of yester-centuries proves as adept at a battle of wits as he does with chainsaw, sidearm and fists. But, ultimately of more concern is the Doctor losing his rein on his more conventionally heroic TARDIS crew. Alice and the Squire both fervently disagree with the cold-hearted ends-justify-the-means rationale their normally laudable friend seems to be adopting. Could this be one step too far in making a motley crew cease to cling to one another?
After a succession of fast pasted action and intense exposition this story functions as a one part stopover. Thus sufficient time is given to the various principles to reflect on how they are coping, both emotionally and physically, with the various galactic time-bending hi-jinks thrown into their way. Rob Williams is not in the drivers seat for writing duties this issue (nor indeed for Issue 9 either from the looks of the preview pages). Instead we have Si Spurrier returning, who has left his own distinctive mark on the Year 2 arc. Spurrier perhaps is more at home with the melodramatic and purely interpersonal aspects than the sweeping epic and darker satire of Williams. It is a big and dramatic leap in style, given just how serious the preceding two issues were in essence. It is also comparable to the 'mid-way switch' in art that Issue 7 offered to readers. This individual story has quite a bit less to make it essential to understanding the overall arc, and by the same token can be enjoyed by casual or one-off readers as most of it stands well enough on its own.
In terms of the big draw for many general Doctor Who fans, who may not even like the Eleventh Doctor as much as they do other versions, there is some good material again for the fascinating 'non-chronological' Professor River Song. River is clearly at a stage where she is not all sweetness and light. Whilst not as off the rails as in Let's Kill Hitler, she is far from either the cuddly aunty or the reverent daughter figure (that the Ponds had to become used to). But then the Doctor is no angel here either and seems to have almost used revelation of his complicity in mass death to suddenly relax his moral code. He ends up blatantly abandoning a companion near the end of this instalment, and simply because that person can fight well enough to dig herself out of most forms of danger. Whilst he left people like Sarah behind in times past, it was only out of protectiveness.
But of course the wider scope of this all allows for suspense, and also keeps us guessing if one or more of what seemed reliable allies may suddenly have cause to betray the Doctor, when such a thought seemed barely credible.
Again, the bonus humour strip is seemingly stripped away for a hiatus. An alternate photo-style cover from Will Brooks is featured in full page glory, as is a second alternate art cover from the main art team.