Twelfth Doctor Vol #4 - The School Of Death - (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 5 February 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek


Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Year Two #1 (Credit: Titan)

STORY 1 - The School Of Death

STORY 2 - The Fourth Wall

STORY 3 - Robot Rampage

Originally Published in Twelfth Doctor Year 2 Issues 1-5
(+ A Free Comicbook Day Issue)

***************************************************************

WRITER: ROBBIE MORRISON

ARTISTS: RACHAEL STOTT, SIMON FRASER

COLORISTS: IVAN NUNES, MARCIO MENYS

LETTERS: RICHARD STARKINGS +
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

 SENIOR EDITOR: ANDREW JAMES

 ASSISTANT EDITOR: JESSICA BURTON

 DESIGNER: ROB FARMER

***************************************************************

PUBLISHED: 13TH SEPTEMBER 2016 TITAN COMICS

"There’s something fishy going on at the remote Scottish school of Ravenscaur...

Something that has bedevilled students and teachers alike...

Something that has lurked in the caverns beneath the school for millennia!

Only the Doctor and Clara can unravel a deadly conspiracy that reaches as high as the Prime Minister of England!"

(Official Teaser To The Title Story)


The feature story had originally four issues in theYear Two run with which to build up suspense, and feature a number of engaging subplots, as well as a loosely connected solo adventure for the Twelfth Doctor taking on Captain Volk, and his lethal pirates/mercenaries. With this prologue of sorts, the reader only witnesses the climactic moments, but it still resonates enough to feel like a proper story in its own right.

An exciting first impression is made in the 'pre-credit' sequence counterpart, as teacher Christel is hounded by mysterious forces. This 'sacrificial lamb' is given enough likability, and connection to Clara, for us to care about her grim fate. 

As the primary action unfolds, the creepy Mr Beck is keen to fully introduce The 'Impossible Girl' to the school, which turns out to have a number of skeletons hidden in its closets. After some mystery, the majority of the tale can be described as a thoroughly enjoyable romp. Two additional new 'assistants' help the Doctor overcome the real threat behind the cold-hearted bureaucratic school; one that Clara had intended to teach in, as a change-up from her hectic life in the capital city.

Overall the story can be likened to a mixture of prior Sea Devil stories, with a 'Village Of The Damned' situation, as the local island/school community are all but completely mentally subdued. The Doctor and Clara clearly are at a stage in their partnership, where they enjoy each other's company and accept that they are very different in approach. Thus they can work together assuredly to solve the problems as required. I know many devoted fans prefer the Doctor to actually get on with his best friend, more often than not, and I count myself in that group.

It is also welcome to have UNIT involved once again in these comics, with this present variant of the Doctor; (albeit now sadly announced as departing come Christmas this year). After the Zygon Invasion/Inversion story of Autumn 2015, this story honours continuity in typically faithful Titan style, by having both Osgoods feature in the narrative. Along with the much-loved Kate Stewart playing her role to help the Doctor, in the same way her father helped his 'predecessors', there has been a proper 'renaissance' for UNIT, of late. This is in thanks not only to the TV shows being seen globally, but also the work done across Doctor Who's various other mediums, ever since 2012's The Power Of Three.

But ultimately the final triumph comes down to the TARDIS duo, and a pair of delinquent but warm-hearted teenagers, who have been too stubborn to be recruited by the Sea Devil's army of zombies. Come the ending there is a nice hint of the next stage in the journey of life for these two guest characters. The TV show - particularly the modern version - has always been good at not only wrapping up the main problem but making followers care about the fortunes of characters, most of whom are unlikely to ever be seen again. 

Some nice light-heartedness helps the story from taking itself too seriously, which is a wise move given how close to the Establishment Nose the satire verges on, at times. The Doctor's blasé attitude, or boldness, when confronted by the pub of possessed villagers would certainly play out well on primetime TV. His weak 'sea urchin' disguise is a fun example of his inconsistent ability to blend into his environment. I also enjoyed the swordfish ally, he acquires as he pretends a completely inanimate object is of the same value as K9 or Kamelion from his days of 'youth', but a nice irony is made of this towards the final stages.

Other elements though would stretch the budget quite considerably, with some of the action being worthy of a proper Hollywood blockbuster. With the fine artistic skills of Rachael Stott and Ivan Nunes on display, the epic scope of the action is translated handsomely well, however.

This effort entertains throughout. I cannot honestly say any of the new characters were ones for the ages, or worthy of a further adventure down the line, but they fit well into a fun story, where the odds seem stacked against contemporary human society. The original Sea Devils had its flaws but always knew how to move the narrative into some new location, or confound expectations. In that sense then, The School of Death rises to the surface with gusto, rather than stagnating to the bottom of the sea, like the much-maligned Peter Davison sequel.


The second story is rather more satirical and self-referential, both in terms of its moods and its themes. It does an impressive job in casting retrospective light over the Doctor Who mythos itself.  There is even a rather 'meta' take on the comic book medium which makes the story both entertaining, and distinctly different from other such stories, that centre on a mystery and a relentless force needing to be overcome. 

A fun poke at the TV show's once male-dominated fanbase is briefly incorporated into the tale. As many know, the male-female ratio of Doctor Who aficionados has evened up considerably in recent years thanks to the quality writing and casting of the 21st century series.

Readers get to see some decided vanity from the Doctor –  a defining characteristic whichever face/body he is inhabiting – when he displays outrage over the persona, or image, that he has online. This internet portrayal of our title hero reminded me of the very knowing TV portrayal of Clive, a superfan utterly obsessed with the mysterious Ninth Doctor, who featured in the reboot triumph that was Rose

Also notable - if perhaps somewhat surprising, given how much Clara has experienced - is the Coal Hill School teacher's cynicism over comic book shop staff claims regarding people going missing. At this point in her (ultimately infinite) life, she has seen enough weird and wonderful things. Then again, real people that we all know, are contradictory and three-dimensional. Whilst very likable, Clara would not be human without some judgemental sides to her character, and some entrenched pre-conceptions over certain types of people.

With perhaps other references to the biggest comics and comic book companies also being intended by Morrison, I did enjoy one particular nod towards Marvel’s Silver Surfer.

This story also operates as a loose sequel to Series Eight gem Flatline, and does a fine job of using a well-designed monster without just simply repeating the same ‘gimmick’. Whilst ‘The School Of Death’ had more time to develop its key supporting characters, as well as have some decent tertiary ‘cast members’, The Fourth Wall still is well-paced, and does a fine job of marrying continuity between the Titan comics and the actual TV show.  

Dialogue also seems to be pitched perfectly for the talents of Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, were this to be an actual story made for Series 9. Prior stories (including the preceding Sea Devil one) have ‘cameos’ as panels within the story, enabling a clever parody on the comic book canvas and panelling techniques.

The story also works on another level by having a strong message concerning escapism, especially one found in a personal hobby that others deem as 'not cool'. The danger of slipping too far into make-belief, however, should always be an important consideration for someone to still be healthy and interact well with others. For a story that had a solitary issue originally with which to get its objectives across, this is very impressive, and arguably the high point of this collection.


Rounding off Volume Four is a fun, if very brief, sequel to Fourth Doctor debut Robot. With its limited page/panel count Robo Rampage acts more as a straight-up King Kong homage. The difference between the 1933 classic movie and this story, is that the English capital city is the playground for chaos, as opposed to Manhattan. As the metallic monster attacks the London Eye, this much 'older' Doctor rants over the greed and irresponsibility of humanity that has allowed for Professor Kettlewell’s invention to suddenly be back in the public sphere.

This story has no Clara, but we do get a nice turn for Osgood, giving her more to do than in the main Sea Devil story. The UNIT scientist is still eager to be a proper companion (and into the bargain be excused from her day job duties). Showing her fanatical side, Osgood showers the grey haired wearer of sonic sunglasses with a number of 'alternative titles' to that of "Doctor". Some of those names are references to past TV stories. Ultimately though she tries to christen him with one of her own monikers.

The previous two stories had their moments of mirth, but this one is probably the most amusing in terms of comedy, and can be regarded as a longer attempt at the (once customary) ‘bonus humour strip’.


BONUS

Two alternative covers are featured in full page size. They are credited to respectively Brian Miller, and Simon Myers.

Other featured (albeit smaller-sized) covers are credited to MyersAlex RonaldWill BrooksJAKe, and main artist Rachael Stott 

The main title cover is credited to Alice X. Zhang, and also features in the gallery section


SUMMARY

Altogether then, this is a fine collection of wholly new original stories that help develop both the main two characters, as well as some of the recurring allies to feature in the Steven Moffat epoch. It deserves to be taken as authentic and official in the time lines as the main televised entity itself. Oddly, there is no separate title for The Fourth Wall story within the collection (although the phrase is found within dialogue), whereas Robot Rampage (originally published for Free Comics Day) retains its name in-story. Regardless, if the reader has missed some or most of the prior issues released in Year 2, then this collection is the best option on the market. 

One to keep and enjoy.





The Return of Doctor Mysterio - Additional ReviewBookmark and Share

Monday, 26 December 2016 - Reviewed by Matthew Kilburn
The Return of Doctor Mysterio  - Nardole (MATT LUCAS), Grant (JUSTIN CHATWIN) (Credit: BBC)
Starring Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Justin Chatwin,Charity Wakefield, Tomiwa Edun and Aleksandar Jovanovic
Written by Steven Moffat
Executive produced by Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin
Produced by Peter Bennett, Directed by Ed Bazalgette
Broadcast on BBC1, December 25th 2016
Again, Happy Christmas!!

The Doctor was back, briefly – and he was tripping across genre again and enjoying the dance. The decision to bring an American superhero into Doctor Who enabled the programme to reconnect with the contemporary and demonstrate that it still has that sense of humorous self-mockery British Book News remarked upon at the end of the 1970s, to the joy of Target Books and their blurb-writer. Much of the wit was extracted from the tension between the conventions of superherodom as presented by the story and the conventions which the Doctor seemed to think Doctor Who follows, while remaining aware that the two are not so different. It also – and far more successfully than The Husbands of River Song – extracted the twelfth Doctor from the shadow of the fiftieth anniversary year and from the intense presence (however appealing character or performer) of Clara. While the references to River Song and to UNIT and Osgood might have been designed to reassure committed viewers that the recent history of Doctor Who the programme was not being set aside after the Doctor’s twenty-four year night with River (neatly paralleled with his twelve month absence from television screens), they just kept to the right side of confusing entanglement for the Christmas Day viewer while looking to the wider television environment of streaming services and cyclical repeats where The Return of Doctor Mysterio will be watched minutes after The Husbands of River Song rather than a whole year.

I’d been cautious about the success of Doctor Who creating a televisual New York in Cardiff and Bulgaria, and the trailers and advance clips had somehow suggested a colder, grainier environment than I was used to from the gleaming adventure series, bright lights and sharp tonal contrast in so many American series. In the context of the whole, though, The Return of Doctor Mysterio did mount a credible New York, with its oddly warm green-white nighttime apartment set which could have been inhabited by characters from a realism-seeking police procedural, and most impressively of all the cityscape through which young Grant flew, the Doctor clinging to his heels, in the opening sequence. The Bulgaria-based New York streets compared favourably with locations in the superhero series with which The Return of Doctor Mysterio invited comparison, but Doctor Who’s sense of reality, at least here, was less dependent on the suggestion of a crowded Manhattan of people, businesses and criminals than on central pillars of emotional credibility.

Justin Chatwin’s Grant was a familiar Steven Moffat hero, a heterosexual man but uncertain in his relationships with the opposite sex and hiding behind masks literal and metaphorical in order to police desires he doesn’t know how to translate into reality. Moffat views the Doctor as part of this tribe, and his warnings that Grant shouldn’t repeat his mistakes recalled the Doctor’s advice to Young Kazran Sardick back in A Christmas Carol not to retreat to his bedroom and invent a new kind of screwdriver. Grant’s dogged professionalism in addressing Lucy by her married style when working as her nanny might seem odd given that he has known her since elementary school, but it’s another act of distancing and concealment. Charity Wakefield’s performance as Lucy complemented the worldview of Grant and the Doctor, combining a set of female attributes from male-viewpoint adventure stories – the reporter, motherhood, physical attractiveness, precise attention to dress sense, uncounterable authority – while still suggesting a believable person who could be represented differently by another narrative voice. Her deployment of torture by stress relief toy was played deadpan, admirably, and somehow represented Doctor Who's appeal across generations, So integrated was Wakefield's performance in the fiction that one of my family didn’t recognise her from Wolf Hall and assumed that she was an American guest star. Lucy was also a mask-wearer, of course, as Grant both recognised and did not recognise. Her shapeless grey dress, her date night red dress, as well as Grant's self-deprecating and self-deflecting casualwear and the Ghost's businesslike sculpted black costume made a starkly effective debut for new series costume designer Hayley Nebauer.

The Doctor was reintroduced as a man of action and legendary figure, both aspects in distress. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is perhaps the most difficult to pin down because his range is so broad; here he was at his warmest and most magical, someone whom a child would trust, lightly delivering brutal put-downs, at ease with the contradictions of being both someone passing through with no ties and a self-acknowledged saviour of humanity with contacts in a planetary defence agency. Depicting the Doctor as a swinging pendulum in a window was a great sight gag, pun on Time Lord, and witty introduction to a child’s worldview. Moffat has compared the Doctor to Father Christmas before, in The Curse of Fatal Death and The Doctor Dances, but here it was both a way of emphasising young Grant’s naivety and literalness and setting up the way the episode performs a series of commentaries. I enjoyed the irony of the Doctor offering sardonic comments on superhero lore when his own contains its fair share of pretend science and unlikely transformations. It’s possible to read the Doctor’s insistence that the moment the superhero’s love interest – Lois in Superman, Lucy here – discovers the superhero’s secret identity, the story is over, as a criticism of the ensemble superhero television series of the present day. There, the superhero’s activities depend on the presence of a substantial back-up team fully aware of who he or she is. The Doctor might agree with this, but Nardole’s presence and explanation of the Doctor’s recent backstory to Grant and Lucy indicate that the episode itself does not. The probability is that Grant will continue his adventuring in a new context, backed up by Lucy and baby Jennifer. I've largely avoided reading other reviews while writing this one, but know I wasn't the only person imagining what shape a Ghost spin-off might take. However, more immediately this rejection of the idea of the hero - whether the Doctor or the Ghost - as lone saviour indicates that the Doctor, having lost Clara and River, needs to assemble his own new family. Nardole has been reattached sensitively and gently by Matt Lucas, and (as the first pre-credits ‘Coming Soon’ for a new season for some years stressed) we are soon to meet Bill.

Although unheralded as such, The Return of Doctor Mysterio might be seen in future years as bearing a similar relationship to The Husbands of River Song as The Woman Who Lived does to The Girl Who Died given comparable links of theme and characters. The head-opening secret society of Husbands now become the brain-removing Harmony Shoal, and receive development, becoming scheming villains rather than containers. The Doctor is working through, and out, loss both times, and preaches the embrace of change. This is more foreshadowing, both of the new companion for the new series and the new directions beyond as Steven Moffat yields the showrunner’s chair to Chris Chibnall. These are simple points made clearly for the Christmas Day audience who might have just finished dinner; it will be intriguing to see how a full series builds on them.





The Return of Doctor MysterioBookmark and Share

Sunday, 25 December 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Hills
The Return of Doctor Mysterio  - Doctor Who (PETER CAPALDI) (Credit: BBC)
Starring Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas. Justin Chatwin
Charity Wakefield, Tomiwa Edun and Aleksandar Jovanovic
Written by Steven Moffat
Executive produced by Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin
Produced by Peter Bennett, Directed by Ed Bazalgette
Broadcast on BBC1, December 25th 2016... Happy Christmas!

This review contains spoilers

 

I'll admit that I went into this year's Christmas Special with somewhat lowered expectations. The Children in Need clip had seemed a touch too stylised when viewed out of context, and then there'd been a surprisingly low-key trailer. Fan expectation can be a tricky superpower to handle, capable of spoiling things that would otherwise be appreciated when it blasts too high, and equally capable of casting a rosy glow over new episodes when set far lower. In this case, by not expecting too much I found myself savouring a wonderful Christmas present of Who, and a gift of a return from Peter Capaldi and Matt Lucas.

For once, this Christmas Special isn't excessively garnished with festive trimmings, and it's all the better for it. Once an obligatory (and amusing) Santa reference is out of the way, we settle down to a loving homage to Superman, Superman: The Movie, and superheroes more generally, replete with lovely moments like a Shuster and Siegel name-check. And although the Doctor may not initially get how superheroes work, Steven Moffat's script is perfectly at home in this world of romantic comedy and wish fulfillment, even if he can't resist an assortment of X-ray vision jokes. "Light to moderate" excremental humour -- always a winner with the Christmas Day family audience, I suspect -- also slips by several times, with the "passing" of Grant's condition being a somewhat incongruous moment, especially as it places our favourite Time Lord in the role of an anxious parent awaiting... well, you know, that.

The flying effects and the Ghost's appearance appeared vaguely questionable in advance publicity but viewed in situ they are part of a beautifully-produced confection. 'The Return of Doctor Mysterio' looks consistently impressive, and there can be little doubt that its budget is all right there on the screen; Peter Bennett deserves our Christmas cheers for his production work on this, as does Brian Minchin for his sterling exec-production. New York has rarely looked so New York-y, particularly given that it's all a matter of media trickery here; iconography that's been replayed so many times in movies, reduced to its visual essence, that the unreality has become convincingly TV-real. Additionally, we get an array of directorial and design flourishes to remind us that this is a comic book-inspired version of Doctor Who. Entering events via a comics page is apposite, especially as one panel appears to prefigure the Doctor clinging to Grant's window sill, suggesting that this entire story is an imagined version of a graphic novel. And we are treated to some comic book-effect split-screen roughly halfway through, another nice touch from director Ed Bazalgette. Then there are the coloured rectangular window panels that linger in the background of Harmony Shoal's office, representing yet more bright evocations of the comic book form. 

This isn't all comics callbacks and romcom sparkle, however. There are echoes of Christmas Specials past: the plummeting spacecraft (and this episode's overall tone) put me in mind of the brash and movie-referencing 'Voyage of the Damned'. At times, this story could almost be channelling Russell T. Davies at his most crowd-pleasing (shots of crowds looking up into the sky: check) and it knows exacty what it's doing. We also get small moments of real human feeling, crackling like popping candy in a Christmassy Heston Blumenthal creation. The "24 years" sequence is especially outstanding, and Peter Capaldi's delivery of "Everything ends. And it's always sad" shows that he doesn't need a big old monologue to dazzle. Slightly akin to Rogue One making you think differently about Star Wars: A New Hope, this speech (plus the return of Harmony Shoal/The Shoal of the Winter Harmony and Nardole) made me see 'The Husbands of River Song' in a different light. What had seemed rather forced last Christmas, for me anyway, took on a much greater depth when reassembled through the lenses of 'Doctor Mysterio'. Even Nardole, who I had found a little frustrating last time round, was a far more welcome presence as the Doctor's glued together companion. Matt Lucas's performance is uniformly excellent here, and bodes well for next season, I would say. Hiding a key plot point within Doctor-Nardole banter was cleverly done, as was the rapidly sketched-in sense that Nardole sees his role as one of caring for the Doctor. The character still needs further thickening and deepening, but I've no doubt that future scripts and performances will be well up to delivering on that. 

The Return of Doctor Mysterio  - Lucy Fletcher (CHARITY WAKEFIELD) (Credit: BBC)

In fact, all the guest stars work really well in this outing: Justin Chatwin is effectively cast in the "mild-mannered" Clark Kent/Superman role, and Charity Wakefield makes the most of portraying Lucy Fletcher, who at times displays a sharp sideline is sub-Sherlockian deduction. Chatwin's switching between a "superhero" gravelly voice and "civilian" voice helps to sell his character's secret identity, even if, as the Doctor acidly notes, some situations "are too stupid to be allowed to continue". And Steven Moffat revels in the twists and turns of misunderstanding that a superhero narrative can afford (when is the Marvel Cinematic Universe hiring him?). The ultimate reveal of the Ghost-as-Grant is cleverly integrated into the Doctor's plan to save the world, with these plots dovetailing neatly in a masterclass moment of scripting.

Are there any pitfalls to this Christmas offering? Harmony Shoal are resolutely B-movie-style opponents, albeit good fun, but perhaps Lucy's deployment of Mr. Huffle as an interrogation device is a step too far. It's different, for sure, but would the Doctor really respond to this kind of thing? Presumably, he's indulging Lucy as he recognises her cleverness, but Mr. Huffle still gets to be quite annoying quite quickly. Even as a plot device this is remarkably twee stuff. But if, as a reviewer, I'm reduced to complaining about such minor things then I'll happily take that.

With mentions for Osgood and UNIT, and retoolings of favoured Moffatisms (especially the "in one bound they startlingly move from mediated presence to live presence" shtick) this will no doubt repay plenty of repeat viewings. It's an episode that suggests Moffat has endings on his mind, as well as the fact that endings can simultaneously be new beginnings (unsurprising for a showrunner entering his last season in the role). Nowhere is this fixation more apparent than in the outstanding "Coming Soon" trailer affixed to the end of this broadcast which really deserves its own screen capped review. "Can I use the toilet?" may well be one of the most refreshing lines of dialogue I've ever heard in Doctor Who, bringing an unexpected strata of basic reality to the Whoniverse. Just when fans might be expecting Moffat to wind things up towards a grand finale, Bill's introduction feels like a breath of fresh air, as if we've suddenly been thrown into series one of a brand new show called Professor Who. "See the universe anew": there can't be many better Christmas gifts than that.

To my mind, 'The Return of Doctor Mysterio' is one of the stronger Christmas Specials, successfully paying tribute to a genre that's long been an "anomaly" for the programme. Welcome back, Doctor, your unique superpowers have been missed.    





Class Season One - Episode 1 - For Tonight, We Might DieBookmark and Share

Saturday, 22 October 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Class - Series 1 (Credit: BBC/Todd Antony)

Starring: Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed, Sophie Hopkins, Vivian Oparah, Katherine Kelly, with Peter Capaldi as The Doctor.

Written By: Patrick Ness
Directed By: Edward Bazalgette

Released Online (BBC Three)  - 22nd October 2016 

This review contains spoilers

 

Coal Hill School has now become an academy, and it is some time since popular teacher Clara Oswald became missing, presumed dead. Life at the educational establishment goes on though, and a quartet of remarkable youngsters are attending the academy: Charlie, April, Ram and Tanya. One of these is an aloof and unpredictable young man, another a self-conscious but kind and loyal young lady, another a promising athlete with something of a chip on his shoulder, and the last a brilliant student who has skipped a year and who tells things exactly the way they are.

'The way things are' ..become somewhat surreal, however. A student has suddenly gone missing, and a new teacher - Miss Quill - has joined Coal Hill and acts in the most awkward and unnatural of ways. A shadow creature is beginning to stalk students, and before long a legion of otherworldly beings are stampeding the premises, despite a carefully arrange prom by April.

Could this be grounds for the return of Coal Hill's rather eccentric Caretaker??

 

 

Class (Credit: BBC)2016 will go down in Doctor Who lore as something of a 'gap year'. The first one of these was back in 2009, which featured a number of specials. Since then, other years have been rather light in terms of having new material with the Doctor on TV. Currently, fans are eagerly awaiting Series 10 to materialise onscreen in the spring of 2017. In the meantime, there will be the customary Christmas special.

There now is also this particular edition to the wider Who mythos, and somewhat appropriately it is set  in the school that was the workplace of the first two human companions of the Doctor - Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright -  before they were whisked away on the most incredible of journeys.

 

Other spin-offs have been part of early evening or prime time TV once modern Doctor Who fully got under way. Torchwood was most deliberately intertwined with the main Who universe, despite its very different target audience. Class falls between the parent show, and Torchwood, in that the 'young adult' is the intended demographic. There is some gore now and again, and sexuality and relationships are given much emphasis - unsurprising, with the show set in an academy, with teenagers on the verge of adulthood.

Many fans will have been made aware by press that the Twelfth Doctor would pop up immediately in this maiden run of the new show. However, as it turns out he is used sparingly enough to allow the main protagonists to have their crucial limelight. Having the Doctor teased as being shown in a flash back to explain Quill and Charlie being on Earth in the first place is a wise move, before the eventual crisis point where he pops up in the nick of time to quell the threat posed by the Shadow Kin. Capaldi manages to make the most of his limited screen time and continues to act in the vein of a traditionally open and friendly Doctor, as he did for much of the 2015 TV run.

Some of these new characters that viewers will follow in coming weeks are more engaging than others, owing both to the script and to the actual actor. Miss Quill (Katherine Kelly), and April (Sophie Hopkins) definitely stand out best for me, although there is a lot of potential for Charlie (Greg Austin) as well, given his back story. Tanya and Ram do have their moments but sometimes can feel stilted. Fady Elsayed has a substantial enough resume already, but can't overcome the 'jock' clichés enough for him to be particularly remarkable in this first installment. Vivian Oparah shows some of her acting inexperience at times, but still convinces more than not, and should grow into the role under the solid production team involved with the show.

 

Patrick Ness' script is reliable and confident in getting a suitably energetic adventure across, but also affording some good work into making us connect with the characters, and that includes some of the relatives of the students. Ness also wants to keep one guessing, which is always an asset of TV drama. One or two other academy students had the potential to end up as main characters, but are killed off by the Shadow Kin in resounding fashion. And the violence does mean this is not really a show for 'under-12s', with Rachel's gory death, and Ram's horrific leg injury really pushing the envelope. 11829519-low-.jpg

The direction and music - from Ed Bazalgette and Blair Mowat, are similarly assured. Some scenes flash by in heartbeat, but the overall feel of the episode is just coherent enough, that the fast pace is manageable.  This season opener has many moments of literal light and shade to explore and the production makes the most of the opportunities afforded. Obviously, the budget is not in the same stratosphere as Doctor Who, and some of the effects with the Shadow Kin or the unearthly dimensions that April or Charlie can see in their mind's eye do require a little tolerance on a given viewer, used to more seamless CGI.

Class stands up as a show with a steady foundation and a lot of good will both in front of and behind the camera. It may currently not appear to offer anything truly pioneering, given the likes of Buffy, Misfits and many late afternoon teenage dramas, that have graced TV screens. But it is still a justifiable addition to the Doctor Who canon and has plenty of room to grow into something truly distinct and memorable.

 





Supremacy of the Cybermen #2 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 28 August 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
SUPREMACY OF THE CYBERMEN #2 (Credit: Titan)

WRITERS: GEORGE MANN & CAVAN SCOTT

ARTISTS: IVAN RODRIGUEZ & WALTER GEOVANNI

COLORIST: NICOLA RIGHI

LETTERER: RICHARD STARKINGS
AND COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

DESIGNERS: ANDREW LEUNG & ROB FARMER

ASSISTANT EDITORS: JESSICA BURTON & AMOONA SAOHIN

SENIOR EDITOR: ANDREW JAMES

MAIN COVER: ALESSANDRO VITTI & NICOLA RIGHI
 
Released: August 17th 2016, TITAN COMICS

Four Doctors, occupying four very different time zones and places, but sharing one common denominator: an old enemy, who spearheads the ambitions of a race of perennial foes. There is much chaos to cope with, and many problems to solve for the grey-haired Doctor and his predecessors - who favour exclaiming "Allons-y", "Fantastic!" and "Geronimo" respectively to signify reaction to major developments.

Silurians have upgraded to the Cyber Race, and prowl the startling environment that is prehistoric Earth. The Sontarans are desperate for an unusual alliance with a Time Lord, as they gather their armies together in their native Sontar system. And back in 2006, in a council estate area of London, the Ninth Doctor and his closest friends try to save London from devastation by Cyber Forces. The most pivotal action is on Gallifrey itself, in a time of unrest and anxiousness, as the recently Clara-deprived Doctor tries his best to figure out the plans of his mortal enemy, who was once a Time Lord deity: Rassilon!

 

**

"The Cybermen bend their knee to me, Doctor. We are Time Lords. We mold eternity."

That quote from the ex-Lord President, that the Doctor so efficiently deposed in Hell Bent, is a fine way to solidify just what power ratio exists between The Gallifreyans and the Cybermen that have joined forces. (I also cannot help wondering if some Game Of Thrones in-joke is operating, given that Donald Sumpter has also portrayed the rather more moral Maester Luwin). There also is the fine concept of there being factions on the home planet of the Time Lords, which perhaps was not always explored in Doctor Who as much as it might have been over the many years since The War Games first was transmitted.

Rassilon works well enough as an engaging antagonist that clashes with the current Doctor's familiar righteous fury. It is also useful to have a clear figure that gives the Cybermen foot soldiers that extra dimension, even if all their dialogue remains much the same.

Also, he seems to be the exception to the rule that a Cyber Leader or Controller has all his emotions removed to the core. If anything this character at times is that bit more moustache-twirling and revelling in evil than any onscreen or off-screen depiction of the Time Lord's founding father from the parent TV show. And for the purposes of a mini-arc series released over summer this is acceptable enough.

Perhaps, however, writers in general could resolve to abandon one of the less engaging Who catchphrases. The Cybermen look great here, but some of their dialogue could be better, not least a certain catchphrase of theirs. I really do scratch my head that "Delete! Delete!" is still alive and well, eleven or so years after it's 'premier outing'.

 

Some of the Doctors get to shine better than others here. Obviously, the Capaldi incarnation cannot be shunned as he is the contemporary one, and he has all the sections most pertinent to the main plot. Tennant's doctor is bustling and full of giddy energy too, and quick to adjust to changes of circumstances like a top level pro chess champion. I also enjoy the interplay with his two female companions, and appreciate there is little reliance on continuity references, given that quite a few readers will not be reading the Tenth Doctor range that often, if at all.

 

The material for Doctors Nine and Eleven must be declared as rather ordinary in comparison to their counterparts. The Eleventh Doctor shows he knows the Silurians but there is no need for his keenest wit or skills. Someone else who had taken moments to read the TARDIS logs or diaries could easily have the same thing to say. Perhaps the most appropriate substitution would be River, who knew Madame Vastra, and would have some emotional engagement as a result. Things do pick up later on, when the Doctor uncovers evidence of the grander scheme by Rassilon and his armies, and explains to Alice the threat of 'Ark' ships.

 

The Ninth Doctor sections can border on the run-of-the-mill, barring a potentially decisive accident that may leave this TARDIS team stranded or severely wounded.  This last development is one of the quite common 'mini cliff-hangers', that immediately precedes the actual one to end this instalment on. The knowledge that Rose will encounter the Cybermen for the first time, with the Tenth incarnation of her best friend - at least if the Web of Time is restored to normality - makes her sections with them here feel very ephemeral, but also interesting in that these remorseless beings are such a menace to her beloved home city. (And as Noel Clarke once commented, the Cybermen have that raw physical intimidation to them, in that they can kick down the front door of your home.)

 

I am still hopeful that the various plot threads that intermingle in this epic crossover event will become less opaque. This progression would then allow for a fine execution of the core premise, and perhaps bring some new groundbreaking changes for the various ongoing monthly series, including: the well-established one for Doctors Ten and Eleven, the increasingly confident sequence for Doctor Twelve, or the fledgling first year proper for the much underused Ecclestone Doctor (after Scott's splendid miniseries).

Art is generally of a pleasing quality, although I again find myself struggling to hear Tennant's voice carry through during the Tenth Doctor sections, as the likeness here for this ever-popular incarnation is not the most representative. This has been a problem several times in the main range involving him before, and is somewhat puzzling.

Colouring is something I almost take as a given when I do these reviews, but in these two issues of the mini-arc so far, I feel like some attention is necessitated. With such a busy storyline, and so many characters involved it is welcome that Nicola Righi manages to make everything cohere that bit more, such is his considered use of palette. A lot of scope is required of the pencils/inks, and they need a particularly illustrious colourist to breathe full life. Consequently this is one event series that will reward re-readings simply for the enjoyment of scrolling through the visuals.

 

EXTRAS:

Two variant covers are presented both in mid-size, and full-page variants. The first is a photo cover, and the second is a striking effort by Fabio Listrani.





Supremacy of the Cybermen #1 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 11 July 2016 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
Titan Comics: Supremacy of the Cybermen #1 (Cover A) (Credit: Titan Comics)
Writers: George Mann & Cavan Scott
Artists: Alessandro Vitti & Ivan Rodriguez With Tazio Bettin
Colorist: Nicola Righi With Enrica Eren Angiolini
Letterer: Richard Starkins And Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Senior Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editors: Jessica Burton & Amoona Saohin
Designer: Rob Farmer
Released by Titan Comics - July 6th, 2016

“You know why I’m here, Ohila. Something is very wrong with time.”

There’s a whiff of The Pandorica Opens and A Good Man Goes to War’s bold, universe-spanning opening sequences about the first issue of Titan Comics’ new multi-Doctor crossover, Supremacy of the Cybermen, and that’s no bad thing. Not unlike last year’s Four Doctors Summer event, scribes George Mann – of Engines of War fame, if the name sounded familiar – and Cavan Scott don’t waste time establishing Supremacy’s similarly ambitious premise; quite to the contrary, within moments of proceedings getting underway, we’re brought swiftly up to speed with the present situations of the quartet of renegade Time Lords headlining this year’s team-up as the Ninth Doctor races to save a damsel in distress from the Powell Estate in 2006; the Tenth journeys with Gabby and Cindy to “the greatest shopping mall in the galaxy” in the 24th Century; the Eleventh and Alice pick up supplies for the Paternoster Gang in prehistoric times; and the Twelfth travels solo to the ever-increasingly popular planet of Karn so as to investigate the aforementioned universal crisis.

One might have forgiven this instantly audacious mini-series’ writing team for buckling under the weight of their own ambitions, particularly when they’ve crammed the various companions of each of those incarnations – as well as a fair few returning villains beyond the titular Mondasian cyborgs – into what would have already been a dense 25-page opening outing without them. Yet anyone who’s been following Titan’s array of regular Doctor Who strips since their debut in the autumn of 2014 will know all too well how competently their assigned strip-wrights tend to handle their serials and indeed, Mann and Scott don’t look set to represent the exceptions to the rule, somehow managing to balance these elements with unmistakable ease, ensuring each sequence has enough time to breathe wholeheartedly and that the reader will thus maintain a coherent sense of what’s occurring in each time-zone rather than longing for the next scene shift to occur in order to relieve their confusion. Just thinking of how critically acclaimed big-screen ensemble pieces like the Avengers or Mission Impossible franchises handle their hefty cast rosters will provide readers with a fair idea of what to expect going into this one, which says plenty for the safe hands in which Titan appear to have placed perhaps their riskiest Who-themed venture to date.

As if this supreme balancing act on Mann and Scott’s parts wasn’t enough of a substantial selling point to warrant a purchase, Supremacy Issue 1 simultaneously alleviates any concerns of lacking the canonical heft of a fully televised Who serial – especially in the absence of the TV show from our screens until December 25th – from the outset. In a welcomingly surprise turn of events, we essentially pick up the storyline of Capaldi’s Doctor straight from where we left off in last Christmas’ The Husbands of River Song as he encounters a face from his recent past, one who could very well hold the key to how the Cybermen have gained such an unparalleled foothold across time and space by the time that his former selves encounter their old adversaries here. Precisely how accurately this mysterious – yet familiar – benefactor is characterised in comparison to his televised self will doubtless define how successful his return in printed form proves with fans, but one would need to have missed the entirety of 2015’s Season Nine to miscomprehend the myriad tantalising implications this antagonist’s presence here will have for future issues so long as he’s portrayed with all of the necessary malice, self-perceived omnipotence and pompousness that many loved him for on TV last year.

Speaking of characterisation, whilst the understandably limited number of panels afforded to each Doctor in comparison to their solo efforts means the jury’s out on how effectively they’ll once again be brought to life here, Mann and Scott have evidently gotten the tropes of the four incarnations involved down to a tee, depicting a Twelfth Doctor whose brash exterior frequently fades to reveal an endearing sense of adventurous bravado, an Eleventh who never misses an opportunity to crack jokes even – or especially – in the face of potentially fatal dangers, a Tenth who willingly misleads his companions, Hartnell-style, in order to seek out intriguing mysteries as well as a gung-ho Ninth who’ll gladly dive into the action alongside Rose and Captain Jack regardless of the costs. Four issues stand between us and knowing for certain whether the scribes at hand will find enough time to offer any of these incarnations, their allies or their foes much in the way of satisfying character progression, but for now, at least we’re left into no doubt as to their understanding of how to provide a clear impression that we’re witnessing a continuation of the TV show rather than a ‘fan fiction’-style take on its leading constructs.

Any gripes? Well, by choosing to zip from planet to planet, timeline to timeline and TARDIS crew to TARDIS crew across their opening 25-page epic, writers George Mann and Cavan Scott don’t leave themselves a lot of time for character development so much as plentiful – albeit necessary – exposition, and despite their admirable efforts to clearly distinguish the dark, sombre hues of Karn and a ruined London with the far more eclectic, whimsical vistas of the Cosmomart and prehistoric Earth, Supremacy’s resident artists Alessandro Vitti, Ivan Rodriguez and Tazio Bettin would benefit from dedicating further time to reassessing their character designs, since some might mistake Jackie Tyler for Rose on occasion given the lack of effort afforded to individualising the pair beyond adding a few lines to the former’s face. On the whole, however, their artwork’s more than on a par with the finest produced in the various Titan ranges so far in terms of unpredictability and visual sumptuousness, with its failings constituting mere nit-picking elements at best.

If it wasn’t already obvious, then, the reasons to miss out on Supremacy of the Cybermen’s stellar initial chapter are so far and few between that they might as well be non-existent, particularly when juxtaposed with the countless reasons to cast aside any doubts and simply plunge straight in. Indeed, provided that the splendid fellows at Titan can keep up the excellent work undertaken here throughout this five-part multi-Doctor crossover, there’s every chance they’ll have a sure-fire critical and commercial hit like no other on their hands.








DOCTOR WHO NEWS - REVIEW IS COPYRIGHT © 2017 NEWS IN TIME AND SPACE LTD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
DOCTOR WHO IS COPYRIGHT © BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION (BBC) 1963, 2017.
NO INFRINGEMENT OF THIS COPYRIGHT IS EITHER IMPLIED OR INTENDED.