Short Trips - Black DogBookmark and Share

Sunday, 31 January 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Short Trips: 5.12. Black Dog (Credit: Big Finish)
PERFORMED by Louise Jameson
 

Written By: Dale Smith
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

 

Sound Design + Music: Rob Harvey

Cover Art: Mark Plastow

 

Producer and Script Editor: Michael Stevens

Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

 

Released December 2015,
Big Finish Productions

"Why would they continue to worship him?"

"They don't they just fear him. He's the only god they have, and they live in terror of him invading their dreams.. If he comes, that's it. Day by day, you waste away. Then you die."

Jed explaining a dark legend to the Doctor and Leela.

 

The mighty Earth Empire is about to formally return control of one of its colonised planets back to the original native Alphans. During this handover, the Fourth Doctor and Leela  are soon involved in finding out that some legends can be very much reality; in this case the myth of the planet's undisputed one God, known as "The Black Dog". Leela's very individuality becomes endangered, and the Doctor must take a rather more passive role as he tries to understand a battle being fought in the darker corners of the human mind..

 

This play once again is narrated and voice acted by someone who portrayed of the most memorable female companions in the original TV show. Louise Jameson is without doubt of the best actresses to grace Doctor Who, and here she makes the most of myriad opportunities to bring an intriguing story to life. She also manages to do the male characters justice, and yet retains the feminine charm of her own primary 'noble savage' protagonist.

The magnetic Fourth Doctor is never going to be forgotten in any story that features him, but here he truly must rely on the amazing willpower of his stout-hearted companion. Lesser mortals would almost certainly be overcome by the potent curse that the 'God' inflicts on its victims. He still gets some nice lines and offers his considerable skill and intellect to finding a solution to the curse.

There are some overlapping themes with Leela's remarkably quirky debut story The Face Of Evil,  which gained a rather unexpected repeat in the UK close to the time this title was released. There is also some interesting and smartly done world-building. For such a restricted running time, the information that the listener processes is arguably comparable with a proper feature length TV story of four episodes. The story is notable in starting somewhere in the middle, and then proceeding to provide explanations that feel organic and of little obstruction to the play's momentum.

The Black Dog has a backstory that is truly grim, but fascinating and poignant too. It is also a worthy foe, that possesses a tangible gravitas. The idea of victims being under this spirit's sway is a core concept, and resonates some time after the last sound has been heard by the listener. Leela is one of the most buoyant naturally optimistic companions that the Doctor ever acquired in his travels, but still human, and still more than able to suffer in terms of her mentality and her spirit.

The Doctor's 'noble savage' assistant is still a character with much potential; even after many more original stories have been done in the last couple of decades. Here she gets some good development, in that flashes of her inner fear are exposed, and yet her determination still comes coursing through. And even if the victorious outcome is inevitable, there are some mental scars that Leela is likely to still contend with. This means the aftermath feels less cosy and flippant than would be the case in a more bland and risk-averse script.

And the play works on multiple levels. One of the most famous British Prime Ministers suffered from his self-described 'black dog'. Yet Winston Churchill managed to live a long and distinguished life. Similarly here, the threat of all-pervading doom is a tough thing to process, but with the right willpower, there is hope. 

The play does not have all that much location changing or full on action in some senses, but there is a real atmosphere that really makes this Short Trip breathe full life. The music is very nicely done, and does not ever come across as intrusive. It also is used selectively by Rob Harvey to punctuate turns of events or changes of scenery.

 

The dialogue is very natural sounding as well, and helps in distinguishing the different personalities involved. Of course, were this not the case I believe Jameson's skill still would be able to perform this important task. There are some beautiful sentences during much of the narration. Thus, this certainly would work well in written form too. Indeed Short Trips began as book anthologies, and well before this current line of original audios. And the very final passage to close the play is truly poetic and haunting.

One small criticism is that we have a mild profanity uttered by Jed - the main guest character - and on several occasions. Certainly it would never pass the higher-ups involved during the original Hinchcliffe and Williams stories, let alone Mary Whitehouse. And yet the extended Doctor Who universe has often ventured into such territory, partly in an effort to shake off the tag of Doctor Who being just for young children. The legacy of more intricately plotted and authentically characterised tales - arguably forming the most in the Virgin New Adventures book line - cannot and should not be ignored.

 

So overall, this is another fine title from the Big Finish team and I am glad more Short Trips will continue to materialise on a monthly basis - as of now.





Twelfth Doctor #13 - The Hyperion Empire (Part Two)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 29 January 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek


Writer: Robbie Morrison
Artist: Daniel Indro
Colorist: Slamet Mujiono

Letterer: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editor: Kirsten Murray
Designer: Rob Farmer
 
Published October 14th 2015, Titan Comics

"Only some of us made it down here, the majority were taken captive. The Hyperions have erected firewalls throughout the country, isolating entire cities and regions. The heat they generate is incredible. Get too close and you're incinerated immediately."

- Kate Lethbridge Stewart updating the Doctor and Clara.

 

'Out of the frying pan and into the fire' would sum up the troubles that the Twelfth Doctor and Clara must contend with, as this four-part story continues. It becomes clear just how much Earth has taken a toll from the vicious Hyperion race, and the Doctor must stress how the best form of defence is attack. UNIT does still have a presence, but they will rely on the Doctor's knowledge of this unique species. The Hyperion menace was such that it forced (the normally self-contained) Time Lords into an alliance with other races, including the Zygons, for the good of the wider cosmos and assorted time lines.

 

The guest characters in this story are somewhat unremarkable. We have the fire-fighter hero Sam who was introduced last time in a rather confusing manner. Although likeable, Sam seems rather generic, and lacks the wit that most proper companions of the Doctors pride themselves in. This is demonstrated in his half-believing the Doctor's casual 'order' of beheading the obnoxious politician Martyn Grove. Mr Grove believes with the main governmental cabinet gone, he should assume power, and also is trying to suggest a peaceful resolution with the Hyperions.

And of course such politicians are nothing new to the Who mythos. We had plenty of these self-serving figures during the Jon Pertwee TV era, by and large portrayed in broad comedic brushstrokes. Although Capaldi's portrayal has mellowed in his most recent series, this adventure was designed to be set between the 2014 and 2015 TV runs. As such it does hark back to the grouchy and dismissive Doctor we encountered along with a bewildered Ms Oswald. This persona indeed reminds one especially of the Third Doctor when in a bad mood with beings who cannot conceive half of his knowledge and experiences.

The Hyperions make a good combination of intelligent alien, and scary monster, however. They even have a slightly hyperbolic manner of speaking to one another. When one of them claims to have "immolated" our heroes, he is told "anything less would have resulted in [his] own execution". But soon enough it is clear the Doctor is unscathed, and yet there is no such final reprimand for Zraa-Korr.

All the same, these walking infernos are clearly a supremely powerful force. The effect of their attack on the UK and its capital is very reminiscent of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. And we are informed by the seething Doctor, that once Earth and its solar system are sucked dry, then there will be another doomed star system and another. Clearly a force to be reckoned with, this does justifies the Doctor's abruptness. He also has become accustomed to his Earth Presidential powers, which come into play courtesy of "internationally agreed protocols". It is nice to have a little humility, as the Doctor tries to limit power getting to his head. But he still will not discard his edgier persona, when events proceed to take another turn for the worse.

This leads me onto another point. Whilst the Doctor is desperate to save his most beloved planet, and also defeat a menace that long ago lost any positive trait, he has twice in these first two issues seemed blasé about collateral damage. In Issue 12 he used 'self defence' to deal with a slightly unbalanced scavenger, who had up till the invasion been another diligent medical student. The shove the Doctor opted for indirectly doomed that young man to the zombie hordes of the Scorched.  Now in this issue, Clara (inadvertently) disrupts one of the Hyperion slave workers, and that person is blown to fiery smithereens. Just before that death, the Doctor throws a strop over Clara's carelessness, but in the manner of an alarm being triggered, more than anything. Of course, much of the excitement of Doctor Who has been that not everyone gets out alive, but this lack of concern for the individual affected, and simply the wider society smacks of a rather dispassionate TARDIS crew.

 

I also continue to find some of the art managing to evoke my less rosy memories of The Weeping Angels of Mons, which also had the same writing and art team of Morrison and Indro. Though that multi-parter with the Tenth Doctor delighted many, I myself was left at times stone cold. Whilst appropriate for the subject matter, a lot of the presentation of this new adventure verges on being an eyesore, with harsh character outlines, and a persistent red-brown-purple backdrop. Sometimes, the sizes chosen in a panel make defining features a little bit of an effort too. It  almost would look better in black and white. If taking this style for what it is, the characters are done well enough when looking serious or anxious. Yet ironically their (rare) smiles and optimism just somehow fail to come off as particularly natural.

But overall we do have a decent epic forming. And the dialogue used would work admirably well in an actual TV story, or indeed a Big Finish play. The plot and the premise are difficult to execute poorly, and the need to know how the next two issues will resolve the big events must surely continue to offer some decent interest. It also is good to have such a different tone of story to the preceding one in Las Vegas; even if that one was more satisfying to my tastes. Year One of the Twelfth Doctor comic sequence draws to a close, and does so by reaffirming that a grey-haired near-immortal man still cherishes a planet he was once exiled to, even if his spiky demeanour suggests otherwise.

 

SPECIAL FEATURES:

A solitary variant cover is included. The new bonus strip of 'One! Two! Three! To Doomsday' must wait at least another issue.





Eighth Doctor Mini-Series #3 - The SilveringBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 27 January 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO: THE EIGHTH DOCTOR #3 (Credit: Titan)

Writer - George Mann
Artist - Emma Vieceli
Colorist - Hi-Fi
Letterer- Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Editor - Andrew James
Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton & Gabriela Houston
Designer - Rob Farmer
Released January 13th, Titan Comics

After their riveting and most risky escapades on an alien world, the Doctor and Josie have seemingly been able to relax a bit more, and explore the more sedate corners of time and space. Eventually the pair are in a good enough travelling state of mind to afford themselves some Victorian magic theatre. But soon the actual vanishing/reappearing mirror act on stage is revealed to be something far more disturbing. The time travellers must help not only some new friends, but indeed the wider population of Edinburgh, as an ultra confident showman aims to turn every soul into a servile puppet of his. And even the presence of the powerful Spherions cannot be totally escaped, as a make-shift solution is desperately sought..

This is one of the most handsome and confidently arranged comics on the visual front that I have had the pleasure to work my way through, and even outshines the best work on the Ninth and Eleventh Doctor ranges. A lot of detail is packed into each panel, and the character designs are done with the necessary thoroughness, and thus I never lost track of who was who, even with a decent number of players in the unfolding story. Emma Vieceli is a very capable artist, and I can only hope she has many more comic stories up her sleeve in the future. Once again female talent is being harnessed for the Doctor Who universe, and the intended recipients (in fans and the general public) are beneficiaries.

The official cover is full of excitement and colour. But despite it being another stunning way to attract a passer-by's attention, I must point out that its promise of the Doctor and Josie fighting their evil doubles is something which actually was never going to happen, given the scenario, and the rules of the magic mirrors involved.

Once again the Eighth Doctor is an arresting presence. As much as we can hope for, and certainly not expect , some form of TV outings for a strong actor like Paul McGann to feature in, the fact remains he had one of the most assured debut appearances of any Doctor. Therefore half the work is almost done for any given writer. But George Mann still puts a lot into adding that bit more of light and shade to this Doctor and giving him some memorable tasks to do. He shows a certain naivety in going along with the whole theatre/magic tricks scenario as long as he does, but there is always the chance that on some level he is anticipating the problem behind the ultra-perfection facade.

This is a very good outing for Josie as companion, making the most of what we knew before from her opening story, and making her more proactive throughout events than she was in Music of the Spherions. Her joie de vivre for the danger that is around the corner never extends into smugness, and her concern for others never quite erodes the sense that she is a self-sufficient and independent person.

Perhaps the main villain Silversmith is written in broad strokes, but he is still tremendously effervescent in persona, and almost charming. When the real version behind this illusionist is revealed, it is somewhat thought-provoking but also quite sad. There are no monsters as such involved in proceedings - unlike the first two titles in the mini-series - but we have a disturbing collection of assorted head and body parts, that seem to be able to exist purely for the dark designs of Silversmith.

The opener to this miniseries was a nice character piece, but almost a watered down version of The Eleventh Hour in having a localised threat. The second issue was much more grandiose, but had a somewhat predictable resolution. This effort however does well to mix the exciting ideas with a well thought out story which works very comfortably within the one issue format. The decision to make the overall arc tying these issues a bit more explicit is a wise one, and a multitude of questions will draw readers in for the upcoming fourth issue.

 

Extra Features  - Making Of The Comic (Page One)

With some detailed notes, this example of the composition of a page in the comic proper shows the meticulous care which enables strong underlying foundation, and therefore a very good chance of a strong end product. Titan certainly want to offer value for those who seek out these mini-series, and most likely do so in addition to the regular lines with the last three modern TV Doctors, and this level of insight is commendable.





Jago And Litefoot - Series 7Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 24 January 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek

Jago And Litefoot - Series 7 (Credit: Big Finish)

STARS: Trevor Baxter, Christopher Benjamin , Louise Jameson, Conrad Asquith, Lisa Bowerman 
WITH:  Adrian Rawlins, Steven Miller, Lizzie Roper, Philip Pope, Flaminia Cinque, Brian Protheroe, Patrick Drury, Alex Mallinson.

Director:  Lisa Bowerman
Sound Design + Music: Howard Carter.
Theme: Jamie Robertson
Cover Art: Tom Webster
Producer: David Richardson
Script Editor: Justin Richards
   Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Big Finish Productions

When the previous series of this long-running spin-off  drew to a close, there was a massive game-changer that affected Henry Gordon Jago and Professor George Litefoot. Having been declared as would-be assassins of the Queen, they had to go on the run and undercover.

The extrapolation of The Talons Of Weng Chiang's brilliant 'double act' - and the more stock types of characters they encounter in a manner that engages - is something that consistently manages to hit the mark. To have the vastly experienced Benjamin and Baxter - who utter every recorded line to perfection - is crucial. These leading men also manage to promote an ensemble dynamic with cast and crew, that ensures the stories feel sufficiently engaging.  

My own anticipation for Series Seven was that some or all of the stories would involve the leads having to be on the run as part of the actual storylines, and probably having to resort to safety abroad. As it turns out, though, the production team opt for more of the same Victoriana mayhem that was prominent in most prior series. With the duo taking on different names and identities, but holding onto as many aspects of their real selves as possible, they somehow are able to inhabit their new lives somewhat convincingly.

There is good continuity and thematic clarity throughout. The first and third stories both often refer to the fictional detective that helped inspire Talons in the first place. However, they are distinct in style, and one does not rely on the other. The second story certainly could be placed in another season where the heroes are not on the run, but still works very well as a character piece that explores the cumulative pressure they have had to cope with. By contrast, the finale not only is kicked off by their 'arrest' for their 'crimes', but goes onto try and address those loose threads from Series Six.

 

1 - The Monstrous Menagerie by Jonathan Morris

Jago and Litefoot have obtained sanctuary at Baker Street, with some help from Professor Dark. They soon meet the famous scribe Arthur Conan Doyle, who has become extremely jaded with his trademark creation of Sherlock Holmes. They agree to taking on the 'roles' of Holmes and Watson, so as to help a woman called Laura Lyons who is facing supposed persecution by a certain Mr Baskerville.

Supernatural creatures soon make this whole affair a lot more complex than even the brilliant Conan Doyle could have envisaged..

Morris knows a thing or two about good Doctor Who, and its extended universe. I was impressed with his linking of well-known Conan Doyle stories to the events the  author is entangled in. It has a lovely performance from Steven Miller as Conan Doyle.  Suitably treacherous and single minded villains also make the story feel urgent and compelling.

 

2 - The Night of 1000 Stars by James Goss

Leela of the Sevateem has turned up (minus the Doctor) rather unexpectedly. Jago, Litefoot, and Ellie Higson must contain any delight when a dangerous entity forces them all to take shelter in their house on Baker Street. Various tales of the past begin to be told, but paranoia and suspicion also begin to take hold over the group of four.

Whilst the writer is a newcomer to the show this series, he nonetheless comes up with a gripping chiller here. Set in just one room for much of the running time, it is able to use sound effects and have a broader canvass. There is a frequent sense of an act being performed to an indistinct crowd.

Louise Jameson is as good as ever as Leela, but there is a different dynamic to her character which ties in with the story's resolution most satisfyingly. We also get to see the more deplorable aspects of our two title heroes, but this only goes to add depth and believability to them.

 

3 - Murder at Moorsey Manor by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris

Jago and Litefoot are now desperate to clear their name, and so visit Moorsey Manor. There, they encounter a rather varied group of eccentric people, and any one of those could be behind a gruesome events that ensues. The very finest deductive skill is needed from our two heroes as the body count rises further.

This is quite an enjoyable story, even if the eventual antagonist is portrayed in broad strokes, and a bit less interesting than the 'fake person' they had been beforehand. Also it can be hard to visualise the closing action scenes when they come around, making this feel perhaps somewhat belonging to another medium than audio.

 

4 -  The Wax Princess  by Justin Richards

Still seeking an all-important pardon from Queen Victoria, there is just the small matter of catching the fugitive Jack the Ripper for the duo. As one would fear, girls have begun to go missing again, and from Jago's very own New Regency Theatre. A dark plan eventually is unveiled, and one that could have catastrophic consequences for the British Empire, as a deceased heir to the Queen somehow is returning to life.

As with other finales from yesteryear, this is dramatic, fast paced and never loosens its grip. The Ripper is a difficult character to do 'wrong' creatively, and furthermore is brought to life by one of the guest cast. (But I dare not spoil who that is, as it provides a nice twist in the tale).

                                                                                                                

Documentary on Making The Show

Having been underwhelmed by some Big Finish documentaries, this edition does a lot to mend my belief. Courtesy of a generous running time of about 75 minutes, we hear from the team who have much experience by now of working together, but still are able to reflect and summarise their efforts in a fresh way. I particularly enjoyed the  insight into rehearsals and getting to hear Lisa Bowerman's assertive direction.

The Sherlock Holmes themes recurring across 'Menagerie' and 'Moorsey Manor' are  revealed to be through thematic coincidence, and not deliberate design. There also is some good explanation on how the leads are so crucial to the whole enterprise working, and how splitting them up too long is not a good idea in general. 

Most notably, this extra feature showcases plenty of clips from other Big Finish stories, and they are inserted in a suitably organic manner. The excerpts help greatly in either jogging regulars' memories, or piquing the interest of those less familiar in seeking out those other stories.

                                                                                                                   **

This is a confident batch of stories, backed up by a clutch of behind the scenes' gems. Unlike other years' output, I cannot single out a 'weak link' and particularly enjoyed the first and final stories. As such then, this is the most consistently solid box set in the range I have thus far experienced.

 

 

 





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.





The Eleventh Doctor # 2:1 'The Then And The Now'Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 17 January 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Eleventh Doctor - Issue 2.1 (Credit: Titan)

ELEVENTH DOCTOR Volume Two - Issue One
Writers - Si Spurrier + Rob Williams
Artist - Simon Fraser
Colourist - Gary Caldwell
Letterer - Richard Starkings 
And Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

(Abslom Daak created by Steve Moore and Steve Dillon)
Editor - Andrew James
Asistant Editor - Kirsten Murrary
Designer - Rob Farmer

Released September 30th 2015
Titan Comics

This new start - for a slimmed down TARDIS team of the Doctor and Alice  - takes the journey of a long, long lifetime into new playing fields. It also, however, acknowledge the richness of the Doctor's past, and in particular the Time War.

A splendid cover  - with the image of a confident Matt Smith - belies the actual demeanour of his alter-ego for the story itself. The Doctor is firmly on the back-foot and has to try and show some resemblance of self-belief and ability to conjure a plan on the fly. In this case, he really struggles, and can only begin to reconstruct what is the reason for the leaders of the Overcast race to capture him, and declare he faces sentence for his crimes. It is Alice who is able to show more outright heroism - especially given her paucity of experience and knowledge, in comparison to her alien co-traveller.

A previously unseen ally (and from long ago in the Doctor's past) also lends a helping hand or two. Despite being somewhat eccentric, the dedicated Squire shows herself to be more than ready to stand tall in the face of danger.

 

It will not escape a loyal follower's notice that the unmistakably grey-haired and bearded John Hurt version is also on the front cover. And we do get a fair amount of material with the War Doctor. In the primary flashback he is accompanied by a tiny figure. When questioned by this unknown companion over what he is going to do, he replies "What I Have To", and is grasping a formidable gun with both hands. Further recalls of this deliberately sidelined  - yet long-lived -incarnation are interspersed later on in the story. The ultimate intent is that the current Doctor has a reminder that he is the same man as he always was, and he must take responsibility for what he has done.

But perhaps the writers are trying to make us think of quite an uncertain debate here. The Overcast blame the Doctor, in that he deprived them of the outsiders with powers that gave them so much prosperity. Soon after, they were vulnerable to a much more Malignant visitor to their planet. However, the War Doctor may still have been arguably balancing the scales in the right direction, so as to save the wider universe, and time itself. The specifics are not mentioned here, and may not be in the concluding issue to come, but the Doctor has every right to be a bit flippant when stating how he is in a courtroom just one more time out of a "Bazillion".

Of course, the theme of a fair portion of Matt Smith's tenure - Series' 5 finale and Series 6 in particular - was all about his accountability for actions that left a mark or two on those it directly affected. So, it feels quite natural to pursue this fascinating topic now, after much of Year One concerned itself with Serve You Inc's soullessness, and the resilience of one dogged enemy in particular.

I found the visual aspects of this season opener equivalent to be pretty good. Simon Fraser uses a deliberately gaudy style, that certainly leaves an impression for some time, after readers put their paperback editions down, or exit the reading app they prefer. The artwork consistency is pretty robust, and there are thus no glaring peaks and troughs. Much of the story is set in darkness or shadows, and this suits the rather grim subject matter of a once-bustling civilisation of pioneers now reduced to - effectively - scavengers crammed into a feeble space station complex. There is also a well-done 'symbolic' image of a brace of Doctor regenerations that reminds us of the brilliant Tom Baker cameo in The Day Of The Doctor, and what exactly it may actually be alluding to.

The monster introduced here is known by precisely the same title as the story proper. This creature is a resonant and brilliant example of Doctor Who showcasing creative talent. A truly fertile imagination sparked the TV show, and that aspiration grew manifold in the hearts of viewers and fans, as well as the minds of countless professional contributors, over time. The effect this powerful foe has on the Doctor and his companion is disturbing, yet quite, quite fascinating too.

 

The icing on the cake, however, is the re-introduction of one of the very best characters to join the Doctor Who universe in the early 1980s.

A man who has done some unspeakable crimes. A man who offered to try and atone for his sins. But still a man whose morals are questionable. 

He obsessed over a prospective girlfriend dying in his arms from a Dalek ray, before even a first date could be granted to them.

He died in a huge explosion. Then he was brought back through time, for yet another showdown with his lifelong nemeses. 

Yes, Abslom Daak is back into the fray, and ready for some visceral mayhem. Everyone had better hold on tight.

 

EXTRAS:

A humour strip and three alternative covers feature.

New Year. New Who is once more an example of Marc Ellerby wrong-footing readers. It devotes a lengthy set-up to suggest a most critical course of action by the Doctor, where he will re-assert his authority over an adversary or six. (In fact he is dealing with a very domestic problem, which serves to frustrate all three of Amy, Rory and River Song).

Two of the variant covers are done in the humour strip style. One of these is a very sharp parody of the Doctor facing all his enemies, whilst trapped in the TARDIS, by Ellerby








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