Gareth Roberts,





















© Panini 2006. No copyright infringement is intended.

APRIL 2006






had only a limited time on screen and an equally limited time in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine. Sadly there isn’t even enough material to fill one of Panini’s customary graphic novel anthology editions, so we’re going to have to make do with this basic magazine edition instead.


Aside from the fact that many readers will already own all of these comics in the pages of DWM itself (an inevitable result of the reprints arriving so soon after the original publications), it has to be said that the ninth Doctor’s brief era in ink is unlikely to be one that is especially well remembered. After a run of mostly excellent strips throughout the eighth Doctor’s long era, and with the television series now back and giving us a daring, exciting new vision of Doctor Who, the comic suddenly seems to take a step back and lose all ambition. Not that it’s all bad – however, the first half of this collection is seriously mediocre.


The Love Invasion has an important job to do, introducing the strip to a whole host of new readers brought in by the revived series. Unfortunately, what we get is a naff runaround with little charm or excitement. The usually reliable Gareth Roberts pens this tale, expanding on an earlier story by Clayton Hickman. So why doesn’t it work? The ideas here are fine at first glance, but the execution is poor. We have sexy alien babes out to Lend-a-Hand to the people of the 1960s, but the camp fun this promises is never delivered. The story’s villain, Igrix the Kustollian, is an immediately forgettable big green monster. His plan to destroy the Moon, thus thwarting Earth’s space programme and altering history, is commendably novel, but the story’s told in such a way that it’s hard to give a damn. It’s not helped by the artwork - Mike Collins normally provides fine work, but here it just looks sloppy. Perhaps the inking by David Roach is more to blame, but either way, Rose could be anyone, and the Doctor is drawn blandly; astonishing really, considering how good a caricature Christopher Eccleston should make. It’s a poor start, I have to say.

 © Panini 2006. No copyright infringement is intended.

The next story, a throwaway one-parter both written and illustrated by Mike Collins, fares little better. Art Attack is about some big green alien artist who wants to get back to his home planet at any cost. There should be some potential here, but nothing much happens. The only really notable part of the story is the moment when he discovers that he is the last of his people, and we see a reflection of this in the Doctor. The weird alien art gallery is pretty cool to look at though.


Things are looking up with The Cruel Sea, written by Robert Shearman, who was particulary popular at the time of publication for his then-recent episode Dalek. The quality of writing immediately goes up a level in a story that is at times downright disturbing. The Doctor and Rose arrive on a cruise ship on the Red Sea on Mars, a body of water that his been polluted and artificially coloured by cranberry juice. The ship belongs to one Alvar Chambers, a distinctly unpleasant character; this man is so ancient he must be kept in a sate of half-life on medical support, and continually marries then divorces young women to secure his social and financial status. Worse, he keeps them around as dogsbodies, identified only by number.


As if running into him wasn’t bad enough, the Doctor and Rose have to contend with the sea itself. The ruddy waters are possessed by something almost alive, which is taking over the bodies of the ship’s passenger-crew in order to steal their lives. Problem is, it burns out the bodies in under an hour, leading to some shocking moments when some of Alvar’s ex-wives melt into pinkish puddles. Worse is to come – the Doctor is thrown overboard, and is taken over. The Collins / Roach art team does get better here; the ninth Doctor’s face is much more on target, his distinctive look recreated quite well, and taking on a whole new chilling dimension when taken over by the evil force - he’s really quite scary. Following this terrific moment we get a stunning cliffhanger in which Rose’s reflection lunges forward and swallows her!


And it gets weirder. The boundaries between reality and nightmare are crossed. Everyone who is taken over is trapped in their own kind of living hell. Rose is forced to witness a life in which she turned down the Doctor’s invitation - a life that leads to nothing, in which he continually comes back to taunt her. Fortunately, Rose is strong minded enough to fight the being and give the absorbed ex-wives the strength needed to fight against the spirit of Alvar, who actually prefers this twisted existence to his own one. The Doctor manages to overcome the creature, of course, but not before some deeply unpleasant moments, including one where one of Alvar’s elderly wives crawls into his distended mouth! And to think of all the little kids who must have just started reading the magazine! It’s easily the high point of the collection.

 © Panini 2006. No copyright infringement is intended.

The next two instalments don’t reach this height, but they are markedly better than the opening two. Mr Nobody actually first appeared in the 2006 annual (before the BBC took this over and Panini changed its title to the storybook). Someone took the bright decision to get Scott Gray back in to wrote this one. It’s a short and slight but effective tale, in which one Phil Tyson, a young man with little in life and no prospects, find his existence turned around by the Doctor. A group of aliens, the Vandosians, believe him to be the reincarnation of their hated enemy Shogolath, truthfully a peaceful martyr. It embodies the new series core concept of the Doctor making people better themselves. John Ross provides some excellent artwork, beautifully capturing the Doctor, and the colouring, by James Offredi, adds real depth and style.


Finally comes another story by Gareth Roberts, in a different league entirely to The Love Invasion. A Groatsworth of Wit features demonic beings from beyond time interfering in the life of Shakespeare, on the night of a seminal performance… sound familiar? It’s essentially a dry run for The Shakespeare Code, but in this instance, the focus isn’t on Will, but on his rival Robert Greene. Greene was a genuine peer of Shakespeare’s, a playwright who is only now remembered for his writings on the Bard. The demonic Shadeys (marvellous name) use him as a tool to rend time, showing him our world, where he is forgotten and Shakespeare lauded. They then take him home, magnifying his obsession and hatred to destructive proportions. Greene is well written, as is Shakespeare, both coming across as realistic characters. Collins’ art is better than ever with a truly evocative background to play on, and his depiction of Greene, burning up under the strength of his own hatred, is marvellous.


So, a game of two halves. Get past the disappointing first two stories, and there’s some rather fine stuff here. The overall effect still feels somehow weaker than the eighth Doctor’s years, but perhaps this is an inevitable consequence of the comic having its thunder stolen by the television series. Nonetheless, it does lead to stronger returns in the tenth Doctor’s era...


Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2009


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