THESE STORIES ALL
STRIP ANTHOLOGY "THE
SCOTT GRAY &
Sean Longcroft &
OFFICIAL PANINI BOOKS
GRAPHIC NOVEL (ISBN 1-
IN NOVEMBER 2005.
THIS IS A GRAPHIC
NOVEL FEATURING THE
ADVENTURES OF THE
EIGHTH DOCTOR FROM
the pages of Doctor
End Game is the first volume of Panini’s Complete eighth Doctor series, which
collects together the first eight comic strip stories featuring Paul McGann’s Doctor. Not being a reader of Doctor Who Magazine back then, I can only imagine the excitement of seeing the eighth Doctor again – the BBC Books novel series was starting up, but the only other place to actually see this version of the Doctor was in the Radio Times’ short-lived comic strip. The second page of the first strip, End Game itself, has a full page image of
McGann’s Doctor proudly standing halfway out of the TARDIS – signalling to all that this incarnation is here to stay (and for the next nine years, no less…)
The book begins with a helpful introduction, explaining the events of a previous strip,
Ground Zero. This seventh Doctor story featured the first appearance of the Threshold,
a villainous organisation that would go on to be the principle enemy in this first batch of eighth Doctor strips. This out of the way, we storm into End Game, the story which kicked
off the new Doctor’s run back in 1996’s issue #244. In a celebration of DWM’s past, the story is set in Stockbridge, the sleepy English village that was the setting for much of the
fifth Doctor’s comic strip tenure. However, things are not all that they seem; the Doctor’s attempt at a relaxing break in the country is interrupted by sinister clockwork figures, a villainous character named Marwood (a nod to McGann’s character in the classic film Withnail and I), and a young lady with an Acme ray-gun. Turning the page, the true villain
is revealed – none other than the Celestial Toymaker. No time to stop for breath in this adventure!
The Toymaker has taken over Stockbridge in order to trap the Doctor and force him into a rematch. The young lady with the ray-gun is Izzy, a spirited sci-fi fan who is destined to be
the Doctor’s newest companion. Friends with the Doctor’s old mate Max Edison, Izzy has been drawn into this adventure due to her own insatiable curiosity. Izzy is, as the authors
put it, “mad for it,” and is the perfect companion, not only for the cool eighth Doctor, but the magazine’s readers as well. An unashamed sci-fi geek, she throws herself into adventure, thrilled at the prospect of aliens and disappointed that the TARDIS isn’t more futuristic.
The story rockets along, featuring a bewildering array of images – foxes hunting humans
on horseback, living dolls, Lego castles, swordfights with Marwood, and a chilling mirror-Doctor, created by the Toymaker in order to defeat him. Naturally, the Doctor and Izzy turn the cosmic being’s tricks on himself, and defeat him by the end of Part 4.
The next story, The Keep, is a
far grimmer affair. Essentially
there to set up events for later
in the arc, it’s nevertheless an
enjoyable tale in its own right.
Landing on a devastated Earth,
ruined by World War V and at
threat from solar flares (nicely
bridging the eras of The Talons
of Weng-Chiang and The Ark in
Space) our heroes are strung up by a contemporary of Magnus Greel, and his own homunculus. They’re freed by Marquez in early course, and android in the service of the incredibly ancient Crivello. Crivello has been trying to engineer a new sun for the Earth, but, in doing so, has created a new form of solar life. It’s all a little throwaway, but certainly thought-provoking, and the ending is a complete surprise.
Fire and Brimstone follows this up, some considerable time later, as the new sun has been used as the base for inhabitable satellites. Both the Threshold and the Daleks arrive here
for their own reasons, and the strip really kicks into top gear. Izzy may be thrilled by finally seeing some “robot monsters,” but the Doctor knows that things can’t get any worse. He’s wrong. The Daleks have created a new weapon – a rather horrifying “wasp-Dalek” that is capable of assimilating humans, turning them into Dalek agents. The Daleks then appear
to exterminate the Doctor!
It’s all a ruse, however, and the true enemies are revealed – parallel Daleks, foolishly loosed into our reality by the ‘real’ Daleks. In a little stroke of genius, the parallel Daleks are based on concept diagrams for the never-made US Doctor Who series by Amblin, something that threatened to get made in the early 1990s. The creatures are actually very effective, spilling revoltingly out of their cases and drooling “Process - analyse - annihilate” at their alternative cousins. Faced with a war across space and time between two antagonistic Dalek races, the Threshold want the Doctor to help them wipe the creatures out. The Doctor succeeds, naturally, but he’s none too happy at being manipulated, and he doesn’t know just what the Threshold are up to. He knows that their sole motive is profit, and is rightly suspicious. As Threshold agent Chastity says to him:
“Let’s review the match, shall we?
So, you won on penalties in the very last minute of extra time.
But, if you think its’ all over – just remember there’s the decider yet to play.
Be seeing you Doctor – we’ll be just around the corner.”
Fire and Brimstone is a stunner of a story, filled with arresting imagery, a war that threatens everything, and simply tons of Daleks. A winner, but even better is to come.
Tooth and Claw (no relation to the new series episode of the same name) is a bit of a breather after all this excitement. Although it has its share of threats, this Hammer-styled horror tale looks a little lost amongst all the universe-threatening big-hitters in the volume.
An island threatened by vampire-baboons is such a gloriously silly idea that it’s impossible not to love it, but the story fails to thrill in the same way as its neighbours. However, it does have the honour and distinction of introducing new recurring character Fey Truscott-Sade,
an effortlessly cool, sexually ambiguous female agent from the 1930s, who takes a liking to young Izzy…
The events of Tooth and Claw leave the Doctor vampirised and poisoned, so Izzy and Fey bundle him back into the TARDIS to get him to Gallifrey for treatment. So starts The Final Chapter. Their unfamiliarity with piloting the ship leads them to land far in the Time Lord’s personal future, a time when he has passed into legend and few believe that he ever existed. It’s a charming idea, and makes the few true believers interesting characters. The Doctor is plugged into the Matrix, and encounters Rassilon and his High Evolutionaries within. Indeed, it’s something of a fifth Doctor-era reunion, with bowling-ball man Shayde turning up to play his part too. The Chapter of the title is in fact an ancient Gallifreyan blood-sect commanded by the callous Time Lord Luther. Luther has hatched an ingenious plan to rewrite Gallifreyan history and set himself up as a new Rassilon. Having built a vast time rotor in the heart of his citadel, he plugs in a poor unfortunate named Xanti, whose DNA has been engineered to prime the device. The whole planet is essentially transformed into a giant TARDIS. While
Izzy and Fey sort out Luther (the bit where Fey slugs him one is particularly satisfying), the recovered Doctor realises he has to reverse the process, intending to plug himself in the annihilated Xanti’s place. “Must it really end this way?” asks Shayde – the Doctor’s look
says it all.
And so, this intriguing adventure ends with the Doctor strapping himself into the time rotor, his body ravaged by the temporal effects. Staggering back to Izzy and Fey, the Doctor is on his last legs. His companions look on stunned (as do many of the readers, I’m sure) as the Doctor regenerates across a beautiful full page spread – into the ninth Doctor, as played by Nicholas Briggs.
Okay, so it’s not the same surprise as it would have been back when the magazine was originally published – we now know that this isn’t the real ninth Doctor. I have to say, though, that it’s a real shame that this is a fake incarnation. As we start the next story, Wormwood, the new Doctor witters on happily to himself, changing into a wonderful outfit incorporating
a tux, a matching bow-tie and handkerchief, and a toothbrush in his breast pocket!
“Every neuron I own is tingling. Every nerve fibre is shouting
‘Wake up Doctor, time for a change!’
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose… I’m my own best creation.
I’m a new man, and if I say so myself… quite a stylish one.”
The new Doctor is full of personality, and it’s a pity that he’s here for one story only. Yes, it’s all a ploy – in a magnificent sleight of hand, the Doctor and Shayde switched places, using personal chameleon circuits to change their appearances. Thrown into a new adventure, the “ninth Doctor” encounters Abraham White, and his company – the Threshold. Based on the Moon for the last three thousand years or so, their own plans are coming to fruition. The plan is to destroy outer space, leaving their instantaneous travel system as the only viable method of transportation; a monopoly that will grant them huge profit.
Without spoiling too much of the intrigue that follows, Wormwood is a rip-roaring adventure, with an alien Wild-West town on the Moon, an evil Shayde-creature called the Pariah, plenty of fist-fights and two Doctors thrown in. After a series of last-minute twists and revelations (including the truth about the Letratone dots that make up the shading of the Threshold’s features – or should that be Shayding?), the Threshold are utterly defeated, bringing this chapter of the Doctor’s life to a close. A tearful reunion with her Doctor leaves Izzy as an established TARDIS crewmember, and an equally tearful goodbye with Fey lays hints for
After this narrative is concluded, we say goodbye to the clean, attractive linework of Martin Geraghty, and have a bit of fun with two silly little strips. Both A Life of Matter and Death, illustrated by Sean Longcroft, and By Hook or By Crook, illustrated by Adrian Salmon, are brief jaunts of a more whimsical nature than the main storyline, and both feature fun, highly-stylised artwork (Salmon’s is actually quite different than his later work – far less simplistic, and actually far more effective). Going into the stories too much would spoil them – they’re simple one episode affairs that make their point, entertain and then leave. Originally part of the run above, they have been taken out and left till the end of the book to avoid detracting from the main arc.
End Game concludes with a real treat - a DVD-style “commentary” by authors Alan Barnes and Scott Gray. It’s a genuinely fascinating read, offering intriguing glimpses of storylines that never were, detailing the development of the storylines finally chosen for publication,
and giving a fine analysis of Izzy’s character – we learn that she was chosen to be an anti-Ace, a return to the more happy-go-lucky, angst-free companion of bygone eras. We also learn some interesting little titbits; the strip was originally slated to return to the fourth Doctor, as the publishers were unsure if they could get the rights to McGann’s likeness, amongst other things. Gray and Barnes are adept at spinning anecdotes and are healthily aware of both the failings and triumphs of their work.
Happily, I can say that there are far, far more triumphs here than failings. All too often, the comic strips are an overlooked part of Doctor Who’s huge and varied library. Regardless
of whether or not you count them as part of your personal canon, I’d suggest every Who fan should give them a go, and End Game makes a perfect starting point.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2008
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
There is no concrete evidence to help us determine at what point in his timeline the eighth Doctor’s comic strip adventures occur. The most common placement is in the gap between The Eight Doctors and Vampire Science, during which time the Doctor spent at least three years travelling alone and with various different companions, having left Sam at a rally. Although this gap can become overloaded with adventures in search
of a home, it does provide a likely placement and we have chosen to follow it on this site.
Text in Doctor Who Magazine during the run of the strip Endgame referred to the “newly regenerated” Doctor, although this was never picked up in dialogue. Nonetheless, since events in the seventh Doctor strip Ground Zero are still fresh in the Doctor’s memory and the Threshold is still on his trail, it is implied that the Doctor’s seventh life is still fairly recent.
The visit to Gallifrey in The Final Chapter is heavily implied to occur in the Doctor’s relative future. This would in turn imply that the adventure occurs, for the Doctor, prior to the causality-shattering Time Wars which lead to Gallifrey’s destruction in the Doctor’s present.
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