THESE STORIES TAKE
PLACE DURING THE 2006
SERIES. FOR EASE OF
Martin Geraghty &
MIKE COLLINS &
OFFICIAL PANINI BOOKS
GRAPHIC NOVEL (ISBN 1-
IN OCTOBER 2008.
A GRAPHIC NOVEL
THE PAGES OF DOCTOR
The latest graphic novel brings us up to date with the first batch of tenth Doc-
tor strips. This is the full selection of comic strips featuring the tenth Doctor and Rose, which take place in or around the 2006 series. I am not sure whether this release will be of wide interest to readers of Doctor Who Magazine, most of whom will have read these in the not too distant past, however there is doubtless a wide audience for the strips who are not regular DWM readers, and who might find a cartoon image of David Tennant a tempting purchase.
The Betrothal of Sontar is the title of both the collection
and the first strip. Here we have the very first square-off between the tenth Doctor and the Sontarans, two years
before they would lock horns in the television series.
John Tomlinson and Nick Abadzis provide the story
here, with pencils from Mike Collins and inks by David
Roach (in fact, assume they’re responsible for the art-
work throughout, unless specified. It’s uniformly good, with a fine representation of Tennant’s Doctor). In this
three parter, we join the travellers on a frozen planet,
where a Sontaran mining ship, the eponymous Bet-
rothal of Sontar, has taken root. Its crew are bored,
taking pot shots at the natives. Their commander,
Colonel Snathe, is a grim, vicious tyrant, obsessed
with violence and finding an ancient doomsday weapon named Thanatos. Commander Leorx, his lieutenant, is a fare more refined soul (for a Sontaran) considered a weak-willed throwback by his fellow troops. Approached as individuals, the Sontarans are explored in a depth they aren’t usually granted, in spite of the relatively short storyline. They may be clones, but, as the later commentary section discusses, we’ve seen a huge variation in the species. No two are ever exactly alike. It’s clear that the uniformity they claim isn’t quite the true story.
Overall, it’s a fine tale, with some arresting imagery, especially once we reach Thanatos, looking like nothing so much as the Space Jockey’s ship from Alien, as Snathe’s plan backfires and the weapon’s AI targets Sontar itself for destruction. The only real issue is
with the Doctor and Rose themselves. The commentary notes the difficulty of getting the
new Doctor’s character right with, at this stage, little to go on, and he sometimes slips too
far from old fashioned posh Doc to drawling post-modern twerp. Still, that gets better as
the strips progress. Rose, however, remains cursed with the habit of referring to everything in terms of irritating chavtastic modern references.
Gareth Roberts provides the next strip, The Lodger. This fun single
instalment shows poor, long-suffering Mickey Smith having a terrible
week, when the Doctor comes to stay. The TARDIS has burped forward
with Rose still in it, and he needs a place to crash while he waits for it
to catch up. It’s well told, funny and rather sweet, fleshing out Mickey’s
character further, adding a new layer to his relationship to the Doctor
and showing just how perfect an ‘everyman’ figure he is. The ending is
really rather lovely.
FAQ is less successful. Tony Lee, now writing for IDW Comics, provides an acceptable, if
a slightly humdrum tale. Three parts is not an especially long format for the strip, so it’s odd that there doesn’t seem to be quite enough story to go round. Essentially, what we have
here is the tale of Craig and Trudy, two teens who don’t seem at all worried by the fact that dinosaurs, monsters and Vikings are rampaging through their neighbourhood. Craig seems to have the power of life and death over all around him. It’s no surprise to learn that this is a make-believe world, made real by alien technology. A more effective revelation is the reveal that Trudy is only part of the fiction; she’s Craig’s childhood imaginary friend, taking the face of his dead twin sister. Once this is revealed, she becomes a more interesting, dangerous character, giving the Doctor someone to rise up against. Still, when the threat to our heroes is two teenagers, something is wrong. Self-absorbed, high functioning kids make irritating villains.
The Futurists is probably the best story in the book. Another three-parter, this serial sees
our heroes arrive in 1920s Milan is search of ice cream. No sooner have they arrived, than super futuristic buildings are growing straight out of the ground all around them, before crumbling to dust. History’s been altered and
time’s gone screwy; the only people left in Milan are a young woman named Altea and a time-displaced Roman legionary. So the TARDIS vworps to Roman Wales, tracing the soldier’s path through time. There they find Silurians – no, not reptile people, the ancient Celtic tribesmen of the Silures region – and discover that Altea’s boyfriend, Giovanni, has been tinkering with history. A member of the Futurism movement, those tricky predecessors to Italian fascism, he has plans for his own version of history. Unfortunately, his alien allies, the Hajor – marvellous purple medusae inhabiting a zap-wow astral plane – have plans of their own. The Time War has wrecked their realm (who else had forgotten about all that,
by now?) and now they’re looking to become the new Lords of Time. The Futurists is a cracking tale of time taking twists and turns, with big purple blob monsters thrown in.
Interstellar Overdrive by Jonathan Morris is an odd little story. The Doctor and Rose arrive on a tour-ship, home to the sixty-third line-up of legendary rock group Pakafroon Wabster (Morris’ love of Douglas Adams is obvious in this strip). There’s a bassist who looks like
a duck, a vocalist with an addiction to herbal foot spas, a slovenly drummer, a psychotic guitarist, and the reanimated corpse of the Wabster himself, returned from the grave as a mascot. It’s not long before sabotage and murder start whittling away the band members. There’s a stunning cliffhanger to part one, though, as the ship is torn apart and Rose is
killed, left floating in the vacuum of space. Part 2 begins back at the beginning – yes, it’s
a good old time loop, with only the time-travellers themselves aware and immune. Part 2
is taken up with the Doctor being clever, using his foreknowledge to find who will be the killer. No big surprises that it’s the band manager, a steel-eyed woman, all hairspray and
tits. She wants to kill the band off so they’ll become legends after their own death. It’s a fun, silly tale, excellently illustrated by Mike Collins, and even has a happy ending.
Opera of Doom is the first story with another artist, DWM stalwart Martin Geraghty, who presents an even better Doctor and Rose than Collins. Morris also supplies the words
for this, the only strip from the 2007 Storybook. It’s a flimsy, inconsequential affair, but it’s undeniably fun, as the Doctor and Rose discover a cybernetic music machine threatening the world. It contains the wonderful idea that someone who, like me, has no musical ability will be invisible to such a creature. Throwaway, but a good laugh.
The Green-Eyed Monster is a corker. Nev Fountain provides the story
here, attempting both a farewell to Rose, and showing us a story that
could only exist within the world of the revived series. Rose has been
infected by a deadly alien parasite, and the only defence against it is to
make her incredibly jealous. Cue a fake Trisha-style TV show, Mickey
getting his end away, Amazon warrior women and, finally, a chavved up
Doctor forced to snog Jackie to save Rose’s life. Roger Langridge pro-
vides the artwork, perfect for this strip, with some hilarious caricatures of
the leads, and a wide assemblage of bug-eyed, buck-toothed aliens. And
you have to love a story with the line “when did you decide to become a
feckless chav bumming around the Universe with a man 900 years your
The final story is the three-part Warkeeper’s Crown,
written by the prolific Alan Barnes, and illustrated by
Geraghty. This is perhaps thbiggest selling point of
the book, beating even the Sontarans – the Brigadier
is back, face to face with the tenth Doctor! The story
is good, though nothing special: the Doctor lands on
a world in the Slough of Disunited Planets, a place
of perpetual war fought by genetically engineered
goblins and ogres. The Warkeeper, the leader of
one side, appoints him fool, searching his mind for
a true leader. They choose the Brigadier, pulling him
from a passing out parade to this world. They also
bring a second choice, Mike Yates – except they get
the wrong Mike Yates, and end up with a BNP twerp,
who isn’t nearly as funny as he’s surely supposed to
be. In any case, the Warkeeper is dying, and his
Hawkmen troops need a new leader. The problem is, the opposing side, led by dragon-like creatures, have their own plans. They correctly deduce that Yates can be easily manipulated into spreading their war, and he is crowned Warkeeper. Soon they’ve landed in Kent, and
declared war on France…
The good stuff here is all down to the Brigadier / Doctor interaction. I can absolutely hear Nicholas
Courtney’s voice as I read the Brig’s lines here;
he’s written utterly perfectly, with dignity and a little
sardonic side. There’s a new dynamic here; the
tenth Doctor is a very different character from the incarnations more familiar to the Brigadier. “I’m
seventy-odd. I can’t keep up with this new yoof-
speak of yours!” However, they are linked in a way
that he and the earlier Doctors never were – this
Doctor is a veteran of a war. The Doctor may lead
the assault here, with his army of cloned Brigad-iers, but it’s the Brig himself who saves the day, facing down the dragons in a pub armed with nowt but nerves of steel.
The book ends, as did the eighth Doctor volumes, with a commentary by the contributing writers, editors and artists. Perhaps less interesting than those previous, simply because less time has gone by to put these things in perspective, it still contains a few interesting snippets, such as the difficulty of getting the new Doctor’s characterisation quite right, to
the trouble with returning monsters in the modern strip, to the bizarre notion of ‘probic vent farts’. Altogether, although not a classic collection, The Betrothal of Sontar shows the DWM strip beginning to get its groove back.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2009
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This collection has been placed here for ease of reference, however:
The Betrothal of Sontar and The Lodger take place between the television episodes The Christmas
Invasion and New Earth.
FAQ, The Futurists and Interstellar Overdrive take place between the novel The Feast of the Drowned
and the television episode School Reunion, which is then followed by The Green-Eyed Monster.
The Warkeeper’s Crown takes place between the television episodes The Runaway Bride and Smith
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