THESE STORIES ALL
AND THE BIG FINISH
COMPANY OF FRIENDS:
SCOTT GRAY &
Martin Geraghty &
OFFICIAL PANINI BOOKS
GRAPHIC NOVEL (ISBN 1-
IN JULY 2007.
THIS IS A GRAPHIC
NOVEL FEATURING THE
ADVENTURES OF THE
EIGHTH DOCTOR FROM
the pages of Doctor
The final volume in the eighth Doctor series is a tantalising looking thing. What fan could look at that cover – the eighth Doctor standing resilient in his midnight blue coat,
a Cyberman looming behind him – and who’s that hot new companion with the lightsabres? For me, this purchase was a tough one – I already owned all of the issues of Doctor Who Magazine that featured these strips, and it seemed a bit of a wasteful buy to get them all again. It was the special features that won me over.
Once more, Scott Gray takes the writing duties, with only one story, The Nightmare Game, written by a guest author – Gareth Roberts, justly famous for his excellent New Adventures and now for his scripts for both Doctor Who and The Sarah-Jane Adventures. The collec-tion starts in a low-key manner, giving little hint of the cataclysmic storylines awaiting.
Where Nobody Knows Your Name is a fun little one-parter, in which the Doctor sulks in a bar following Izzy’s decision to leave him in the previous instalment. With Roger Langridge providing his typically out-there comedic artwork, the humour in the script is enhanced and makes a pretty funny strip. The number of peculiar aliens, robots and Muppets that fill the
bar give it the feel of the 2000AD-ish strips of the 1980s. A minor crisis (by the Doctor’s standards) and a man-to-man chat with barman Bish restore the Doctor’s self-confidence and zest. Bish is a fun character, a chunky, friendly-faced feller who performs the classic barman role of the guy to tell your troubles to. He isn’t all he seems, though – the clue’s in
Doctor Who and the Nightmare Game is a step in the wrong direction. Roberts’ love for 1970s football strips such as Scorcher and Striker lead to him to set an alien invasion plot within a football storyline, with Mike Collins providing artwork that echoes the style of those strips. For a fan of such things it might work brilliantly, but to me, with no such interest, it was a terrible bore. Billy, the one-off companion for the story, is a little oik, and the alien Morgs are terribly naff-looking. And the ruddy thing goes on for three episodes!
Sadly, The Power of Thoueris does little to raise my spirits. It’s essentially just a punch-up between the Doctor and Thoueris, a giant hippo who is, apparently, a left-behind Osiran. Adrian Salmon’s artwork has become more stylised by this point, and is unfortunately less effective for it. Although I did like the last line (but I’m a sucker for crap puns).
The Curious Tale of Spring-Heeled Jack is much better. Anthony Williams provides some good artwork here, nothing extravagant or avant garde, but nevertheless effective. The alien of the piece, Jack himself, is a wonderful creature, a devilish bogey with glowing eyes and a wide, toothy grin. The legend of Spring-Heeled Jack is one I’m familiar with, but isn’t the best known of British myths, so Jack is essentially a brand-new invention for many readers. The creature was inspired by garbled, exaggerated accounts of various muggings and assaults, developing into a bogeyman that could leap over buildings. The Victorian origin of the tales provides the strip with an atmospheric setting, and the Doctor looks very at home in his top hat and overcoat!
We are beginning to expect a new companion by this point, and, right on cue, along comes Penny, a spirited young lady who leaps straight into the Doctor’s adventure, ready for action. It’s a clever lead-on - Penny is nothing like what she appears to be, and is in fact Morjanus, an alien fugitive. Jack has been hunting her down, attacking women in an attempt to find her. Morjanus unleashes some fire-based creatures to wreak havoc and aid her escape, but the Doctor and Jack ably work together to defeat her. It’s a fine strip, with a good, adventurous pace. It even has a brief cameo for Susan, and you don’t get that every month.
The Land of Happy Endings is DWM’s contribution to Doctor Who’s fortieth anniversary celebrations. Taking an inspired and unexpected direction, Gray provides a story that could have come from the pages of TV Comic. With Geraghty and Joyce each providing some absolutely beautiful, period-style artwork, it’s a very charming piece, with Doctor Who and his plucky young grandchildren, John and Gillian landing on the planet Darbodia. The terrible Wargon has stolen the Darbodians’ imaginations, and it’s up to the Doctor to get them back. The final page, where we switch back to the ordinary strip, is a beaut. Very cute.
We pick up steam with Bad Blood. This strip sees us gearing up for the big showdown, and the slightly slap-dash style of the first half of the volume settles down into a more consistent style. With the Doctor – in another change of costume – arriving in 1875 America, the scene is set for a classic historical adventure. We’re introduced to the legendary native Sitting Bull, plus the equally legendary General George Custer. I’m pleased with the characterisation of Custer here – not the hero of popular belief, but the arrogant, trigger-happy fool of reality. It’s not long before we kick into top gear, with the Windigo – yet another crib from mythology – arriving to terrorise the colonials. The Windigo are werewolf-like demons, and many of the General’s men are transformed into the slavering beasts. This isn’t even the half of it, though – Jodafra and Destrii turn up, vaporising the monsters. Jodafra is in is element, mixing it up with Custer, who, tellingly, is happier to be dealing with an alien feline than an ‘Indian’ chief. Destrii, on the other hand, is trussed up in Wild West fancy dress, and is having a whale of a time, taking none of the proceedings seriously (and she still has the hots for the Doctor, poor lass).
During a rather stunning astral voyage, the Doctor and Sitting Bull confront – and are nearly destroyed by – the true Windigo. Jodafra, surprise surprise, is behind it all - using the troops’ predilection for alcohol against them; it is this that allows the Windigo to take hold. He uses Custer as a resource, sacrificing his troops to bring the true Windigo into corporeal form – and my, isn’t he a big fellow. The worst is yet to come, however, as Jodafra tries to sacrifice the natives’ children to the beast.
Jodafra is very Master-like here, simply after the monster’s power. Destrii is a far more interesting character - killing Indians is no big deal for her. She’s seen them in Westerns, and she knows that they’re baddies. It’s her naivety that allows Jodafra to string her along. Once she sees that he’s using children, she turns on him, destroying his equipment, while Doctor burns the Windigo to ashes. In a stunning final scene, Jodafra viciously lashes out
at her, beating her to within an inch of her life, and scarpering in his impressive timeship. And so, it’s up to the Doctor to take her in…
Sins of the Fathers is a fun tale, but it suffers from being stuck between two excellent stories. Taking Destrii to a space hospital so that her wounds may be tended to, John Ross gets to shine again, supplying some intriguing aliens and some attractive humanoids. One of the latter is an insidious nurse, who pumps the sleeping Destrii full of drugs to send her off on a fighting frenzy, allowing her allies – the Zeronites, a sort of zero-g space monkey – to board the space station. Though the main plot deals with the Zeronites assault on the Kulkans (the founders of the hospital, who once led a war against them), it’s really a character piece for Destrii, designed to further her evolution. The simple fact that the Kulkan doctors have shown her compassion sets her thinking, and she is surprisingly willing to risk her life defending the station. On another tack, it allows her to get a hold of an image translator - that hot nurse is really a green-skinned alien, you see, and using her holographic disguise allows Destrii to sneak in on the Zeronites’ plans. It also means that, after the Doctor uses gravity to defeat them, and switch off the plot, he can take Destrii with him, yet not be stuck with another fish-girl. This would, after all, be a tad confusing for a casual reader of the strip, who would most likely believe her to be Izzy. It’s a lovely idea, though, for the Doctor to give Destrii, his former enemy, a chance to prove herself.
And so onto The Flood itself. At eight parts long, you’d think it may overstay its welcome,
but not so - it’s an absolute classic. From the creepy opening, where we see the population of London being monitored by forces unknown, to the final scene, it’s an absolute gem. The Doctor takes Destrii to Camden, to give her a better view of the human race. It’s an intere-sting change to have two alien companions again, and Destrii is rather sweet; her entire knowledge of Earth comes from 1960s television shows. Before the end of Part 1, she’s already got herself into a fight, but it’s not actually her fault this time! No, someone is hard
at work manipulating human emotions…
Okay, so we know it’s the Cybermen - they’re on the front cover, after all. But that reveal was a hell of a shock in the monthly magazine, when we got a full page of three sleek, invisible Cybermen reaching out to one of the main characters (one of MI5’s agents). These Cyber-men, from a far, far future era, have developed into graceful, yet terrifying creatures, with Borg-esque assimilation devices that spring from their tapering fingertips. They’re also strikingly feminine, an effective contrast to the butch men in jumpsuits of the 1980s. A real success for Martin Geraghty.
Thankfully, Destrii can see them – their camouflage device is primed for human eyes (and Time Lord, presumably, although doesn’t the eighth Doctor have human eyes?). Woodrow from The Fallen is back, and his agents are on the Doctor’s trail. After a stunning battle, in which the Doctor finds an ingenious use for his sonic screwdriver, and Destrii gets to show off her fighting skills, the Time Lord is abducted back to base, while Destrii is left to fend for herself.
Before long, things have gone apocalyptic, and, to Woodrow’s horror, even the Doctor isn’t sure that he can help. A vast Cybership has materialised over London, Joe Public is being taken for Cyber-conversion, and people are getting even more upset than they should be. The true scale of the Cyberleader’s plan becomes apparent; using a chemical in the water supply, the Cybermen have enhanced human emotion. With a terrifying show of power, they make it rain. The overdose of the chemical sends Woodrow’s team insane.
“I know you are afraid. Fear has consumed your entire lives. It has enslaved you.
Blinded you. Lied to you. The tyranny of your emotions has been absolute.
But we can free you from this madness…
…Salvation will be yours.””
As far as the Cybermen are concerned, they’re not conquering humanity; they’re saving it. And, in a chilling moment, you realise that they may be right. Soon, people are begging to
be converted. It isn’t long before the Doctor has been reunited with Destrii on the Cybership, and confronts the Cybercontroller. He makes them an offer they can’t refuse – leave Earth in peace, and they can have his death.
The Doctor has realised why
these Cybermen have travelled
back – in their time, humanity
has interbred with so many
species (damn that Captain
Jack!) that they cannot use their
conversion technology on them. Studying his regeneration will allow them to find a way to alter their victims’ biology. Soon,
he’s trussed up over the Cybership’s fuel source – a captive chunk of the time vortex. He knows what he’s up to, though. Knowing that the Cybermen will expose him to temporal radiation, forcing a regeneration, then betray him and attack Earth anyway, he sets up an escape for himself and Destrii. The Controller is too powerful however; to stop him taking
the secrets of Time Lord biology, the Doctor leaps into the vortex, to be destroyed!
In the final instalment we’re treated to a stunning set piece. The Doctor rises from the vortex, imbued with its energies, and he’s angry. Using his newly-granted godlike powers, he utterly destroys the Cybership, curing humanity of its enforced madness while he’s at it. Remember everyone, this was written before the new series was. I wonder if Russell T Davies may have had a little inspiration for the end of his first series…
“I’m feeling it all… the patterns of the aeons, so beautiful…
no need to travel in time… I’m becoming time….”
While the Doctor glorifies in his godhood,
Destrii is left watching as the Cybership
crumbles around her. It’s a close call, but
he comes through. The Doctor gives up
immortality and divinity to save his new
friend. Rushing to the captive TARDIS,
they escape in the nick of time. And so,
landing in a field of cows, rejoicing at
having saved the world, the Doctor and
Destrii prepare for new adventures…
When I first read it, I was convinced that
the Doctor would regenerate. Thankfully,
this volume’s commentary section is
astonishing, and leaves no question
unanswered. We learn an absolute
wealth of knowledge about the making
of these stories. The titbit of the Doctor
wearing a different hat for every story
made me chuckle, but it’s the in-depth
stuff that’s worth the price of the book.
We learn that bringing Destrii in back
as a companion was Scott Gray’s idea,
and get to read his pitch to then-editor
Clayton Hickman. It’s not the only part
of these notes that makes me yearn for
what may have been. Gray’s plans for,
Destrii’s development, from petty villain-
ess to heroine; Jodafra’s anger at his
“betrayal”, and his hatred of the Doctor
growing because he “stole”’ his niece
from him; it’s all really fascinating stuff.
Nevertheless, it’s the closing feature,
Flood Barriers by Hickman, that is the
most enticing. It turns out that DWM was
offered the chance to do the regeneration
by Davies, and deservedly so, I feel. However, it was not to be. We learn of Hickman’s wonderful plans for a Ninth Doctor: Year One strip, which would have explored the new Doctor’s life with Destrii. Davies was not so keen. The regeneration story would have to leave Destrii behind; the ninth Doctor could only be seen in the company of Rose, for maximum crossover with the new series.
To me, it seems a short-sighted, but understandable decision. Hickman and Gray had a far tougher choice to make; scrap Destrii’s arc, and dump her somewhere, robbing the readers of a genuine post-regeneration story; or finish with an open ending, and decline the offer of the regeneration. There should have been anther way…
Luckily for us, we’re treated to the full script to the alternative, unmade ending to The Flood, which gives us the regeneration that never was. We even get a pencil drawing of the newly-regenerated ninth Doctor, courtesy of Geraghty. Call me a geek, but to me, that seems worth the cover price alone.
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.
Had the Doctor regenerated at the end of these events, as originally intended, then the eighth Doctor’s comic strip run would have to be considered to be the closing act of his tenure. As this did not occur, the events of The Flood can comfortably take place earlier in the eighth Doctor’s lifetime. Regardless of the Doctor Who Magazine team’s original intentions, other media continue to popularise the idea that the eighth Doctor’s final moments were linked to the Time War.
Nevertheless, it remains a possibility that the events in this volume occurred much later for the eighth Doctor than his previous comic strip adventures, and that they could indeed be far closer to the end of his eighth life.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.