Having finally picked up my copy of “Emperor of the Daleks”, the latest collection of Doctor Who Magazine comics, it’s time to start the third part of the trinity of Doctor Who media I enjoy. All these stories were released in 92 / 93, where Doctor Who had been off TV for some time and Virgin books’ “New Adventures” line was popular with a good chunk of remaining fans, meaning two things: loads of continuity references due to a lack of new fans, and the appearance of Bernice “Benny” Summerfield from the books as a companion. Let’s take a look at the first two stories in the collection then…
Synopsis (For Pureblood):
Sontara, the home world of the Sontarans is about to fall. Their mortal enemies, the Rutans, are the apparent cause of their demise, but Marshal Stave and his men have little time to analyse the situation. They have only enough time to load the racepool into his flagship and get into the comparative safety of space.
Elsewhere in the galaxy, the Seventh Doctor and his new companion, Bernice “Benny” Summerfield, arrive on the orbital genetics laboratory called the Pandora Spindle. Almost as soon as they arrived the Pandora Spindle is attacked and occupied by a Sontaran assault force looking for a new place to call home…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
Don’t you hate it when you get Skiitchkk’d? Really makes you UNFFH!
The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – Long gone is the silly spoon-playing Doctor, he is instead slowly morphing into his New Adventures self (though thankfully never quite that dark) and taking a more distant observer stance to his adventures, though always with the greater good in mind…
Bernice Summerfield – A 26th / 27th century archaeologist who has literally just joined the TARDIS at the same time as Ace leaving (in the book / audio “Love and War”). Due to the early nature of her appearance, she is merely slightly sarcastic regular companion, rather than the Benny we know from later on (be it the books or the audios).
Marshal Stave – Having had to embarrassingly flee their homeworld, Stave is trying to keep his men together while also trying to re-start the cloning machines that will keep his very race continuing. No pressure then!
The Purebloods – Sontarans from before they began cloning, they have been manipulated by the Rutans to go against their cloned off-spring, who they see as a betrayal of true Sontarans (not knowing, of course, that they only got created due to the Sontaran massacre done by the Rutans themselves…)
The Doctor (William Hartnell) – The first incarnation of The Doctor, seen in “Flashback” as still being a regular Time Lord on Gallifrey.
Magnus – The future War Chief from the Second Doctor’s final story, “War Games”, seen here as an ambitious Time Lord who is trying dangerous experiments in order to further his career.
A Pureblood Sontaran.
Although I prefer the Audio / Lost Story version of the Sontaran origins (“The First Sontarans”), I do like the idea of a group of pre-cloning Sontarans waking up in the future to see their race all but gone and in place a bunch of factory-line clones. The fact that they later find out the reason behind the clones creation and how it was all due to the Rutans is good, their reaction to side with the clones is logical… at least as logical as it gets with that weird set up.
I always like stories that actually show the Sontaran / Rutan war, as the actual TV show has never shown the two races at the same time, despite the fact that they are locked in a war that lasts thousands, if not millions, of years and is pretty much all either race talk about when they show up.
I’ll put Benny here, as really she doesn’t do much, and doesn’t sound or really act like the Benny I know from the present, but then these stories were written when she was relatively new herself, so I can’t in all honesty put in the “bad” section.
I also have to tip my hat to the artists, who managed to get a good likeness for Sylvester McCoy across the five issues seen here. Given early 7th Doctor comics it’s a pleasing sight to see. The Sontarans also look great on the page.
Even if it was a bit fanwanky, I do like how Pureblood covers up a mistake from the TV series (see the Continuity section for more info!) Sometimes the little things like that make me smile.
The destruction of Sontar…ra.
Pureblood is full of the word “cruk”, a made up swearword that Benny used during her first New Adventures novel. When I say full, I mean FULL. If that word was actually the F word then this comic strip would have been obscene! I know the New Adventures pushed the envelope well into the adult range, but I don’t need loads of characters pretend swearing to make me like Doctor Who. Thankfully it seems it was contained to just this story…
I like a bit of continuity, as stated above, but I found “Flashback” to be… pointless. The Doctor and Benny watch a Holo-Simulation of the First Doctor and Magnus, the future War Chief, on Gallifrey where The Doctor stops his unethical experiment (that the Time Lord council soon take his side on) and it leads to them no longer being friends. All well and good, and certainly you get the feeling that they were once allies in the “War Games” serial, but I didn’t really need to see where their friendship ended. It was seeing The Doctor on Gallifrey pre-TARDIS just for the sake of it, rather than being some fun nod in the middle of an interesting new story.
The First Doctor in Time Lord robes and hat, a unique sight, at least.
Well, where to start! Pureblood is at odds with certain things that come along later. In the comic, the Sontarans’ home planet is called “Sontara”, where as in the 10th Doctor TV story “The Sontaran Stratagem / Poison Sky” it’s named “Sontar”, which has since been used in all other media, including Doctor Who Magazine comics, so I guess 90s DWM loses out this time.
As I previously stated, the Lost Story audio “The First Sontarans” shows how the original inhabitants of Sontar, the Kaveetch, created the modified clones of themselves and eventually were over-ruled and exiled from their own planet by the clones, who saw them as inferior. I suppose not much needs changing to make the two stories co-exist, the Purebloods here could have been a slightly different Kaveetch off-shoot (as the Kaveetch were said to look far more human than their clone counterparts, a description that matches the comic Purebloods…) and given the Kaveetch were stricken from all Sontaran databanks, and that the Kaveetch referred to themselves as Sontarans (the same way us humans call ourselves Earthlings), then that fact no one mentioned the old race name still works.
At the end of the story, the Doctor’s request is that Stave remove all mention of the human race from the cloning memory banks in order to give the humans a break from the Sontaran / Rutan war. This is to cover up a mistake where the Sontarans have been shown interacting with humans dating all the way back to medieval times (in their first ever story) yet the second Sontaran TV story, “The Sontaran Experiment”, set in the 11,000s AD, has a Sontaran doing experiments on humans to find a weakness and give them the advantage for when they invade, showing no prior knowledge of the species. Thanks to this little bit of a continuity wink at the end of Pureblood, all the Sontaran stories from pre-26th Century can have Sontarans and humans interacting, but now “The Sontaran Experiment” and the Sontarans’ lack of human knowledge at the time still makes sense! Hooray!
As previously mentioned, Flashback is set during the time where the Doctor is just another member of the Time Lord hierarchy and is still allies with the future War Chief Magnus, though the story shows how their friendship ends and how Magnus eventually becomes all evil and a Time Lord criminal by the time the Second Doctor meets him in “The War Games”.
Pureblood is a fun story to read. It plays the Sontarans well, as both logical warriors that have the instinct to survive, and as loyal soldiers willing to die for their cause, and it features some Sontaran / Rutan war action and has a fun little continuity nod. Flashback, however, isn’t very interesting, though at least it’s only a single issue long. A fun start to “Emperor of the Daleks” then, up next… Emperor of the Daleks itself!