Continuing with my catch up with Year 2 of Titan’s Doctor Who comic paperbacks, I jump onto the Eleventh Doctor’s run with “The Then and The Now”, which starts a rather continuity-heavy look back at The Doctor’s time in the Time War, including the first (I think?) appearance of the War Doctor in comic form! … and Abslom Daak?! Let’s take a look!
Accused of terrible war crimes that he can’t remember committing, the Eleventh Doctor goes on the run with his companion Alice Obiefune, along with a mysterious amnesiac who calls herself The Squire! As they dig deep into the history of the Time War in hope of clearing the Doctor’s name, the bounty hunter called The Then and The Now, a hideous perversion of spacetime, tracks them at every turn!
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
Eeee…yeah… that is supposed to be Matt Smith, I can assure you…
The Doctor (Matt Smith) – The Doctor is having a fun time with his pal Alice after what was a trying time for both of them. The relaxation period doesn’t last very long though, which should come as no surprise to either of them!
Alice Obiefune – Alice is back to travelling with a fun and friendly Doctor after their ordeal with SERVEYOUinc, but it doesn’t take long for trouble to find them again, this time from The Doctor’s own past…
Abslom Daak – Famous Dalek Killer who had several run-ins with the Seventh Doctor (some of which have already been covered on this blog! Bit of a coincidence, but a good one!) and apparently helped in the Time War too. He is also back to carrying around his wife’s body in a pod and obsessing over her, despite how we saw him last…
The Squire – A female soldier who fought alongside The Doctor during the Time War. Now aged, The Squire has arrived back alongside her old ally, the only problem is that he doesn’t remember her…
The Then and The Now – Feared bounty hunter and walking paradox, The Then and The Now is a being that was used to frighten Gallifreyian children, only real! (though to be fair, most things used to scare young would-be Time Lords have turned out to be real as well…)
Plus many more!
Daak is back! … and back with his tube-corpse-wife! I guess Bernice didn’t change his ways after all…
It may be advertised as four stories previously printed across five issues, but these stories are tightly tied together with a strong narrative arc, so excuse me if I don’t do each one separately as I’d probably forget which bit went where sometimes!
The Eleventh Doctor can often be too kiddy and eccentric, but it is nice that, beyond another fez-wearing comedy bit, he is well written here. Alice is a solid companion too, strong-headed and believable (within an unbelievable situation), though she does sometimes fall into generic “ask questions and not much else” from time to time, which is probably why they’re using her as a method of viewing the Time War flashbacks (which are always fun, for the record!)
I don’t know why they brought back Abslom Daak from the 90s Doctor Who Magazine comics (maybe they read the Graphic Novel collections like I did?) but it did make sense that since he was alive the last time we saw him, and he would definitely be up for the Time War. He works well with the sometimes-sarcastic Eleventh Doctor as well, they make an amusing, if not somewhat tragic, double act.
As for the main foe, The Then and The Now, it’s one of those fun paradox-y enemies that I like trying to get my head around. They certainly do a good job throughout these five issues in making him/it seem like a legitimate threat. I also like the general set up of the arc, The Doctor is accused of committing a grave crime during the Time War and he can’t remember if he did it or not, but given the kind of person he was, he’s not sure if he’s innocent or not.
I get it! ….. Still not funny.
The Squire isn’t so much “bad” as… dull. There is a little mystery to her, given The Doctor doesn’t remember her, but in general her presence isn’t adding anything other than making a crowded TARDIS.
It has to be said that some of the art is a little wonky. The Eleventh Doctor in particular looks off in a lot of shots, and the less said about River Song, who appears as a cliffhanger going into the next story / issue, the better.
The fourth story, “The Judas Goatee”, sees some Sontarans with Master-like goatees battle regular Sontarans over which is superior, and it’s just that little bit too silly. I could see Matt Smith’s Doctor loving to talk about it, but it just… doesn’t land with me. Luckily it was only a small part of the story in the end.
*gasp!* Curator appearance!
Beyond mentions of the Time War, which was first introduced as a concept during the Ninth Doctor’s only series, and the appearance of the War Doctor, who first appeared in the big 50th Anniversary story “The Day of the Doctor” (after a cameo in the previous episode’s ending) there are a few things, including The Doctor being affected by The Then and The Now, causing him in several scenes to retro-regenerate into older Doctors briefly, and even a scene of seeing forward in his timeline and getting another glimpse as The Curator, the apparent future version of The Doctor whom the Eleventh Doctor meets once again in “The Day of the Doctor”.
Abslom Daak first appeared in the DWM comics, with his last appearance being in Emperor of the Daleks. The Master’s TARDIS is seen at one point, still in the shape of a white column like many of his classic TV appearances. Finally, River Song is seen in the Stormcage Containment Facility in the cliffhanger, placing this around the same time as her appearance in several Eleventh Doctor stories like “The Pandorica Opens” and the whole “Impossible Astronaut” saga.
You could roll your eyes and groan at the over-use of continuity and Time War stuff, but it is actually handled quite well. The Doctor being on the run for a crime he could well have committed is a fun idea, and The Then and The Now is a good enemy too. Daak is a bit of a laugh which balances out Alice and definitely The Squire’s more dull traits. A few gags and “Eleventh Doctor wears fez because ho-ho!” stuff fails to land, but otherwise it’s a very fun start to a very arc-heavy “Eleventh Doctor Year 2”.