It’s time to cover the titular story from the latest Doctor Who Magazine collection, and what a story it is! The Twelfth Doctor going up against the original Master in 70s London! A story you can only do via a medium like comics, given the sad passing of Roger Delgado all those years ago. As if that wasn’t enough, it contains an even more significant event at the end (depending of which expanded media you like to consider “canon”). So… let’s take a look!
The Doctor is called away on a strange case involving glass wasps (as if there is a normal case involving them…), but it’s all a ploy, an old foe of his is up to no good, and the Collins family are in his crosshairs…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Collins family meet The Ma… I mean, Professor Dominar.
The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) – The Doctor is still stranded on 70s Earth, but his TARDIS is nearly done repairing itself. Freedom is on the tip of his tongue, so long as something doesn’t come along to ruin it for him…
Jess Collins – Jess will miss having The Doctor around, at least she thinks she will… Things will be more quiet, that’s for sure…
The Master (Roger Delgado) – The Master is looking for revenge against his old foe, even though the pleasure of killing the long-nosed incarnation has seemingly been missed. Revenge and the possibility of God-like powers? Sounds like a good time to be had!
Lloyd Collins – Lloyd is Jess’s father and a loyal worker in the local subway. He still has nightmares about the time he was mutated into a bird-thing, but he doesn’t hold that against The Doctor… much…
Devina Collins – Devina will definitely miss having The Doctor around, he’s like a member of the family now…
Maxwell Collins – Max is the comic book loving, nerdy little brother of Jess… that’s about all the personality he’s been given.
Katya Dabrowski – Katya is a mercenary who was desperate to find her lot in life, and found it as a servant of The Master…
I wonder who could have done that?!
The pure idea of the Twelfth Doctor going up against the original Master is fun enough, but I love the way they fitted it into the timeline. The Master believes that this Doctor is the one after Pertwee’s Third that he’s battled so many times, and so he had no idea who he’s actually dealing with. He popped back to Earth in the 70s and got the wrong Doctor. His plan is over-the-top and crazy and he uses a silly alias while not even remotely hesitating in sacrificing the Collins family in order to open his gateway, all while remaining collected and somewhat charming… in other words, perfect Delgado Master! He wants to reach a time locked dimension he found out about from the Daleks where “the chronon was once split” and that would somehow lead him to gain godly powers. He does, and then is beaten back by his old foe when he finds out, to his horror, that this Doctor comes from far, far into his future and has been around of billions of years (which isn’t accurate at the body kept getting recreated during Capaldi classic Heaven Sent, so he’s physically still in the 2,000s or whatever age is being made up now, not the billions, but hey-ho, it was a great scene!)
This then lead to the Collins family channelling something or other and the Master having the chronon energy thrown back at him. We next see him in his TARDIS, looking at his own glowing hand and laughing in the face of death… so, yes, this is how the Delgado Master regenerated! I mean, if you like the apparently awful book from the Eight Doctor BBC range from back in the day you may want to keep that telling and disregard this (the good thing about Doctor Who when you don’t take it too seriously!) but as for me, this was a great scene, and unexpected! We don’t see who he regenerates into, but it’s easy to assume it’s the normal, non-scarred version of the Geoffrey Beevers / melty-faced Master we hear in The Two Masters audio. That would make it all connect rather nicely.
Anyway, other things to like about the story! The first half sees The Doctor and super-stereotypical London copper Jack Hayes investigate and then deal with large alien glass-like wasps that turn people to glass when they sting them. It’s actually a fun side story to read while The Master is kidnapping and killing back at the Collins’ home. There are also two scenes of The Doctor and The Master both playing chess with local nice old man Gabriel Gayle, both brilliant written and ominous. It all ends with The Doctor’s TARDIS now repaired and he’s back on his adventures, making the “Doorway to Hell” graphic novel / trade paperback rather nicely stand-alone.
Some of the extra characters are good fun too. Katya is a good “tortured soul manipulated to serve evil” type, who gets a predictable send off by being turned on by her master. I liked “Kiadine”, the man who broke the Chronon and as a result watched his whole universe become a timeless void of death, and just wanted an end to his suffering. Thrown in the aforementioned amusingly stereotypical copper and the nice old man chess player and you get a really enjoyable cast.
The big fight, slightly let down by weird artwork.
My only real criticism is the Collins family, who just aren’t very interesting here. Lloyd, who was grateful for The Doctor saving his life, immediately turns on him when The Master suggests all the bad things are his fault, all so when the family is sent to hell they can argue with each other before becoming one again. A fair enough trope, but it fell flat for me. As did Max gaining a super-buffed out body and talking about how it’s cool like in comic books, and then nothing really coming from it other than a few gags. It’s not terrible, just not as good as what surrounds it.
Towards the end of the comic there are a few badly drawn panels, which is a shame, because as a whole the story is well drawn throughout.
The Master mentions this is the first time he’s seen The Doctor since “affair with the Daleks and Draconians”, placing this after Delgado’s final TV appearance in “Frontier in Space”. He mentions the past troubles the Collins family has been through, so this also ties into the other stories seen in this volume beyond just being set in the same time period (literally!)
As mentioned elsewhere, the Doctor claims to be billions of year old, which isn’t accurate. He may remember a lot of the lives he lead in the confession dial during Heaven Sent, but physically he’s whatever age he normally is. During Series 10 the Twelfth Doctor refers to his age as “over 2,000”, which is more in line with what we used to know and makes more sense… not that The Doctor’s age ever makes much sense anyway!
Doorway to Hell is a fantastic four-part comic strip. It has a great cross-over from different periods of the show, has a top-class cast and is well drawn for most of it. Interactions between The Doctor and The Master are great, as is the several twists and turns involving them. A must read for any fan of Who, regardless of era!