Doctor Who: The Phantom Piper Review

DW The Phantom Piper

We reach the titular story of the Phantom Piper graphic novel, and the story doesn’t disappoint, well unless you’re not familiar with some past DWM stories, then it might… but I was fine! So let’s take a look at what the hell I’m going on about, shall we?


The time-travellers arrive in the lunar city Athenia, home to the world-famous code-breaker Alan Turing and a race of androids called the Galateans. But a malevolent creature from humanity’s darkest dreams is ready to strike… the Phantom Piper!

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

DW The Phantom Piper 3

“Wow!” is one way to put it, yeah…

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) – The Doctor is trying to figure out a mysterious code that has been carved into his TARDIS, and the best person he knows that can crack codes is Alan Turing…

Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) – Bill is pleased to be wrong about visiting the 1940s to meet Turing, though the futuristic city of Athenia isn’t going to be war free for very long either…

Chiyoko – Chiyoko was once known as the “Child of Time”, being partly attached to the TARDIS and the Time Vortex itself. Although her original body burned up, her mind was transferred to that of an android-like body known as a Galatean… That doesn’t mean she no longer has special purpose, though…

Alan Turing – Shortly before his untimely death at the hands of his own government Alan Turing’s mind was transferred into a Galatean body, allowing him to live on away from Earth. In that time he has learned things far beyond code breaking…

The Phantom Piper – The Phantom Piper is a concept, a shared dream that most soldiers have. Seeing him on the battlefield means your time is up, but what if he becomes real? What happens to the soldiers then, both alive and dead?

Plus more!

The Good:

DW The Phantom Piper 4

I do like the effect of having the Phanton Piper always being in Black and White. 

While it took a while to get going, I did enjoy the story, and the weird cast of characters. An android Alan Turing, the all-powerful Chiyoko, who is no longer all powerful, and Alan’s once boyfriend and a friendly female cop who both fill that role of nice characters you don’t want to see killed. Combined with a Twelfth Doctor and Bill who are not only in character but well drawn, it made for a fun journey across a futuristic city that’s going through the classic Humans vs. Robot Doppelgängers scenario.

The Phantom Piper is a fun villain, for the short time he’s around. He’s teased quite a bit, then finally breaks free from the Dreamspace (yes, the Dreamspace again) and gains a real body by tricking Alan Turing into making him a reality via Block Transfer Computation, the same thing used in Logopolis, where you can create matter by pure mathematics. He previously only existed in the Dreamspace, which makes sense as the Phantom Piper myth is of him appearing to soldiers before they die. He tries to undo the huge war between Humans and the Galateans (android duplicates) that the Doctor and the real Chiyoko undid back in the Child of Time story… that’s a lot of continuity there (See below!) but he is quite swiftly undone by Turing, who soon figures out the right code to delete his body, the same way he created it…

The fun cast and good artwork helped cover for the fact that a lot of the first three issues worth of material was just a very generic “humans becoming paranoid over artificial life they created in their image” stuff, though I did like the idea that the Galateans worshipped Alan Turing because his early codes and calculations were the basis of all future computer technology, so he is their creator, in the manner of speaking.

I enjoyed the cliffhanger, which saw Eighth Doctor sort-of companion Fey Truscott-Sade appear, despite being long dead (and previously fused with a being known as Shayde), and giving The Doctor a cryptic warning. Should be fun when it’s released next year! (or already, if you’ve been buying the individual issues, obviously…)

The Bad:

DW The Phantom Piper 2

The first two issues were practically Child of Time recaps…

This felt a lot closer to the Titan comics than those normally produced from Doctor Who Magazine, as it featured quite a bit of continuity. I don’t mind, certainly in comics its easier to reference the past with a panel or two, but this was quite excessive. Not the end of the world, but several plot points from “The Child of Time”, Block Transfer Computation from “Logopolis”, the Dreamspace from the last couple of stories, and a returning Eighth Doctor comic companion for a cliffhanger was a bit much for a five-part story…

While I liked what I saw of the Phantom Piper, he was teased for three chapters, caused havoc for one chapter, then was swiftly dispatched in the first half of the following one. He killed one Block Transfer Computated (would that be right?) version of Alan Turing’s friend and summoned an undead army that didn’t really get to do anything before his death. Seemed like a waste, really…

The Continuity:

DW The Phantom Piper 1

The full (minus the logo and credits-filled top and bottom) artwork from the GN cover.

Well, I’ve already mentioned it all, but for the sake of linking to the stories: Chiyoko and the Galateans all come from the 11th Doctor DWM Comic “The Child of Time”, where as the Dreamspace was first featured three stories ago in “The Soul Garden”. Block Transfer Computation was first revealed to be a thing in the Fourth Doctor’s final story “Logopolis”.

Finally Fey comes from the Eighth Doctor comics, making her debut in “Tooth and Claw”.

Overall Thoughts:

The Phantom Piper was a fun read, it was full of good characters and great artwork, and while the over-continuity was a bit of a pain sometimes, along with a short stay for the lead villain, it didn’t detract too much from what was still a good story. Maybe not one for those jumping into the comic for the first time, mind you…

4 Star Read

2 thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Phantom Piper Review

  1. Philip Higgins February 19, 2019 / 7:14 pm

    Is the cover featured the actual one? There’s another, less impressive version, showing on most sites. This is a common problem with this series, where different covers seem to exist eg. Evening’s Empire and Nemesis of the Daleks. It makes it a bit “pot luck”. Us fussy buggers don’t like crap covers.


    • Cold Cobra February 19, 2019 / 7:17 pm

      I can confirm the cover is the same as here. I remember having to track it down thanks to Amazon having weird, as you say, far less impressive covers on their listing…


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