DW: Ophidius and Beautiful Freak Review

dw ophidius and beautiful freak

Ophidius introduces us to Destrii, who will go on to become a companion for the Eighth Doctor down the road, but it’s also the first Doctor Who Magazine comic to be published in full colour, which would continue from then onwards, so once again this Audio / Comic Companion Debut Story has more of an impact than just the new companion. While Ophidius is the lengthier story, Beautiful Freak is perhaps one of the more well written and sombre stories in Doctor Who in general, so is definitely the star of this double bill. Let’s take a closer look, regardless…

Synopsis:

Trapped inside Ophidius, the Doctor and Izzy explore the old fashioned way. They have close encounters with numerous species in a jungle before meeting Destrii, who’ll change the dynamic of their relationship in an unimaginable way!

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

dw ophidius and beautiful freak 4

One of my all-time favourite “Doctor stalls for time” moments in any medium…

The Doctor (Paul McGann) – The Doctor has been enjoying his time travelling with Izzy, he hasn’t had a companion so full of joy and fun for a long time, but as he’s soon going to find out, he can’t keep her out of trouble forever…

Izzy Sinclair – Izzy is living her wildest fantasies, travelling across time and space, meeting alien races and people from Earth’s past… With so much going right, you do have to wonder if things are going to change soon…

Destrii – On the run from her own family, Destrii has ended up in the wild jungles of the gigantic snake-like ship known as Ophidius. She has managed to stay alive, but it hasn’t been easy, and she’ll do anything to find a way out…

Beholder Panoquai – A member of the Ophidian race whose task was to record and narrate what was happening in the vast jungles of Ophidius. His technology means he’s invisible to other races… or so he thinks, anyway…

The Ophidians – A race of people who, every so often, swap bodies to keep themselves alive. They find a bunch of species and pit them against each other in the jungles of their massive snake-ship the Ophidius, with the “winning” race getting selected as the next hosts of their consciousness…

The Mobox – A race of powerful warriors, a selection of which has been mentally regressed and forced to fight other species in the jungles of Ophidius. They have “won” the trial, meaning the massive ship and the Ophidians within are preparing to ravage the Mobox homeworld and take their bodies for themselves…

Plus more!

The Good:

dw ophidius and beautiful freak 1

Beautiful Freak is such a heart-warming story.

While Beautiful Freak is the standout here, I can’t really talk about it before talking about “Ophidius” first. The story is actually quite basic, though the setting is unique (and very colourful, reminds me of early Pertwee sets that screamed “we’re in colour now, let’s make the most of it!”), being set inside a massive snake-like ship so vast that the inside holds an entire jungle. The Ophidians go from body to body, deciding which race to take over next by collecting a sample of a bunch of them and reverting their mental state back to that of primitives, with the winner being chosen as strong enough for their needs. It’s a fun concept, and very out-there.

The highlight of the story though has to be Destrii, a young fish-girl who grew up on old transmissions from Earth, making her able to geek out alongside Izzy for a lot of the story. Destrii however, isn’t all fun and games, and soon she starts killing her enemies and even tricking Izzy into swapping bodies with her, hoping that she could be free if she tricked The Doctor into taking her with him. The Doctor saw through the deception mind you, but not in time to stop Destrii from getting evaporated in Izzy’s body, leaving the actual Izzy trapped as a weird fish-woman. Now obviously their be no point in adding this story to the Companions marathon if Destrii didn’t indeed come back later, but that doesn’t take away from the impact of the story…

The impact is only properly felt in “Beautiful Freak”. Izzy is distraught seeing such a weird face staring back at her in the mirror, and The Doctor is absolutely helpless as he doesn’t know how to make her feel better, and he feels like he’s really let her down. At one point she begins to struggle to breathe, leaving The Doctor to take her to the TARDIS swimming pool, figuring it had to do with her new physiology. Now Izzy was afraid of water in her old body, but soon she begins breathing and swimming gracefully under the waves, almost enjoying herself. The Doctor tries to make this a good thing, but Izzy is still unconvinced, though there are signs that the friendship the two shared isn’t over. As a one shot it’s very powerful, even ignoring the social issues of people feeling like they’re ugly or “trapped in someone else’s body” being carefully handled, it’s seeing The Doctor so remorseful and helpless that really sells the bond between the two. It’s really great stuff.

Other highlights across “Ophidius” include a weird narrator who The Doctor eventually outsmarts and steals his floating chair (he was keeping himself ever-so-slightly out of time with the current time, another idea Russell T. Davies would use when he revived the show) and The Doctor delaying his execution by claiming his society demands he dies nude. I do love the DWM era Eighth Doctor…

The Bad:

dw ophidius and beautiful freak 3

What didn’t the Doctor build in school at one point or another?

The actual Ophidians are quite boring, and they’re defeated by The Doctor freeing the top slave race the Mobox, who are equally not very exciting to look at. The Ophidian mastermind Gorolith wasn’t very interesting either… If it weren’t for the great artwork, Destrii and the regulars this story wouldn’t have much to remember about it…

The Continuity:

dw ophidius and beautiful freak 2

The Ophidius itself, a great use of one of the first ever colour panels!

Destrii, as well as the Mobox and the Ophidius ship, return in the story “Uroboros”, where as Izzy gets her original body back in the story following on from that, “Oblivion”.

Overall Thoughts:

“Ophidus” is a fun enough strip, though the actual central threat isn’t much to write home about, Destrii and her actions are, and it all leads into the great one-shot “Beautiful Freak”, where The Doctor and his companion are perhaps never shown to be more close in a properly great written story. Ophidius shouldn’t be missed, it’s key in a lot of great stories to come, but the real stand out is in Beautiful Freak, and the scores will show that clearly…

Beautiful Freak:

5 Star Read

Ophidius:

4 Star Read

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