DW: The Sapling Review

DW The Sapling

Man… this was a slog to get through. So much so that I don’t want to drag it out across three reviews, so I’m merging the Eleventh Doctor’s Third Year Titan Comics into one review. Luckily it does have a core plot through it, enough that I can easily review it as one story, even if there are a few stand-alone single issue stories here and there. So, why didn’t I enjoy this run of comics? See below to find out!

Synopsis:

The Doctor and Alice lose some of their memories to a strange creature known only as The Sapling. As they get to know this creature they find out that in reality it’s a genocidal parasite, and it’s only their stolen memories that’s keeping it calm.

Can they figure out how to save it and regain their memories?

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

DW The Sapling 4

Aww, don’t you want to hug him? What do mean who? Wait, what was I saying again?

The one thing I’ll say is that the core plot isn’t that bad. Basically a solo off-shoot of the Silence race called The Scream is so good at their memory powers that even his own people forget him when they no longer see him, so he hatches a plan to merge with a Sapling of parasitic tree organism called “The Planting” and then when he/it covers and absorbs an entire planet, no-one on the surface could ever look away from him, and therefore he’ll never be forgotten. In order to get The Sapling to the point where he can merge with it, he feeds it the memories of various long-lived creatures, including some of The Doctor and Alice’s. The Scream is ejected into space by the TARDIS mid-plan, and The Sapling becomes a sentient creature that learns from the more noble and kind memories of our lead protagonists.

That covers the first few issues, most of the “Growth” graphic novel, and it isn’t really touched upon until the final graphic novel, which sees The Scream get back into the TARDIS and nearly destroy the thing until The Sapling grows a bunch of roots and branches to hold the time and space craft together. Sadly this makes him susceptible to The Scream, who finally merges with it and sends The Doctor and Alice into a weird memory world where The Scream, The Doctor and Alice all live each other’s memories in other roles. It has some amusing imagery, particularly a Silent sitting at a dinner table with regular clothes. This is leads to the big conclusion of Alice convincing Scream to make copies of himself with his new powers so he’ll never be alone, followed by The Doctor getting the alien’s attention by shouting, causing him to turn away from himself, forget himself, and therefore fade away out of existence… I’m not sure that’s how their power works, but… whatever.

The only other story in the run I found interesting was “Strange Loops”, where three people on the planet Zoline used a discarded Time Lord weapon called “The Orphaned Hour” to take their entire planet, minus themselves, back in time 30 years and then use their knowledge to greatly advance their civilization. It was an interesting concept, and “The Orphaned Hour” is a very Russell T. Davies name!

The Bad:

DW The Sapling 1

Just one example of the poor artwork, and there were a lot of worse ones that aren’t readily available online…

The first I have to say is the biggest thing that put me off this story is the artwork. So many issues the faces and proportions were so far off that it took me out of anything I was reading. Given the high quality of the 10th and 12th Doctor comics from this year it seems the 11th Doctor series got the shaft, somewhat. You get the odd good issue, including the finale thankfully, but in general it’s pretty bad.

A lot of the stories in the middle, which often focus on The Sapling learning like a child by seeing what his “parents” do, aren’t that great. Some are fine, like an issue or two revisiting the Ood, though The Doctor seems awfully angry that some are still enslaved despite his freeing of them, despite the fact he had no idea that he might have landed pre-Ood revolution, but most were entirely forgettable, and forgettable combined with poor artwork made this a painful process.

I really didn’t like the design of The Sapling either, even when he was well drawn those few rare times, and The Doctor’s treatment of him as a fascinating subject taking precedence over his dear companion freaking out that she can’t remember her dead mother was a bit much.

There was a chapter early on (possible even the first) that had The Doctor and Alice on a intentionally boring planet with caricatures of current British politicians saying the word “Brezzit” over and over, and boy did I not want THAT in my Doctor Who. There was a giant robot-thing of Boris Johnson as well, and I couldn’t help but get frustrated at how lazily written and on the nose it was, as well as the fact they put a current political thing in something I usually like for escapism. Sure, current politics have been parodied before on the show, but more subtly than this…(though the Happiness Patrol’s Margaret Thatcher-ness was close…)

The Continuity:

DW The Sapling 2

Hey, the Ood! I remember those guys!

The Silence first appeared in the Eleventh Doctor TV story “The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon”, which actually takes place after this story, but given the Silence’s power of making people forget them when they stop seeing them, it doesn’t harm continuity here!

During the Ood part of the story there are multiple mentions of The Doctor having freed them previously, which is a reference to the 10th Doctor TV story “Planet of the Ood”.

There various old console rooms and other little visual and one-line references, but nothing else that sticks out, beyond a mention of a Chronovore (Third Doctor TV Story “The Time Monster”) and a mention of a Time Parasite potentially being the cause of a problem (Fourth Doctor Comic “Timeslip”).

Overall Thoughts:

DW The Sapling 3

This was a fun panel at least. No wonder they put it on the back of one of the books.

Can you tell I didn’t like this story / stories? It had some fun concepts here and there, but the artwork combined with the not-very-likeable Sapling character meant it was just not a fun read. It’s a shame if this ends up being the last 11th Doctor Titan Comic, not just because we’ll never learn how Alice stopped travelling with The Doctor, but because it was such a strong run leading into this that it would be a genuine shame if it ends on such a down note.

2 Star Read

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