We re-join The Doctor and Izzy on their travels as they arrive in 17th Century Japan, so expect samurai swords, constant referring to one’s sense of honour and … a non-copyright version of Godzilla and Astro Boy? Yes, it’s quite the odd story, but more importantly, it sets up a new major character for his key appearance in the big story of this run. So… let’s take a look!
The Doctor and Izzy find themselves in 17th century Japan and on the run from a fire breathing dragon.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
This story is certainly a weird cross-section of different things I like…
For as much as it’s often presented in fiction, The Doctor very rarely seems to go to Japan, let alone Japan’s past, so it was nice to see a good old fashioned samurai / rival lords feudal Japan story within the Doctor Who world. That being said The Doctor soon discovers the evil Lord Rikushira and his mother Asami had been given alien technology by a race describing themselves as The Gaijin (though this is because there is no name for them in Earth language, so they took a name from the minds of the locals that would best describe them, Gaijin meaning foreigner in Japanese), so it doesn’t stay too deep rooted in classic Japanese history!
At the same time as this Izzy meets a Ronin named Sato Katsura, his master having just been killed by mysterious demons baring the crest of their rival clan the Makoto (of which Rikushira is the head). These demons were manifested by Asami using some of the Gaijin tech, so when Izzy and Sato arrive where The Doctor and co. are, things get crazy! Asami realises that Izzy is from the future and so probes her mind about her country’s future, initially only evoking images of anime, super robots and other current cultural Japanese entertainment, she soon finds out about the two nuclear strikes that end WWII. The flames and devastation drive her mad, and soon she’s turning Izzy’s fantasy entertainment into reality with the Gaijin machine.
I can only assume they don’t mean similar in terms of appearance…
While this is going on, Sato corners Rikushima and gets his revenge, at the same time The Doctor convinces the Gaijin to take their technology back after it results in Asami’s death, and Sato getting gravely wounded. Sato is fine with death though, in fact he was going to commit seppuku after he got his revenge anyway. Sadly for him though, Izzy wants her new friend to live, so The Doctor uses some leftover Gaijin tech to restore him to life, only to find out that the nano-drone technology can’t be switched off, turning Sato Katsura into an immortal being. This is a fate worse than death for Sato, his respect for Izzy being the only thing stopping him from outright killing The Doctor for “stealing his honour”.
It’s a really fun story with the trademark great artwork, the setting, the technology, the idea of peering into the future driving you mad, and of course the old trope of immortality being a curse rather than something to strive for, something that will become clearer later…
Honestly, not a lot! You could say a lot of the dialogue and actions of the characters might veer into stereotype, but a lot was true for the time period, and it’s a period that The Doctor never really visits, so… I didn’t have an issue with it.
A very cool line from The Doctor, though it’s safe to say this decision might come back to bite him on the arse a bit…
Sato Katsura’s fate is one of the key plot points for this “season’s” big finale: “The Glorious Dead”.
I’ll also mention that The Doctor saving the life of someone from Earth’s past using alien technology and accidentally making them immortal due to the pleading of his companion only for the now immortal person to greatly resent him for it (deep breath) is repeated almost exactly in the Twelfth Doctor TV story “The Girl Who Died”. See, it’s not just Russell T. Davies who used the Eighth Doctor comics for inspiration!
I don’t recall this in the Samurai Warriors games…
The Road to Hell is a good story by itself: an interesting and rarely visited time period, some fun use of alien tech, great artwork and creates an interesting character that makes a real impact later on. Not much to complain about, that’s for sure!