Reviewed: Titan Comics’ Tenth Doctor #3.1

It’s sometimes easy to underestimate the importance of Doctor Who comics, novels, and audios, given the amount of televised material we’ve had to spoil us since 2005. Back in the late 1980s, things were very different, when fans had to endure their favourite show being wedged into timeslots that would hasten its demise. We knew then that ‘winter was coming’.

Having to keep pace with shows like Coronation Street delivered the coup de grace, exiling the show to begin its hiatus and wait for the word ‘reboot’ to become fashionable. During those lean years, fans such as myself needed fresh material to keep them warm in surviving that long winter. Novelisations and comics provided the safe-haven that could endure outside of the TV canon. Doctor Who seemed almost dead, yet it still had a strong pulse. The Doctors and their companions could continue their adventures agelessly, allowing fresh talents to expand the Doctor Who universe, filling in the many story opportunities that the show’s rich history provided between televised episodes and seasons – a marketplace notably exploited by Big Finish in recent years.

My own experience of Doctor Who comic books isn’t extensive; I’m probably not familiar with much since the likes of The Iron Legion and Abslom Daak, but reading Titan’s Tenth Doctor offering reminded me that comics can offer something that televised Who cannot.

The Tenth Doctor spent much of Russell T Davies’ tenure on modern-day Earth and the Powell Estate; the Eleventh Doctor, under Steven Moffat’s direction, found himself roaming Leadworth in similar fashion, while the Twelfth’s home-from-home was to be found amidst various educational institutions. Furthermore, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors were given adventures stateside, albeit slightly Big Apple-centric, perhaps to bolster interest in the show across the pond (and admittedly, it appeared to work!). These constraints, however, of both time and place, do not apply in comic book adventures such as this – widening the scope of where and when the Doctor and his companions can visit.

Written by Nick Abadzis, the premise of Breakfast at Tyranny’s is as slick as Giorgia Sposito’s artwork while it runs with a new TARDIS team in a continuation of the previous story. Featuring companion back-stories alongside the introduction of a Doctor suffering an amnesia-driven identity crisis, the look and feel of the adventure is reminiscent in some ways of the dystopian futures given life in work such as Manga. This gives the story a fresh alternative universe feel that moves away from drabber visions of the future – consisting of men with long hair, beards, and brown hessian clothing – and instead employs colour and a mixture of imaginative skylines and landscapes.

In the mix are the ingredients that Doctor Who thrives on. The terrifyingly named ‘Wraith Hounds’, preying on the downtrodden in the backstreets, provide the fear and peril, while the treatment of Gabby Gonzalez, at the hands of tyrannical restaurant owner, Hector, serves as a reminder that oppression can come in smaller, everyday packages, rather than large scale enslavements of peoples and cultures. This real-life storytelling gives the characters an extra dimension – much like Rose – while neatly setting up a story-arc for different threads to converge when the time comes.

When reading the dialogue, it can sometimes be difficult to put the Tenth Doctor’s voice to the words; the language sometimes feels generic and one wonders if Tennant’s Doctor could be replaced with any incarnation since Peter Davison and produce the same effect. This, however, is a small grumble, and it is important to be aware that with limited space to include intricate dialogue, the reader relies as much on the imagery for exposition as he or she does the written word.

For the younger fanbase, who want to continue enjoying the adventures of a timeless hero, they will not be disappointed. The instalment ends provocatively enough for the reader to want to know more, and subsequently indulge in the next issue. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see if such a promising story foundation will be rewarded with a plausibly cogent conclusion – probably one of the hardest things to get right in storytelling. We shall see.

Luckily, winter isn’t coming again just yet, as far as we know, but if it does, it’s good to know that further adventures from the expanded Whoniverse are out there waiting to be read.