‘So, Doctor Who? It’s like a TV show?’
‘It’s THE TV show. Everyone watches it. Even my mom.’
Now, how many times have we had this kind of conversation with our friends, family, and that poor bloke on the bus who asked why my shirt read ‘No, not the mind probe’? I’m guessing at least once or twice. As part of the BBC Ongoing Adventures of the Ninth Doctor, Titan Comics present Doctormania. A three part series bringing the Doctor, Rose, and Jack to the Gharusa Prime and a world where the Doctor is a little more well-known than he would like. But I can say for certain that I have never had this conversation with the Doctor himself, no matter how much I wish I had. Well, this comic brings the Doctor Who universe and fandom into contact with one another and true to form, it’s going to get all timey wimey!
Now, the last time I read a Ninth Doctor comic was way back when the Doctor Who Annual (2006) came out; funnily enough, the volume which contained a very familiar story involving some Weeping Angels… I remember carrying that hefty volume to school in my backpack and reading the whole thing over and over again in my form room. And the comic Mr Nobody remains a firm favourite to this day. So when this series was announced, I remember being very excited, but also kind of nervous, when I consider whether they would adopt the style that the older Ninth Doctor comics used in volumes like the annual or in DWM. These styles are so familiar to the Ninth Doctor and really fit his era and even writing about this now, I feel a sense of glorious nostalgia arising.
Thankfully, there was nothing to be concerned about. The cover art is the first indication of the standard of the work in this piece. It is utterly beautiful. In the foreground, we have the brilliant bright blue of the, now old, sonic screwdriver and the dark nebula background allows the large image of Eccleston to really stand out. There is nothing else to clutter the cover, only our splendid Ninth Doctor. He’s back and he means business.
There’s also a bevvy of beautiful variants, including a stunning white one that alludes to Eccleston playing one of the Beatles…
Delving inside the comic, the artist Adriana Melo’s illustrations for the main characters, especially the Doctor and his mysterious doppelganger, are akin to the styles of John Ross and Mike Collins who worked on the comic art in the annual and DWM respectively. Meanwhile, for anyone who has for some unknown reason skipped the Ninth Doctor or forgotten everything about that glorious series, there is a nice little summary before the comic begins situating this story in the context of the first season. This story takes place after Jack has joined the TARDIS team in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and also after The Ninth Doctor Miniseries which ran from April 1st 2015 to December 2nd 2015 where they helped bring peace to the galactic temporal war between the Unon and the Lect – handily available collected together in a graphic novel.
Cavan Scott, the writer, picks up right where the previous set of Ninth Doctor comics left us. It begins with our favourite characters running for their lives from a rampaging monster intent on gobbling them up. Now I don’t know about you, but I would expect nothing less. As they enter the TARDIS and dematerialise out of harm’s way, they receive an SOS from a familiar face. It appears to be Jack dressed in his World War II gear on a futuristic world. The Daleks are attacking and the signal is failing fast. Jack doesn’t remember making the distress call and immediately, the team suspect that the message was sent while Jack still worked for the Time Agency. A relic from a time in Jack’s life which he can no longer remember; memories that were stolen from him for reasons unknown. Not one to miss out on an opportunity to jump in at the deep end, the Doctor identifies where and whenabouts the call could be from and takes the TARDIS straight to Gharusa Prime.
As soon as they leave the TARDIS, they come across a large billboard with the Doctor’s face emblazoned upon it.
Over the course of the story, the Doctor and his friends are followed by fans wanting to get a selfie or get something signed by their favourite holo-stars. The Doctor is famous and a world of Doctor Who fandom has the TARDIS crew bewildered and on edge, with Rose, at one point, asking the Doctor ‘Shouldn’t the TARDIS be translating this?’ when one of the screaming fans, Yani, starts OMG-ing and hnnnng-ing all over the place.
Things become even more complicated when a man resembling the Doctor swoops in out of nowhere, flying the Whomobile which is a lovely touch, and destroys a group of aliens calling themselves Chumblies who have started firing on civilians in the street.
Exploring and indulging the fans has been seen a few times in Doctor Who over the years: during Time Crash, for example, when the Fifth Doctor accuses the Tenth Doctor of being a fan, and when Chris Addison’s character, Seb, is refused permission to SQUEEEEEE in Dark Water/Death in Heaven. I’d say this comic nicely brings in the image of a more explicit and certainly louder fandom which the show has accumulated over the years since Christopher Eccleston first stepped into the TARDIS. I like how this deals with fandom and uses it to further the story, adding confusion and intrigue to the storyline. Indeed, the English student in me might describe it as all rather Meta.
Without spoiling the ending, our time travelling trio have been split up with the Doctor and Jack in police custody for identity theft and Rose having slipped away from the baying crowds only to confront a very familiar enemy leading us to the cliffhanger.
All in all, I would certainly recommend this comic, not only as a good story but as a representation of the love and care that is still held for Eccleston’s Doctor and how his story can still be explored in exciting and intriguing ways which hold true to his tenure as the Doctor.
Doctor Who – The Ninth Doctor #1 is available from all good stockists and digitally via Comixology.