Reviewed: The Fourth Doctor #2

The thing about in-jokes is that they should be out. Every. Single. Time.

I hate in-jokes. Knowing nods to the audience, smug “aren’t I clever?” asides hidden in the dialogue… it’s fun occasionally, but when you’re battered to the floor with it in the opening pages of a comic book, only to find there are more meta references awaiting later, it jars.

Now, Gordon Rennie is, I know for a fact, better than this. I don’t even have to look at previous works of his (there are many), as I have the rest of the strip to compare it to. References to Gallifrey being in Ireland, to Harry Sullivan, even the OTT inclusion of “tomfoolery” when the Fourth Doctor is being amusing…

It’s almost as if there’s a heavy-handedness to the writing, that otherwise twists and twirls through a fun, exciting adventure. So much fun, in fact, that you wonder why the writer would pull the reader out of the story with in-jokes when the action on the page is so well realised. I mean, is this where we are now, as Doctor Who fans? Do we just watch it for the in-jokes? Is there so little of substance in the stories on TV, in books, on audio, that comic based stories have to follow suit?

What we have here, when you pull away the distractions, is a fascinating tale with a female villain, partially turned to stone during some ill-advised time travel experiment, who is looking for a way to overcome the affliction, something she can only do with the help of an expert time traveller. Great supporting characters, overbearing cyclopean henchmen and a Miss Havisham-style shrouded villainess with a driven obsession for survival places this adventure for the Doctor and Sarah (who he unusually calls Sarah Jane, when it was almost always “Sarah” after his fourth regeneration) squarely in the Hinchliffe era of gothic horror.

With a time-spanning cliffhanger to take us into issue 3, this adventure, meta-nonsense aside, is bloody wonderful, and you should buy it, if you haven’t already.

Just look out for the in-jokes. And feel free to point out any I’ve missed.

Doctor Who – The Fourth Doctor #2 is available from all good stockists and digitally via Comixology.