Reviewed: The Eighth Doctor #3

Issue #2 did a great job of peeling back the charming veneer of this decidedly softer, warmer Doctor; revealing enough of his darker past to suggest a lifetime of oscillating between the role of conscientious objector and taking the ‘no win’ option, had given him enough insight to solve a hostile situation involving two bedded in opponents.

In this issue we get the opposite of that; a Doctor who knows the depths of self-disgust that can dwell within, fuelling even the most unfathomable cruelties; turning this insight into his fellow man to an obvious advantage.

Playing to the strengths of the Eighth Doctor – who operates throughout this mini-series as a gateway Doctor; he isn’t too far in the past to appear alien to younger readers and nor are his concerns markedly different to those of his successors – in fact, without the foreboding presence of the Time War, we would be seeing a different Doctor entirely – we do however get to see the best of this incarnation.

The Doctor and Josie (who unfortunately gets relegated to the side lines in this issue) are in Victorian Edinburgh to catch a magic show by the mysterious Philippot’s Magesterial Delights. You see, Philippots showpiece involves a neat trick which for all intents and purpose ‘transports’ audience members from one mirror to another.

Some of the early stand-out moments focus on the Doctors glee at the apparent magic and his attempts to see behind the showmanship of magician onstage.

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Naturally for a comic whose main antagonist uses mirrors to ensnare audience members (or at least parts of them, more on those later) there is a fair amount of discussion of perception, reality and self-reflection; is the self we present to the world a true representation of who we are? Should it be a true representation? How guarded is our idea of who we are and do we in our actions end up revealing our true nature regardless? How long do you have to believe the lie before it becomes true and what’s left once the veneer is exposed as mere fabrication?

It’s heady stuff but thanks to the bubble-gum hue of the excellent artwork by Emma Vieceli  – which perfectly captures the light touch of George Mann’s writing – it’s not a navel-gazing slog; it’s one of the strongest issues so far.

Within each self-contained issue – again the main baddie is disposed of before the last panel, with the overall arc still very much hanging in the air; just what the message contained within the Doctor’s copy of Jane Eyre has to do with the mini-series narrative is still open to interpretation, if it means anything at all – Mann has done a fine job of exploring a facet of the Eighth Doctor.

However, it would be great to see him tackle one aspect of his personality over several issues. The same can be said for the plot; once we find out the true nature of the parallel world, events become oddly truncated. There’s more than enough material here to expand upon but, then again, an abundance of ideas verses execution feels like a very Doctor Who problem to have.

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Last issue, I spoke of how much I loved the panelling (again, it’s superb – perhaps my favourite pieces are the little rectangles that help set the tone with just a glimpse of a gaslight or a stage light) and learning that we were going to be dabbling in mirror worlds and altered perceptions, I was expecting the panels to become even more fluid and segmented but, expectations dodged, what we get instead are segmented characters.

Yes, the fate of those who don’t quite pass though the mirror is to live as horrible, frightening slices of animated parts and it’s gloriously creepy – and, if truth be told, reminiscent of the Boneless from Series Eight’s Flatline.

Overall, the issue is entertaining enough with a delightfully dark premise underneath all the razzmatazz, it’ll be interesting to see whether these insights into the Eighth Doctor’s nature combine into a satisfying conclusion but, there’s enough interesting material here to justify taking a trip with the Doctor and Josie Day.

The collected Eighth Doctor mini-series A Matter of Life and Death is available to pre-order now for release on May 18th from Amazon.