Titan Comic’s melding of old and new concludes with the final part of Clara Oswald and the School of Death, the Twelfth Doctor gets to face a familiar enemy and, for the large part, you could easily swap him out for the Third Doctor and still tell the same tale. There’s even the presence of UNIT and a fair amount of ‘reverse the polarity of the neutron flow’ gubbins to solve the problem posed by the Sea Devils audacious plan.
As well as invoking classic serials like Terror of the Autons and The Seeds of Doom, the issues main threat also cracks the spines of some famous Sci-Fi classics too such as Children of the Damned and The Body Snatchers – which went on to be adapted several times, most famously the 1956 and 1978 films, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (although here, we’re leaning more towards the ’78 incarnation).
Where it differs is in its very modern approach. The Twelfth Doctor’s appeal to the evolved Sea Devils has him standing with humanity, defending our potential over our more baser instincts for war and cruelty whereas the Third Doctor would probably be far more pragmatic and perhaps willing to hear the creatures out to bring about a peaceful resolution to their devolution plans (there are a couple of very well executed jokes about Scotland being permanently separated from the rest of the United Kingdom). While the Sea Devils, who like a lot of nuWho monsters, are now full of grand speeches and brute strength; lacking some the creepiness of their earlier counterparts, do have the moral high ground, exposing as they do, our pettiness and arrogance, the Twelfth Doctor simply cannot entertain the idea that humanity isn’t ultimately more than the sum of our parts – which is a very nuWho approach to an old idea.
Perhaps that’s the strength of Capaldi’s stern reproach; it often feels like the most honest part of his Doctor when, as seen in this issue, it’s often just as much of a front as a fez or some ‘brainy specs’. As the Doctor says he may be making it up as he goes along but don’t be fooled into thinking that his anger comes from an honest place; it too just another way the Doctor stalls for time. However, once he does turn on you with the full force of his fury, as wonderfully expressed by Rachael Stott’s outstanding expressions, you can’t help but believe him, even though, we know he has argued the opposite many lifetimes ago. Didn’t the Third Doctor face a similar choice when he decided to accept our faults and live amongst us all those years ago, if anything, the Sea Devils hatred is more justified than the Doctor’s faith in our inherent goodness?
It’s the fact that there’s now an ever-growing grey area around these similar tales that make exploring them with a new face such a fascinating endeavour. However, the one thing you wouldn’t catch Pertwee doing was fighting off the enemy with a stuffed fish called Sonny.
And with every plot strand coming to ahead and converging on the Doctor all at once; the pace suffers somewhat. The opening three pages are given over to a spectacular attack on a naval taskforce but then we never return to the stricken fleet and nor is it mentioned again other than to say UNIT have sent them on their way. Everything else is as it should be; played at a thousand miles an hour with the Doctor, Clara, UNIT, and some of the future 1% that inhabit the Ravenscaur school all attempting to fight off the Sea Devils with varying success.
In switching between these states of peril, there isn’t a gradual coming-to-ahead. Instead the issue bounces between each entertaining plot, which not only keeps the narrative ticking over, but also gives the reader a real feast of exciting moments. Sure, the odd bit of exposition does throw a spanner in the works now and then, but you’ll be having too much fun to really care. There’s a real swagger to Robbie Morrison’s script; like the Twelfth Doctor of Series 9 it’s a mixture of childish wonder and brooding, clinical intensity.
A lot of that also comes from the artwork. Both Stott and Ivan Nunes inject every panel with a kinetic, infectious sense of fun – the colouring is rich and friendly while the panelling makes sure that you’re gasping for breath when you should be and then relieved when that last gasp moment finally reveals how the Doctor and Clara survive this time.
Much like the TV incarnation of the Twelfth Doctor, this issue manages to add a bit of swagger to some of the more familiar tropes – even though we aren’t a million miles away from the pace, scale of villainy of classic Who serials, it’s these modern embellishments that really make Doctor Who – Twelfth Doctor #2.4 stand out.
Titan Comics Doctor Who – Twelfth Doctor #2.4 is available to buy now from Comixlogy for £1.99