Let me give you some context on my love for Doctor Who. A year and a half ago, I wrote something on my blog about how I “never really understood” how anyone could like the “Doctor Who” television show. Or how anyone could think it was good. Or something along those lines. An insightful reader called me on such ignorant assertions, challenging me to give the Russell T. Davies series a shot, explaining how many similarities it shared with the comic book work of one Grant Morrison, who I have written about with adoration more than once.
Well, my prejudice about the rubber alien costumes and cheesy special effects was quickly overcome one I started watching the Davies series from the beginning. And within a couple of months, I — along with my kids, who got sucked into the series with me — had watched every episode of the 21st century “Doctor Who.” And, of course, we loved it. And have been faithful viewers ever since.
The comic is a different story. I’ve sampled some of the “Classic Doctor Who” comics, but other than a couple of stories by, ahem, Grant Morrison, I pretty much only found them interesting when Dave Gibbons provided the art. And the problem I’ve had with the new IDW “Doctor Who” comics is that the miniseries from a couple of years back had less-than-stellar art, and the first two issues of this Tony Lee-penned series suffered from the same problem. The art just wasn’t good enough to match the quality of the stories. To give “Doctor Who” the look it deserved.
Then I found out Matthew Dow Smith was drawing this series, starting after the first arc, and he’s a darn good artist. So I picked up this issue, to see if, finally, the new IDW “Doctor Who” comics had art that matched the quality of the writing.
Turns out, Matthew Dow Smith didn’t draw this issue (or the last one), and Blair Shedd isn’t quite to the level of a Matthew Dow Smith. But the art isn’t bad. With Shedd’s linework and the coloring of Charlie Kirchoff, this issue, this arc, has an animation-cel kind of look. It’s clean and though it over-relies on medium shots and long shots, it’s still not half-bad looking.
And Tony Lee’s story is excellent, a true comic book “Doctor Who” episode, with clockwork alien gods and Martha Jones commanding the Unit troops, and the ghost of John Dee haunting a magical library. It has scope and intelligence and inside jokes (with the David Tennant-looking Doctor holding a skull in his hand at one point, a nod to his after-“Who” performance as Hamlet). But it’s also interesting in that it highlights a problem with trying to do David Tennant’s Doctor as a comic book character. His Doctor, in moments of climactic drama, speaks quickly. The tempo of his language amplifies the tension.
In comics, all that translates to is a lot of words on a page, which slows the narrative down instead of speeding it up. Comics are not television, as this issue so aptly shows.
Still, it’s a near faithful reproduction of the kind of thing you might see in a “Doctor Who” serial with an unlimited budget, and though Tennant’s Doctor doesn’t translate perfectly to the page, Tony Lee captures his voice about as well as he can, given the restrictions of the medium. It’s a good complement to the series, even with a new Doctor in the TARDIS on television. It gives this series a kind of immediate nostalgia. And that’s okay.