As a long-time “Doctor Who” fan, I found myself more than a little curious to see how Titan would handle their “Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor” comic book. Actor Christopher Eccleston launched the return of the series in 2005 but ended up departing at the end of the first season; as a result, there’s a very limited amount of tie-in media connected to his brief era on the show, and most of it is weak in nature. In the case of this comic from Cavan Scott and Blair Shedd, though, they have the voice of all three characters ringing true.
The best part about “Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor” #1 is how well Scott nails the dialogue. The Ninth Doctor had a slightly caustic and sarcastic turn of phrase, and that’s something that can be very difficult to bring to life in the printed word. Eccleston’s delivery of the lines was as much a part of the overall experience as the script. That said, Scott has an ear for the Ninth Doctor; you can hear the slightly clipped delivery in the word balloons here, and I appreciate that Scott has found a way to make him just a touch prickly in spots without ever losing sight of his protective nature and affection for his companions.
Set immediately after “The Doctor Dances,” Scott gets a chance to play with Rose and the Doctor adjusting to Jack’s arrival on board the TARDIS. By the time of “Boom Town,” the trio has clearly gelled, but this is still the early days for the characters. Scott does a good job with this concept; you’ll like how the Doctor is still laying out the rules to Jack and how, in many ways, Jack is still learning the ropes for what it means to be a crew member on board the TARDIS. Rose probably has the least to do in this opening issue, but she’s set up for a big cliffhanger that is potentially propelling her into a plotline that should put a lot more focus on the character in the remaining issues.
The plot is reasonable, one that fits in well with the tenor and story arc that showrunner Russell T. Davies had created for the episodes airing in 2005. The idea of the Doctor arriving at a planet that he knows, only to find it mysteriously destroyed before its time, brings to mind the early mysteries of the Time War that were just starting to spin out to the audience. The plot is only starting to really kick in here, but it’s promising.
The stumbling block for “Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor” #1 is, unfortunately, the art. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: character likenesses beyond a simple portrait are extremely hard to master. With that in mind, Shedd’s art is extremely variable. Some panels look relatively on point (like when the Doctor is being scanned), but they also come across a bit posed and stuff; it feels like those ones are being based a little too strongly on publicity photos. Other points in the comic are a bit more fluid, but the characters also look a little cartoonish and not quite right. The more worrisome part is that the two big moments involving action — first, the part where Rose’s new bracelet activates, and then the sequence at the end of the comic — are a little clumsy. The setup for the former is drawn in a way where it’s hard to understand what’s actually happening; the perspective and viewpoint keep changing, with one panel not flowing well into the next. At the end of the comic, the big moment looks very awkward and strangely posed; what should be a dramatic scene actually looks a little silly.
“Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor” #1 has promise but, while Scott’s writing is moving along nicely, Shedd’s part needs to catch up; that’s a distinct possibility, as Shedd works with these characters and gets a bit more comfortable. The Ninth Doctor hasn’t had a lot of strong media tie-in exposure up until now, so I want to see this comic do well; hopefully, it can be the first in a line of good comics with this group of characters. There’s a lot of potential in filling in the time period with the Doctor, Rose and Jack travelling together, and this has real promise to deliver on that front.