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Doctor Who #3

Posted: Saturday, September 5, 2009
By: Ray Tate

Tony Lee
Matthew Dow Smith, Charlie Kirchoff (c)
IDW
"Fugitive" Part One

The Shadow Proclamation, the feds of the cosmos, abducted the Doctor from time and space. It seems he saved someone that should have died. Now, the Doctor stands trial for his acts of heroism.

The Time Lords have put the Doctor on trial thrice. In "War Games," they tried him for meddling in time and space. In "Deadly Assassin," they prosecuted him for the assassination of the President. In "Trial of a Time Lord," they arraigned him for interference yet again. The trial of the Doctor is old hat. The fact that Tony Lee can enliven these new proceedings and distinguish the latest hearing from previous prosecutions impresses the hell out of me.

Lee plays extremely fast and loose with the canon. In fact, I don't agree with one of Lee's addenda. Lee rescues a dead character to serve as prosecutor. The author states that the Time Lords left the Shadow Proclamation in charge of the universe. He draws a companion from the Doctor Who audios into evidence. The audios are original Doctor Who adventures on CD with a full cast, including a past Doctor reprised by one of the ten, such as Paul McGann or Colin Baker.

The ongoing comic book series isn't Doctor Who. It's a facsimile of Doctor Who. The continuity of the ongoing comic book series functions within its own context. It's therefore perfectly valid for Lee to borrow a companion from the audios even if she does not exist in the television series. Nevertheless, the author should not openly contradict the television series, and Lee does not. The Proclamation could have teleported the prosecutor out of time/space before the very moment he died. The series never mentions an origin for the Shadow Proclamation. It's dubious that a bunch of xenophobes like the Time Lords would put an alien conglomerate in charge of anything, but perhaps the Proclamation spread such a lie to tender legitimacy.

The Proclamation's claims against the Doctor are complete rubbish. The Doctor knows it. The reader knows it, and Tony Lee knows it. Therein lays the key to the story's success. All parties know that that the Proclamation will find the Doctor guilty. Lee doesn't even try to disguise the transparency.

The kangaroo court takes place in the span of two pages. It is a tour de force that examines the Doctor's character and evolves a familiar plot. The entire Proclamation or elements inside the Proclamation are corrupt. The Doctor will bring them down in the next three issues. Familiarity does not breed contempt. Instead, the rotting of a formerly august body is more of a truism. The execution and style make this latest exploration notable.

Certain facets of characterization that Lee crafted for the Doctor irked me in the past. In this story, Lee shows that the Doctor does indeed care about his companions. The scene where The Doctor remembers Charley Pollard is particularly moving. The Doctor is confident in his actions. He does not regret saving a single life, even the woman who should have died. He does not recognize the Proclamation as the law. He's throughout the story a rebel and an outlaw. For an encore, Lee writes this snatch of dialogue for the Doctor:
"...But I will never stop. Because without people like me, people like him--people like The Master, Davros, the Slitheen, the Nestene Consciousness--people like him win. And that cannot be allowed to happen. I will not let it."

That's as good as any dialogue Russell T. Davies wrote. It describes the Doctor perfectly, and I can imagine David Tennant delivering such phrases with gusto.

Whereas the Doctor's previous trials issued grave atmospheres, Lee uses the Doctor's characterization as well as numerous assassination attempts to maintain a rapid pace that mimics the snappy rhythm of the series. The story just feels like a proper Doctor Who story.

While there is a heady display of television series history, it's all just background, and this issue of Doctor Who would make a very good point for new readers to begin the adventure. For instance, a reader does not need to know who Charley Pollard is. He will be able to discern what she means to the Doctor by simply observing Matthew Dow Smith's artwork.

Smith's use of space evokes the Doctor's loneliness and emphasizes a sad fate for Pollard. The stark shadows compliment the murmur of her name and contrast the appearance of the Doctor throughout the story. In every panel but that one, The Doctor stands in the light. Even when he's actually in a darkened room, the shadows cast on the Doctor's face never look so black. Colorist Kirchoff instead gently shades his face with grays or browns. The shadows only shift when he mentions Charley. Kirchoff's hues in addition bring a blue ethnicity to the Doctor's advocate and indicate her smashing taste in clothing. She stands out as a bright splash of life, like the Doctor, amid the austere surroundings.

Issue three of the new Doctor Who ongoing series is simply put the best Doctor Who story Tony Lee has written to date. It will be the measure for future Doctor Who stories by this creative team. Annotations, lacking spoilers, for this issue may be found in the forum.



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