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Doctor Who #4

Posted: Friday, October 16, 2009
By: Ray Tate

Tony Lee
Matthew Dow Smith, Charlie Kirchoff (c)
IDW Publishing
Under the direction of Mr. Finch, a kangaroo court operated by the Shadow Proclamation declared the Doctor guilty of "interfering with a static point in time." The Judoon gladly threw the Doctor into a cell on a prison barge. The Doctor's cellmates, an Ogron, a Draconian and a Sontaran, each have a score to settle with the Last of the Time Lords.

Tony Lee doesn't insult the readers' intellect. He dispenses with the initial suspense of the expected premise. The aliens are not going to kill the Doctor. How could three do what their races en masse could not accomplish? Instead, Lee writes from the perspective of the newest version of the longest running science fiction television series and crafts an entertaining tale that has a modern day feel.

Lee brings up the Time War, a favorite theme of Doctor Who, to hint at a rationale behind the shenanigans. The Time War was the final battle between Time Lords and Daleks, but the entire cosmos felt the repercussions. The aliens share something in common. Their roles, established through the ramifications of the Time War, may surprise fans of the show, but Lee's explanation is sound.

The familiar faces become additional targets for Mr. Finch's treachery. It should come to no surprise to any reader that the Doctor and the aliens are "on a barge to nowhere" not to a prison planet. The Doctor's former nemeses need help, and as always, he's more than happy to give it.

The Ogron is a relic of the Doctor's past and Lee runs with the idea of an old hat monster trying to survive. He compares the Ogron to the newer flavor of mercenary, the Judoon. Every fan probably did the same when watching the Rhinoids march on the surface of the moon in "Smith and Jones." Because neither the Ogrons nor the Judoon are first tier monsters, their fight for supremacy comes off as a simple logical consequence of competition, rather than wet dream fan-fiction.

Lee suggests surprisingly that the sad state of the Ogron species is in part a direct result of the Doctor's interference so many years ago in "Day of the Daleks." You actually begin to feel sorry for the simian thug, until you remember that he's an Ogron. The Ogrons worked for the Daleks. The Doctor put them out of business. Cry me a river.

By inventing such a scene, Lee evolves understated humor and argues vigorously against the Shadow Proclamation's charges. The Doctor may interfere. He may not be perfect, but above all, he is a hero, and the species that these aliens represent engaged in reprehensible behavior. If anything, the sorry states of the alien races that were openly hostile to the earth validate the Doctor's meddling.

Lee keeps the pace rapid and the characterization true. The Doctor is recognizable in voice and action. The "Sontar-Ho" Sontarans and the guttural Judoon distinguish themselves. Mr. Finch makes a cameo and bears the distinctive tones of Anthony Stewart Head. The dialogue between the Doctor and he made this reader grin.

Matthew Dow Smith facilitates the illusion of a David Tennant performance. He also brings the gestures of Stewart Head to the pages. His unique style leaning toward the angular bestows a distinctive look signified by an elegant brevity of lines and an expert use of shadows, notable in not mere aesthetic but also in symbolism that presents the deepening of the Doctor's self-realization. Nobody beats up on the Doctor more than he does.

Whether in the form of prose or comic book, stories spinning off from a television series can read like the worst fan-fiction. Tony Lee continues to write the most authentic sounding Doctor Who tales, and IDW should secure Matthew Dow Smith and Charlie Kirchoff to Doctor Who for the long term. Their art sets the comic book apart and even distinguishes it from that of the longer running comic strip published in Doctor Who Magazine but without sacrificing the texture of the series.



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