By Tom Fink
Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor #1
Written by Andrew Cartmel
Art by Christopher Jones
Colors by Marko Lesko
Executive Produced by Ben Aaronovitch
COVER A: Alice X. Zhang
COVER B: Photo – Will Brooks
COVER C: Christopher Jones
COVER D: Simon Myers
Release date: June 6, 2018
Cover price: $5.99
While the Seventh Doctor may have gotten an unfairly bad rap during his time in the TARDIS, the last Doctor of the “Classic” era returns this week in Titan Comics’s 3-issue miniseries, simply titled Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor.
For those unfamiliar with actor Sylvester McCoy’s history in the role, he came along in the wake of a particularly tumultuous time in the television series as the previous Doctor (Colin Baker) failed to endear himself to audiences and ratings reach an all-time low. Controversy on-and-off the screen led to the series taking an 18-month hiatus before returning for one final season of Colin Baker episodes before McCoy assumed duties as the titular Time Lord.
Initially bumbling, the Seventh Doctor’s personality evolved over time, gradually showing he was more in control, more cunning arguably than all of his predecessors. McCoy’s Doctor was a showman and often pretended to be bumbling to trick his foes into underestimating him (the same, which could be said about McCoy’s performance in the role).
By his final season, the Seventh Doctor, now in the company of his rebellious teen companion/protégé, Ace (Sophie Alred), had become darker, more manipulative, and mysterious, but the new direction of the character wasn’t enough to keep the series going, and in 1989, the Seventh Doctor and Ace walked off into the figurative sunset for the last time.
Since then, McCoy’s Doctor has had other adventures in the form of novels, Big Finish’s audio dramas (which are well worth a listen), and now, his own comic book miniseries.
So, how does the Seventh Doctor adapt to comics? Quite handily, as it turns out.
Without giving away too much, Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor #1 “Operation Volcano” (part one) plays out like a typical Seventh Doctor adventure, beginning with a mystery involving an alien threat that’s entered Earth’s orbit, attacks on astronauts, characters with dubious motives, including one with more than a passing resemblance to Darren McGavin during his Carl Kolchak (the Night Stalker) days, set in the backdrop of the Australian interior, and ending with a typical Whovian-cliffhanger.
Oftentimes, the narrative can be a bit confusing, not unlike some of the Seventh Doctor’s original stories, with numerous characters being introduced without explanation and elements seemingly disconnected to the main story being introduced, thus adding to the mystery of character motives and/or their relevance to the story.
But such was often the case during McCoy’s tenure as the Doctor, with some of his adventures leaving the viewer more unsure than satisfied, but almost always entertained by story’s end. In other words, fans of the Seventh Doctor’s run on the show should enjoy this comic book.
Helping bring the Seventh Doctor to the page are some of his oldest behind-the-scenes friends, including Andrew Cartmel, who was the series showrunner during McCoy’s time in the TARDIS, and Ben Aaronovitch, who wrote two of the best McCoy-eras Who episodes, “Battlefield” and “Remembrance of the Daleks.” While some of the dialogue can be a bit dodgy — not once does Ace refer to the Doctor as “Professor” — it certainly does pack an old school Who feel.
Christopher Jones’s art is serviceable, if not overly stylized, possibly for reasons of trying to capture the Seventh Doctor’s likeness and expressions, which he does. Ace, however, and some of the supporting characters, seem a bit bland by comparison, but if nothing else, the panels aren’t rendered or cluttered to the point of being distracting, as the story sometimes is.
As a bonus, “Hill of Beans” continues the fun in a little story following up on the aftermath of the Doctor and Ace’s escapades in “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy,” written by Richard Dinnick and with art by Mags the werewolf herself (featured in “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”), Jessica Martin, whose pencils are more lighthearted, as is the story.
All in all, Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor #1 isn’t an especially triumphant return of the master manipulator, but it is good to see the character back in action, even if the first episode seems to be laying the groundwork for action in future issues, after such a long time. Fans of this Doctor should be pleased.
And after such a long time, fans of this Doctor should be pleased, too.