A couple of weeks back I watched ‘The Three Doctors’ again, which was originally aired before I was born, but I’ve seen at some point in the murky past. I like all the ‘Doctor Who’ crossover episodes, so I was keen to see what Paul Cornell has devised for his five-part comic event ‘Four Doctors’. I received the wonderful-looking bound volume to delve into and just flicking through the first few pages, trying not to spoil the story for myself, I was struck by the fabulously vibrant artwork with the gorgeous colours and the explosive action that leaps from the page, particularly in the full-page panels. I had to restrain myself from just flicking through the whole volume to enjoy the scenery.
The story is great fun and suitably timey-wimey. As you’d expect, when more than one incarnation of the Doctor is on the scene, this is not just a straight-forward adventure. There are paradoxes, time war references, pocket universes, multiple companions and plenty of intra-Doctoral bickering. Paul Cornell has done a great job of capturing the essences of the various Doctors and boiling them down to visual and dialogue cues that show them off as individual characters. Some of their favourite catchphrases are sprinkled throughout the story, but not in the form of cliché. They’re used with wit and style, allowing the Doctors to play off each other and their companions, allowing the reader to smile and nod along at humorous references while maintaining the pace of the story. It’s a story that doesn’t stop, bouncing us around between different times and realities.
Clara Oswald and the other companions have active and thoughtful roles in the story, too, taking their destinies in their own hands. It’s a marked difference to ‘The Five Doctors’ and ‘The Three Doctors’, filmed as they were in the era when companions were relegated to background, tagging along and asking questions duties. Despite the preponderance of Doctors in this story, they maintain their individuality and ability to question the decisions of the egotistical Time Lords. Clara discovers a photograph of three Doctors together and realises that it is an event that she must prevent as it will lead to the end of the universe. The Doctors being the Doctor this, of course, turns out to be not so easy, especially as he’s got around the end of the universe in the past. Starting off in 1920s Paris and calling on a few well-known locations along the way, it’s one big argument about whether the Doctor’s ego will truly bring about his own downfall.
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. I’m not much of a regular comics reader but I am very glad that I took the opportunity to get hold of this work. There’s always more than initially meets the eye, I find. You can sometimes get caught up in the dialogue and whizz along to find out what happens next, but when you pause and spend a moment admiring the artwork you really begin to appreciate the depths of the story. Facial expressions, body language and many small parts add up to round out each panel and make this a fabulous story.
Gareth D. Jones
(pub: Titan Comics. 128 page graphic novel softcover. Price: £10.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78565-106-3)
check out website: www.titancomics.com