Written by David Tipton, Scott Tipton | Art by Various | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 304pp
Back in 2013, when Dr Who anniversary-mania was sweeping the world (or at least areas with a high concentration of geekiness, such as my house) someone at IDW Publishing clearly thought they should just push the boat out and throw literally everything at a 50th Anniversary celebration. That ‘celebration’ ended up being a 12 issue, year long one, featuring nearly every incarnation of The Doctor (up to the date of publication there were eleven incarnations, the War Doctor and Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor yet to make an appearance) and most of their most famous companions. A fantastic idea, and one that Titan Comics agrees with as they have collected all these together into a single omnibus for the very first time.
Where to start? I think it’s important firstly to judge this book not just on the actual story and art, but also on what the book was trying to do thematically. In committing to being a love letter of sorts to the fans, and attempting to shoehorn in as many significant characters as space allows, you necessarily have to make concessions and accept limitations on the story you can tell. IDW, and more specifically writers Scott and David Tipton took the approach of having a relatively loose overarching plot that would tie together at the end, but allowing essentially stand alone adventures for each incarnation of The Doctor.
Chapter One begins by hinting at what is coming, as a mysterious figure deduces that the best way to hurt the Doctor(s) is by attacking his companions, as the one constant through his various incarnations is that ‘he is never alone’. This was the perfect theme to go with, as when you strip away all the time and space travel, the super heroics, you have stories of relationships and companionship, the one constant that runs through every incarnation of The Doctor, and every medium he has ever featured in.
Chapter One begins naturally enough with the first Doctor, the William Hartnell incarnation, and for the next 300 odd pages I don’t believe I stopped smiling. Revisiting each incarnation, one chapter at a time, just reminded me about what I have loved about Dr Who since childhood, the different characters all with their own foibles and eccentricities, their own unique approach to adventuring and mystery solving, and ultimately their own faults and weaknesses. Each chapter is designed to give that incarnation a chance to shine, each story designed to show off that particular Doctor and companion with all the qualities you remember. As a consequence, the individual stories are a little formulaic in structure. Doctor turns up in a certain place and time, identifies the problem/enemy, defeats them and just as he celebrates his companion(s) mysteriously disappear.
In this case though, formulaic is not bad at all. It gives a structure to the overall story that is especially notable in this Omnibus collection, as you can read it all in a relatively short space of time. The only thing that takes away the ‘sameness’ of each chapter is the artwork. Each chapter is drawn by a different artist, which is either a good or bad thing depending on what you wanted from the story. For me, while it takes away the ‘it’s all one story’ feel that a single artist would have given, it also allows you to see different interpretations of those characters, those villains, those places in space and time. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone other than Mike Collins to draw the Jon Pertwee Doctor Chapter Three for example, yet he would not have suited the whimsical style and attitude of Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor adventure.
As you would expect, the final issue is essentially the pay off as all the incarnations of The Doctor appear to take on the villain behind everything, the one who has been kidnapping the companions through time. I won’t give away the twist, but will say it’s not The Master, though he does appear and it is the classic dark-haired, goatee-sporting version the 10 year old me loved. I’m not sure if that or K-9 in action made me smile more.
As fantastically entertaining as these 12 issues worth of story were, for me the whole package is what makes it just the perfect piece of Dr Who nostalgia. Each issue had a text piece written by someone intimately connected with Dr Who, and their affection for the character really shines through, as well as supplying us with some interesting behind the scenes trivia. We also get to see the many alternate covers in poster form, again a real treat. I honestly was not disappointed with any aspect of this collection at all. The worst I could say is that one or two of the artists are not to my own personal liking, Elena Casagrande for example, but that does not ruin the book as a whole. Indeed, the diversity of art is part of the collection’s strength.
If you’ve yet to read this collection I envy you, as it’s fantastic, but read it you should.
Doctor Who Archives: Prisoners of Time Collection is out now from Titan Comics