Written by Paul Cornell | Art by Christopher Jones | Published by Titan Comics
For most people, Tom Baker IS The Doctor, and he was certainly a big part of my TV viewing childhood. For me though, my favourite Doctor was always the Jon Pertwee Third Doctor. He just looked like a really cool granddad to me, with fab gadgets and a nice line in faux karate. Titan obviously needed to test the waters before granting the Third Doctor his own ongoing series, and I’m pleased to see the demand was there. You also don’t get a much safer pair of hands to get the book off the ground than Paul Cornell, not only a top writer for mainstream TV and Marvel and DC Comics, but also a writer of Who novels, audio books and comics. Artist Christopher Jones is also a solid addition to the creative team, having a good track record for DC and Marvel as well.
Cornell had something of an interesting decision to make in terms of where he wanted the book to go, as those of an older vintage may remember what made the Third Doctor somewhat unique at first. He had been forcibly regenerated by the Time Lords into this third incarnation, and had had his ability to pilot the TARDIS taken away through a mind wipe; the TARDIS had also been disabled as well. He was, in essence, exiled to Earth and so worked alongside the organisation UNIT, commanded by Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart as its scientific advisor. His companion, although an Earthbound one initially, is UNIT employee Jo Grant. Cornell decided to incorporate all this it seems, but pick up at the point where the exile has been lifted, and The Doctor is now free to explore all time and space once again.
As you would expect from a first issue, we get a whole lot of set-up. Not a criticism of course, and as Cornell tends to weave elaborate plots and sub-plots that unfold over several issues, wholly necessary. Although the story begins with a crashed space ship to which UNIT have been scrambled, including the Doctor (still love that WHO I number plate on his classic car), we have already been introduced to a certain disguised, er, Masterful opponent. That, clearly, is a teaser for another day. UNIT engage the aliens who seem intent on attacking, and even The Doctor’s attempts at mediation fail. A quick investigation allows the Doctor to engineer a quick fix, a force field by which UNIT can hold them back, but he is sure there is more going on he has yet to encounter. Returning to UNIT, Cornell has saved the biggest surprise appearance for the last page, as The Doctor comes face to face with….ah, that would be telling.
Negatives first. Although a set-up issue, this was very light in content indeed. The actual plot took a most definite back seat to introduction of characters and setting, which I suppose is fair enough. Christopher Jones’s art was also a little on the breezy, cartoony side, with very bright colouring increasing that feel. And that’s it.
Positives? Where do I start. Cornell from page 1 perfectly captured the setting and characterisation of everyone, really evoking that 70′s feel. The dialogue felt right, the locations felt right, even the lighter tone of the story. Although Jones’s art seemed a little too light at first, he was spot on with his character likenesses, and the look of important elements such as UNIT HQ and The Doctor’s car.
Fun, entertaining, nostalgic, and the promise of much more to come with the teaser appearances of two very big hitters from the show. Top quality.
But then you knew it would be, didn’t you.
Doctor Who: The Third Doctor #1 is out now from Titan Comics