25th Mar2016

‘Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby | Art by Brian Williamson | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp


If you asked the average long time Doctor Who fan, not the real fanatics of course who dissect the minutiae of every appearance and adventure, who they think of when they think of The Doctor and I’d wager the majority would say Tom Baker’s Doctor. I think it’s fair to say Tom Baker elevated The Doctor to a new level when he played The Doctor in the 1970’s, managing to outshine even Jon Pertwee’s fantastic third incarnation (still my personal favourite, though growing up in the 1970’s Tom Baker was ‘my’ Doctor). The Fourth Doctor also has a long history in comic book form, having had comic strips featuring himself in many countries, not least a Marvel Comics series. His return to an ongoing comic is long overdue, and shows that Titan Comics management of the Dr Who franchise is working very well indeed.

The action opens in late Victorian London, where The Doctor and companion Sarah Jane Smith have been taking a break. Unbeknownst to them, a mysterious veiled lady ,waited on by blind servants and seemingly in charge of giant one eyed aliens in Victorian dress (I kid you not), has been watching them and decides she wants Sarah Jane brought to her. The aliens, apparently called Scryclops, manage to seize Sarah Jane, as we are reminded that Tom Baker’s Doctor was not much of a hand to hand fighter (in contrast to Jon Pertwee’s all action, karate chop maestro Third Doctor). In fact, he is rescued by a local woman, Athena, who has been following the aliens with her father, Professor Odysseus James.

Professor James is something of an investigator into time travelling, which amuses The Doctor no end, and reveals the aliens are based in Chiswick. ‘Chiswick. This could be worse than I thought’ muses The Doctor, just one example of some great dialogue found throughout this issue. Rennie/ Beeby clearly have a perfect handle on the mannerisms and speech of Tom Baker, and the humour is present throughout, pitched perfectly. Sarah Jane in the meantime learns that her veiled captor is Lady Emily Carstairs, who though human knows a lot more about time travel than she should. To add to the mystery, why does she have a room full of eerily realistic stone statues, and why does the one at the end look like Sarah Jane… tune in next week to find out!

This issue felt so much like an old classic episode it should have ended with that.

I’d be hard pressed to find anything negative to say here. The story, the setting, the villains, and the characterisations are all perfect for this Doctor. It has the feel of the mid 70’s Doctor, I could almost hear the bad music playing in the background as I was reading. Rennie/ Beeby move effortlessly between action and humour, adding a small dash of horror and suspense for good measure. Brian Williamson’s art throughout is excellent, perfectly suits the story, and does a good job of capturing the likenesses of Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen. Pacing is very good, and Williamson is not afraid to play around with panel shape and structure, which keeps it visually interesting.

With the Doctor Who comics I find it is important to capture The Doctor and companion personalities first, and then worry about the plot and story. Well realised characters and personalities can plug into pretty much any scenario, but even the best scenario will fall flat if we don’t buy the main characters or their relationship.

While you read this, it is 1976, Tom Baker IS The Doctor, Sarah Jane IS the companion, and you are off to bed once it finishes. Perfect.

****½  4.5/5

Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #1 is out now from Titan Comics


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