Titan’s Doctor Who comic line rings in a new this week when Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor starts his three-issue run. Teased in Titan’s Free Comic Book Day title (if any new readers are wondering why there’s a “Previously” recap in a #1 issue), I can honestly say that the recap tells you everything you need to know and then some. If I hadn’t read the issue I would’ve thought I missed something (and the recap made me nervous, so I double checked) but the Seventh Doctor’s appearance lasts five pages and only the ending — Group Captain Gilmore contacting the Doctor for help — pertains to this issue.
I’ve only seen one episode with the Seventh Doctor (his companion, Ace’s, debut, “Dragonfire”), but got excited when I heard this series was coming out after enjoying so many of Big Finish’s Seventh Doctor audio dramas. What’s great about this miniseries is if you look up Ian Gilmore, he was in the original series but only appeared in “Remembrance of the Daleks.” A few other guest stars this issue are from that episode, too (Ben Aaronovitch wrote “Remembrance of the Daleks” and is credited as the comic’s executive producer) but if you’re someone, like me, who hopes to get better acquainted with Classic Who, Seventh Doctor provides a starting point.
The issue is broken into two stories, both of which are left to be continued in issue two. The Gilmore one is titled “Operation Volcano” and has the Doctor flying to Australia for an adventure set in the desert. Some time has passed since Gilmore signaled the Doctor in 1967, and while the ‘start at the end so you can backtrack’ approach isn’t always my favorite, as written by Andrew Cartmel, it’s not so much that you’re smarter about what will happen, but that you realize it’s going to get serious, so every decision has greater importance. The opening scene also puts the weight of the world on Ace’s shoulders, with artist, Christopher Jones, holding off on showing the Doctor’s face fully until she comes to a decision. The Doctor’s ready to assist her, whatever she decides, and Marco Lesko does a beautiful job coloring this fire lit scene (and later lighting a cave), where the one, cool element is the brilliant blue of Ace and the Doctor’s eyes.
For a story that depends so much on guest stars, Cartmel is very successful at setting them apart. Jones’ faces are open books and their varying levels of enthusiasm for being in a Doctor Who adventure show off their different personalities. Gilmore couldn’t be less enthused about working with the Doctor again and the scene where he’s standing in his office before heading to the airport reads all of his displeasure at leaving the familiar for the strange.
Cartmel takes advantage of Doctor Who’s time travel capabilities to extend the issue’s reach into the future. You feel its magnitude every time letterers Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt note the time or place, and there are consequences stretching all the way to 2029. Today, 2029 is a lot closer than it would’ve been to fans watching the Seventh Doctor in the late 80’s, but where you might’ve predicted jet packs for the future then, it’s fun to see expectations tempered and that Cartmel doesn’t need to invent a fancy gadget to do what a net does already.
A back-up story, “Hill of Beans,” takes place after the events of “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” (another episode to add to your queue) but, more than “Operation Volcano,” feels like a story that might be better appreciated if you know the episode or are a fan of the plot of Casablanca which writer, Richard Dinnick, reworks. One neat thing is Jessica Martin, who played Mags, the werewolf, in that episode and this issue, is the artist on this story and her robot clowns, colored by Charlie Kirchoff, look like confectionary cake decorations.
The Seventh Doctor #1 gives the Seventh Doctor the launch he deserves. An exciting start for the panama-wearing time lord.
“Operation Volcano” Part 1 of 3
“Hill of Beans” Part 1 of 3
The Seventh Doctor #1 goes on sale June 6th from Titan Comics.