While we ponder the meaning of “Watch this space” [see Doctor Who’s official Twitter page] and whatever’s going to be announced on November 23rd (a New Year’s Day Special, or the premiere date for the new season), there’s one Doctor Who holiday special you can rely on this year and that’s what’s coming out this week from Titan Comics.
Featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her fam – Ryan, Yaz, and Graham – t’is the season to be jolly but where should they go? A time machine opens up the possibilities, immensely, but the TARDIS hasn’t always been known for its punctuality and the Doctor’s confidence that they can fit in a couple activities before hitting the Christmas dinner Graham and Ryan have to attend seems ambitious, even if she’s technically right. There shouldn’t be any reason they have to limit themselves.
This is my first-time reading Jody Houser’s run for the Thirteenth Doctor (Roberta Ingranata took over for artist, Rachael Stott, in volume two) and I’ve only skimmed through the last couple of issues, but while the recap mentions they recently broke up a “crooked carnival con,” that appears to be news to new readers as much as ongoing fans.
It shows how much thought Houser put into this storyline, though, because memory is what this issue’s all about. Even the recap is in on the cover up. When Ryan suggests they go to an amusement park, it causes everyone to recall what happened last time they went to one of those. What quickly becomes apparent is nobody remembers these events the same way. While all of their recollections involve someone having a close call, they’re otherwise quite different, and you know the Doctor isn’t going to let a juicy mystery like that slide. They’re going to have to go back and figure out what really happened.
It’s there that the holiday theme gets picked up again, with some of the characters and wooden buildings, sporting tops like Murano jewelry and candy cane striped exteriors. It’s not very wintery (though snowflakes do get used for a cool transition) but it is whimsical and completely different from the TARDIS, which colorist, Enrica Eren Angiolini (Shari Chankhamma did the flats), sets apart by having the interiors be all one-color – a warm, yellow glow that’s not replicated anywhere else.
The tiny doors, straight out of Alice in Wonderland, are a simple detail that adds a lot. Practically speaking, you never get a clear idea of how tall the locals are (they’re always sitting down or Ingranata focuses in on their faces), but you do get the Doctor sitting cross-legged on the floor, waiting for them to answer the door. It’s a comedic image but also one that shows how considerate the Doctor is, in recognizing that her height could be intimidating. Getting on their level so they can feel safe talking to her, even the sfx for her knock (Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Sarah Hedrick are the letterers) is a gentle “rap rap rap.”
Part two of the special comes out in December, but part one is available now from Titan Comics, with all of the trimmings you hope for from a holiday story.