‘In Bill’s first comic book adventure, the TARDIS crashes into the heart of a Viking camp! But this is no interactive history lesson – a terrifying alien force has taken over the icy kingdom. As the snow melts, the Doctor realises that he is about to face more than one unwelcome face from the past… And for a different flavour of peril, the Doctor asks Bill and Nardole on a trip to an intergalactic superstore, where they make an unexpected new friend… or is that enemy?!’
Doctor Who: The Wolves of Winter collects together two very different stories in one bumper volume, with the short sci-fi adventure to a space supermarket, and a brilliant journey to the past that involves Vikings, as well as a number of monsters from past adventures.
The first story is definitely the stronger of the two, whilst this is in part because it has the majority of book in which to tell its story rather than one single issue. With a setting that we rarely see the television series attempt, our heroes land unexpectedly in the Antarctic wastes, besieged by snowstorms. It’s an atmospheric location, one that has lent itself well to horror stories in the past.
That’s what this first story is, as horror. It has more of a spiritual connection to John Carpenter’s The Thing than you’d initially expect from a Doctor Who story, and whilst at first it appears to be a story about Vikings, the sudden inclusion of The Flood infection pushes it into horror territory.
A prequel story of sorts to the 2009 special ‘The Waters of Mars’, we get to learn more about the mysterious water virus that wiped out the Mars colony in that story thanks to the inclusion of Ice Warriors, who are able to fill in some of the background details that were only vaguely hinted at in the past.
Whilst this would be enough to be a story in itself, the fight against time to stop The Flood reaching Earth’s oceans and infecting everything, it goes one further by adding connections to the Sylvester McCoy story, ‘The Curse of Fenric’, introducing vampire creatures called Haemovores.
The additional faction means that the Doctor and Bill really get pushed to their limits as they must not only juggle an uneasy alliance between Vikings and Ice Warriors, and stop The Flood from getting to the ocean, but also contend with vampire monsters from the future who are working for an evil godlike entity.
This may have been too many story threads for some, but the writer, Richard Dinnick, is able to keep all of these plot threads in the air at the same time, giving each of them time to breath, shocking moments, and realistic connections and interactions. Even if you are unaware of these past stories the book manages to tell its own engaging narrative that stands on its own.
The second story, which sees the Doctor and his companions going shopping, is very short in comparison, but that’s a good thing. There’s very little that happens in this story and the characters come across as very one-dimensional and shallow, which is a stark contrast to the previous tale.
It also has some fairly standard and predictable sci-fi plot points which means that it’s very easy to see where the story is going, and nothing about it is a great surprise.
Doctor Who: The Wolves of Winter has a great main story, one that draws upon the history of the franchise and delivers an engaging and tension filled adventure. Sadly, the second story lets the book down somewhat as it fails to capture the imagination, or entertain.