In the comics world, the Doctor never really goes away, with a near constant stream from Titan Comics of endless adventures for many of the Doctor’s incarnations, but this one is a little different and, indeed, a little more special. The Many Lives of Doctor Who could be considered a tiny prequel event before the return of Doctor Who, and the full arrival of Jodie Whittaker’s first Time Lady running the TARDIS, under the stewardship of new show runner Chris Chibnall. Any new era deserves a final lap of the old – which is what this comic very much is.
Richard Dinnick’s extended comic—more of a small graphic novel really—is a series of vignettes before the main series of The Thirteenth Doctor comics co-incide with the adventures of our new Doctor on screen (and it’ll be interesting to see just how much the comic run dovetails with the BBC show, or whether it’ll tell all fresh stories). The crux is simple – Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor is regenerating after the events of last Christmas’ Twice Upon a Time and is mentally passing on wisdom from all of his collected previous lives to Whittaker’s Thirteenth as she begins to materialise into existence.
This allows Dinnick to have a few pages devoted to a micro-adventure for every single Doctor since 1962 – yes, even the War Doctor. Each of these vignette adventures are essentially narrated by Capaldi’s Doctor as he looks back on each previous incarnation with a view of finding something in their character that Thirteen can understand – be it the First Doctor’s misplaced confidence in The Path of Skulls, or how the Ninth Doctor in Return of the Volsci has to try and adapt to once again being a man who cares for people rather than fighting the Time War. Dinnick makes the comic a success by managing to characterise each Doctor very well and craft an entertaining story in a hugely condensed running time.
For instance, probably my favourite is the Seventh Doctor vignette Crossing the Rubicon in which the Seventh Doctor and Ace travel to ancient Rome in order to foil a plot by the Master to poison Julius Caesar and take his place – a simple but effective story which taps into the historical Who adventures we know and love. Equally, Dinnick does not just hold true to TV continuity but also the tie-in comic continuity – the Eleventh Doctor here isn’t travelling with Amy, Rory or Clara, but rather Alice who only appears in the comics run. Readers of Titan’s comics over the years will pick up as many references, nods and winks as will anyone who has been following Who in either the Classic or Modern eras.
Beyond all this, it just looks gorgeous throughout, with a whole range of artists bringing their talents to a book filled with colourful, expressive pages crammed with aliens and locations and action set pieces. It’s like getting a whole season of Doctor Who adventures in one almost 70 page book, and many of these stories you’re left wishing could be expanded into longer, more substantive stories.
Granted, if you’re here for some Thirteenth Doctor adventures, you’ll be disappointed because this is very much about looking back before moving forward, but as a primer for the Doctor as a character over the years and a tee-up for the new girl, it’s a delightful collection.
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – The Many Lives of Doctor Who is now available from Titan Comics.