“New eyes… They can make even the universe itself feel new too.”
Titan Comics’ first adventure featuring the new Doctor draws to a close, as we reach the fourth and final part of writer Jody Houser and artist Rachael Stott’s journey across time and space to defeat the mysterious being known only as The Hoarder.
Sadly, it remains as mysterious as when we first encountered it, as the tale wraps up with little more than we’ve known all along, which comes as something of a disappointment. Then again, it’s probably appropriate, as we didn’t really get to know anything of substance about many of the bad guys in Series 11 on TV: from Racist Space Fonz to The Tooth Fairy, the level of depth we’ve seen in the villains recently has been marginal to none. It’s an awful shame, as The Hoarder showed some real promise, which unfortunately failed to be developed. Ah, never mind; at least it looked cool, all thanks to Stott’s art.
When we last left the Doctor, she’d found herself escaping a death trap in an alien temple, accompanied by her fam (A.K.A. Team TARDIS) and Dr. Leon Perkins, who – along with his missing partner, Dr. Irene Schulz – had fallen foul of The Hoarder after testing their newly-developed time travel equipment. Having neatly dodged a nasty fate, the Doctor and friends end up literally dropping in on Dr. Schulz, who’s been busy trying to devise an antidote to the substance which The Hoarder has used to control her and Perkins, in order to carry out its bidding, and committing grand acts of larceny across the temporal nexus. At least we find the two scientists were unwilling pawns in The Hoarder’s scheme, and acting under duress, rather than being as morally dubious as seemed to be hinted in earlier instalments.
This finale does have some rather lovely moments, such as the Doctor landing the TARDIS in the room inside The Hoarder’s lair with the least amount of security – the loo. Literally toilet humour, it’s worthy of note that Doctor Who rarely ventures into lavatorial matters (excepting the fart gags courtesy of the Slitheen, way back in Series 1’s ‘Aliens Of London’/’World War 3’), so it’s a nice acknowledgment that everyone in the universe has to use the bathroom, as well as coming across as a typically Who-ish way of getting around a dangerous situation, while undercutting the tension with a few laughs. Glad to see the comic series matches the tone of some of the television episodes, by not taking itself too seriously where necessary. Props to Houser for getting the tone right.
Another nice touch comes at the end of the story, where the Doctor explains why she has companions with her when she’s on her journeys into past and future, and around the cosmos – it helps to restore her sense of wonder at the universe by having fresh sets of eyes to see it through. While the show has used similar explanations in the past, this comic seems to have been able to capture it particularly well, and seeing as how this appears to take place early in Series 11, it’s nice to have this as a way of establishing why the Doctor needs her fam. However, an explanation of why the Doctor can’t keep on summoning the TARDIS (she gets prickly) appears to end up being overwritten by Series 11’s final story – ‘The Battle Of Ranskoor Av Kolos’ – where the Doctor does just that anyway. Still, needs must, and a prickly TARDIS is nothing against the fate of the universe, one supposes.
Sadly, the whole thing rather grinds to a sudden halt, with a resolution which is just a little too tidy, and seems to leave a number of loose ends dangling, with no indication they’ll necessarily be picked up at any stage in the future. Of course, the benefit of leaving The Hoarder in a fate which appears to leave the door wide ajar for a future rematch is reassuring, as it feels as though we need to know far more about its background and motivations – at present, we’re just left with an impression that it’s some sort of intergalactic magpie who covets the previous things, but as a character description goes, you couldn’t even hang a hat on that. Such a pity that it’s largely amounted to being little more than a generic ‘boo, hiss’ alien baddie, as the tale appeared to warrant – and indeed promise – far more.
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All things considered, the pacing of this debut comic adventure seems to have been a little bit off, and appears as if the story needed a fifth part in order to be able to breathe and flex its narrative muscles a little more fully. The almost indecent haste in which the plot gets wrapped up does seem rather at odds with the almost leisurely canter seen in earlier issues. Hopefully, this can all be put down to teething troubles, and only needing a slight tinker to make sure the comic manages to live up to its fullest potential. Houser and Stott have made a strong start out of the gate, managing to easily match – and, at points, even exceed – the look and feel of the programme as seen on TV.
Assuming the partnership continues, it seems the Doctor’s future in the comics is in safe hands.
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #4 is now available from Titan Comics.