“Seeing monsters everywhere is one of the quickest paths to becoming one.”
If there’s one thing that the Doctor really loves, it’s getting her teeth into a mystery, and usually one which ends up involving monsters. When we last saw her, it was the monsters’ turn to get their teeth into her.
Having happened across a nest of Stilean Flesh Eaters hidden in the Low Countries of the 16th Century, things seems to have gotten a bit too up close and personal in Jody Houser’s latest Doctor Who tale for Titan Comics. Even faced with a situation of dire mortal peril, it’s reassuring to see that Houser still has the Doctor taking the high ground here and acting in character by refusing to vilify the Stilean for their actions, seeing them as just creatures of instinct, rather than being outright evil. Houser’s take on the Doctor manages to chime perfectly with what we’ve seen on our screens.
If there’s one big criticism of this latest issue, it’s that the story feels somewhat truncated – the adventure seems to wrap up awfully quickly halfway through the issue, with the Doctor and chums going back to the TARDIS after apparently doing half a job at best. It’s a bit of a false ending as the plot actually continues in the next setting they land in – North Carolina, 1711 – but it seems as though the remainder of the first part of this tale deserved having a full issue to itself.
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As it stands, there’s a bit of a runaround, as Team TARDIS are pursued by the horde of Stilean Flesh Eaters around a village and are surrounded, only to be scared off by Magda – the plucky young local girl we met in the last issue – ringing the church bells as a call to arms. And that’s it: the Stilean threat is defeated, as they just run off. It’s all a bit anti-climactic, as well as rather irresponsible – the Doctor leaves the Stilean Flesh Eaters on Earth. It’s not usually her M.O., but then she left a load of giant spiders locked in a sealed room to starve to death in ‘Arachnids In The UK‘, so mopping up things doesn’t seem to be her strong point of late.
Anyway, there’s a pithy speech about how history may not remember Magda but all of them will, and off they go, hurtling into the Time Vortex, their departure watched by a lone Stilean. When they land at their next destination, we find out it happens to also be one of the obscure ones which was featured in an episode of the podcast that Graham, Yaz and Ryan has been listening to before they met the Doctor. As there’s rarely such a thing as coincidence for the Doctor, it’ll be interesting to see just what the significance of this mysterious podcast is, and how exactly it plays into the rest of the story, linking these eras together.
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It’s certainly nice to see another period in history which doesn’t usually get a whole lot of attention – in particular, the setting of Cary’s Rebellion, which isn’t something that I’d ever heard of prior to this. The great thing about Doctor Who is that it can go off the beaten track in historical terms, and shed light on events which aren’t as familiar to people. However, in this case it seems that the setting is just a backdrop and window dressing with little to no relevance to the plot itself – the last vignette squandered the mention of the Guelders Wars and the Habsburgs, so it didn’t feel integral to the location, and it could have ultimately been set in pretty much any historical hamlet. A shame, and such wasted potential.
Perhaps things might play out differently in this case, but it’s not looking promising so far, unless Houser pulls a blinder in the next issue. Mind you, she could always be playing a long game here, and the choice of periods may have greater significance when we get to the end of the storyline, so fingers crossed. In the meantime, at least this magical mystery tour through time is giving artist Roberta Ingranata a chance to show off her drawing skills by bringing us such diverse periods and locations, and doing a very creditable job in the process.
Special mention needs to be made of the irksomeness which comes in the form of the phrase “bulls in a crockery shop”. It’s enough to make your teeth itch that after doing such a good job of capturing all the quirks and idioms of colloquial English, Houser drops the ball here. Still, it’s just a minor point, but one which sticks out like a sore thumb when you happen across it. Or am I just being bullish?
Let’s hope things get firmly back on track with the next instalment.