Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #7 – Review

“The personal timelines of time travellers look a bit like a roller coaster against the universal timeline. Honestly, best just to enjoy the ride.”

Oh, Doctor. I really wish I could.

Sadly, three instalments into the latest of writer Jody Houser’s Doctor Who comic book tales for Titan Comics, and it really is starting to all feel a bit laboured and flabby. Having popped into another time period, we’re in pretty much the same territory – Team TARDIS finds a best of Stilean Flesh Eaters, there’s a bit of a runaround, and a confrontation which amounts to nothing, so it’s pretty anti-climactic.

There doesn’t seem to be a real sense of forward momentum, and it’s all starting to feel like a bit of a retread of itself. It’s a genuine shame, as Houser’s opening four-issue run on the title seemed to promise lots, both in terms of characterisation and storytelling, but only one of these appears to be in evidence right now. The vaunted mystery podcast which everyone but the Doctor seems to have heard of should be tantalising, but with no further hints as to what it is, who’s behind it, or how it links the Doctor and friends to these different eras, it’s getting a bit irksome now.

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Don’t get me wrong: Doctor Who on telly has been truly guilty of some gratuitous padding at times, as well as pointless and frustrating runarounds. It’s disappointing to see that the comic, with its limited page count, requires more economy in its story telling, yet just seems to meander on with no direction. So far it’s felt something like an issue’s worth of content, crammed into three, and there’s something topsy-turvy about that equation. Hopefully I’ll end up being proven wrong, and the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. But I won’t hold my breath just yet, if it’s all the same.

Houser’s tried to reward regular readers by bringing back two of her creations as seen in her first four-part tale: the time travelling scientists Schulz and Perkins, both of whom have now taken gainful employment in the service of the Time Agency, which brings the pair across the Doctor’s path once again. Alas, the duo aren’t given an awful lot to do, other than be (as far as the Doctor is concerned) the unacceptable face of authority, as well as getting in her way, and shooting things, all of which is guaranteed to attract her ire.

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If they’re going to be recurring characters, they need to do, well, something; here the pair’s main function is to tell the Doctor where she has to go next. Huh. So much for deductive reasoning and progression; just give away the next development, why don’t you? It just feels like lazy writing, as well as undermining the Doctor, as she’s not given the chance to work things out for herself. Mind you, it could be a sign of a predestination paradox, or something similar. But I doubt that Houser’s thought about it to that extent. Such a pity that it’s all going off the boil.

Roberta Ingranata’s artwork is starting to leave something to be desired too, with the likenesses of the regulars beginning to get more and more stylised. Granted, you don’t expect photorealism, but let’s hope the resemblances don’t start to go totally off-piste. What’s far more worrying here is that the supporting characters vary so wildly from one frame to the next, you’ve almost got to remind yourself there isn’t someone new who’s been introduced; at one stage, Schulz even appears to change ethnicity. Consistency isn’t strong here, and let’s not even get started on the look of the evolved Stilean Flesh Eaters.

Titan’s Doctor Who has now gone from a monthly treat to something where you feel you’ve got to grit your teeth and get through it. Will things actually improve? Time will tell, but the future isn’t looking that bright from here. As rollercoasters go, this one just seems to keep on going down.

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