After a rather lacklustre four-part story, it’s reassuring to see that Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor series seems to be firmly back on track with its latest adventure, which delves into the series’ recent history with what can only be described as an unexpected and pleasant surprise in its selection of guest star.
The Doctor takes Team TARDIS for a trip to see a parade on the planet Devivian, only to find that she’s in trouble with the law, and is accused of stealing the Gem of Niag, a sacred stone with some unknown properties. The evidence presented by the authorities is a bio-scan, which shows the culprit to be a female with two hearts, so they decide it’s an open-and-shut case and are ready to throw the book at her.
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However, the Doctor puts all of the pieces together, and concludes the thief must be Missy, the renegade Time Lord who she’d last seen just before regenerating after battling early Cybermen on a space vessel trapped in the pull of a black hole (in the two-part television story ‘World Enough And Time’/’The Doctor Falls’). Of course, what the Doctor doesn’t actually know is that Missy was apparently killed by her previous incarnation, as she was about to stand with the Doctor, something that her earlier self couldn’t abide by.
It’s a nice idea by writer Jody Houser to use recent continuity so strongly, and to remind readers of something which had taken place before Jodie Whittaker took over the lead role in the series, after the showrunner Chris Chibnall made a point of starting with a totally blank slate, and avoiding any references to events, places or people pre-dating the regeneration. Us fans love a bit of mythology or service, so we do.
It also seems an interesting choice for Missy to seemingly be used, as she was last seen to be firmly dead, and it would be rather unusual for a spin-off comic to forge its own way with a big thing like that, as the series could always choose to ignore the comic book explanation should they ever bring the character back. Oh, and good luck trying to capture the sheer insanity of Michelle Gomez on the page, in any event.
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Well, thankfully all of that conjuncture is masterfully (no pun intended) avoided, as we find out that although it was indeed a Time Lord involved in the robbery, it’s not the one we were probably all expecting. Step forward, the Corsair: old friend of the Doctor’s, and name-checked on TV in Neil Gaiman’s episode ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ back in Series 6. In that story, we found that the Corsair – along with hundreds of other Time Lords – had met their fate in a trap laid for hem in a bubble universe by a sentient planet.
However, the beauty of a show that’s all about time travel is that you don’t need to worry about the little things like someone having already expired: you can just pop back and see them before it’s happened. In the same way that the Doctor keeps on running into him/herself with an almost alarming regularity, it seems inevitable that you’d bump into old friends (as well as enemies) when you’re nipping around the cosmos; in fact, it would probably be rather odd if you didn’t.
The convention on the series, however, was that Time Lords tend to meet up on screen in strictly linear order, with every progressive incarnation running parallel to each other, so that you didn’t get the latest version of one character crossing paths with an older version of another. This informal rule is something that has tended to be disregarded, thanks to the spin-off novels as well as the Big Finish audios doing a ‘mix and match’ on regular occasions, the latest example being in The War Master, where the titular character crosses paths with Paul McGann’s Doctor.
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In a nice touch, the Corsair’s future (for her, anyway) demise is touched upon in a lovely moment where the Doctor goes to a place in the TARDIS where she keeps all the Hypercubes containing the messages from dead Time Lords (as seen in ‘The Doctor’s Wife’), including the Corsair’s. It’s a nice touch, and very poignant as well, so Houser has done a commendable job of putting it in there, which will mean a lot to fans (although perhaps not so much to any casual readers, as the moment is left to speak for itself).
As for the Corsair herself, she’s a rather fun character, a bit roguish in the vein of a Han Solo or Captain Jack Sparrow type, and dresses accordingly, with a waistcoat, holster and sword. She also gets her fair share of action, and isn’t averse to a bit of duelling or fisticuffs. Never has a buckle been so thoroughly swashed as by the Corsair, it seems. Although we’ve so far only scratched the surface, it certainly seems to promise great things for the rest of the story.
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #10 is out now from Titan Comics.