Reluctantly working alongside his greatest enemies on their homeworld, stuck in a timeline which has been dramatically rewritten, and facing off against a long-lost – in fact almost mythical – race of deadly creatures, you could say the Doctor is having one of those days.
In the concluding chapter of ‘Defender Of The Daleks’ – the opening salvo of multimedia event Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious – it seems like the stakes could not be higher: in joining forces with the Daleks against the deadly Hond, the Doctor not only has to save his mortal foes, but also the fate of the entire universe itself is resting solely in his hands. Oh, he has to try and find out what is wrong with the timeline as well. No pressure, then.
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The challenge of being part of a bigger overall event is that, as well as contributing to the overarching storyline, there is the need to try and deliver a satisfying story in its own right, which can stand on its own merits. For the most part, writer Jody Houser manages to pull it off, and with only two issues in which to do so, it definitely is no mean feat. ‘Defender Of The Daleks’ is a creditable enough tale, and it easily stands on a par with the best of Houser’s earlier work.
However, one cannot help but wonder if this story perhaps suffers somewhat by being just one part of a greater whole. For example, the whole reason for time being askew is not truly tackled in any substantive way, and based solely upon the blurb for the Time Lord Victorious project, it appears to play a substantial part in the arc. As a result, there is no real opportunity to tie up all the loose ends here, which could be somewhat of a frustration for those readers not partaking in any of the other story threads in different media.
One area in which Houser scores big is by remembering that the Daleks are at their very best when treated as more than just being shrieking, malevolent death machines – some of their best stories, like ’The Power Of The Daleks’, cast them in the role of cunning, devious manipulators. By making the adventure mainly a two-hander between the Doctor and the Daleks’ Prime Strategist, you get to have a far more intimate portrait of the Daleks than usual, albeit through a somewhat atypical example of their kind.
For the most part, Roberta Ingranata’s art does capture the story well, giving it a suitably epic feel, yet at the same time still fails to provide a decent depiction of any of the Daleks bar the Prime Strategist; given the effort taken to replicate the look of the Dalek city on Skaro, as well as a classic Dalek casing, it seems truly bizarre that Ingranata goes so far off piste when trying to draw the modern Daleks. Another odd occurrence is when – inexplicably, for a single panel – they are drawn with their suckers and gun arms having swapped to the opposite sides.
You also have to question the relative wisdom when, on the recap page, they inadvertently deliver a huge spoiler for the climax of the story, through what at first glance seems to be a rather curious inclusion. However, if you can avoid having the big surprise blown, then the climax is a real unexpected twist, and wraps the story up rather nicely. It remains to be seen just how the rest of Time Lord Victorious will play out, but ‘Defender Of The Daleks’ certainly does look to have set the stage well for everything still to come.
Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious – Defender Of The Daleks #2 is out now from Titan Comics.