Written by Cavan Scott
Art by Adriana Melo
Colours by Matheus Lopes
Letters by Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt
Review by Billy Seguire
Set your temporal coordinates back to 2005, because the Ninth Doctor is officially back in the TARDIS! With Jack and Rose in tow for Titan’s new ongoing series of Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor, the adventures are just beginning. For many people, myself included, simply seeing the oft-neglected Doctor back in any capacity is a delight. This opening issue is a jaunt of an episode by Ninth Doctor standards, a little too light and bubbly in tone, but the new Doctormania arc delivers on its promise to bring readers back to the spirit of those early days of the revival, and a surprise appearance at the end of this issue will either delight or mortify fans of the era.
As far as character strengths go, you can’t get much stronger than the Ninth Doctor. He’s the man who redefined who the Doctor was after the Time War, before the boyish charms of David Tennant took over. He was a soldier returned home, a man whose pain always felt grounded and relatable. Beyond his grief, Ninth was a dignified and commanding presence. He’s a man of focus, and more importantly, compassion. A man in love. The comic captures most of that perfectly, and Cavan Scott clearly holds deep affection for the character. When Rose proposes something as being “timey-wimey” in this comic, he turns to her with a look of such superiority that made me laugh out loud. The way Melo draws his characteristic eyes: melancholic and longing, sold me 100%. When combined with his rare but brilliant toothy grin, you really feel like the Ninth Doctor is here again. And every action taken throughout the comic is undoubtedly his.
But where would any incarnation of the Doctor be without his companions? Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor wisely chooses to take along both Rose and Jack for this new set of adventures, undercutting the romance angle between Rose and the Doctor and really feeling like a team coming together from different perspectives. Jack’s appearances with the Ninth Doctor will always hold a special place in my heart. He’s smaller than he seems later in Torchwood. More human. This issue (as did the miniseries before it) does a great job of bringing the character back to these roots without betraying what he’d evolved into since. The dropped storyline of Jack’s missing years seems like it will also play a large part of the ongoing arc, something I am excited to see develop as the question of who wiped his memory and why was never sufficiently answered in the show.
An abundance of comedy in this story comes in the form of an imposter Ninth Doctor, masquerading on Gharusa Prime as the star of fictional program Doctor Who?. It’s pretty clearly a parody of the relaunch could have gone horribly wrong. Peter Capaldi’s favourite ridiculous monster the Chumblies Are the central villains. The ‘futuristic’ Whomobile makes a grand re-entrance (was that even a good idea in the Third Doctor’s era?). They’re jokes that remind us how much was riding on that first series. How many pitfalls Russell T. Davies avoided with key decisions that most of us credit towards the show’s successful return instead of crashing disastrously like the 1996 TV-movie. None of the monsters are particularly scary in this issue until the end, which is fine for the first installment of a multi-part story, but a tad lackluster for the big opener of a new series. The final shot is intriguing, however, and I’m definitely on board for issue #2.
Like in many of Titan’s licensed BBC books, the inner art varies in terms of realism and capturing the likenesses of actors who have appeared on the show. Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor delivers better than some others in that department, with Adriana Melo focussing in on what makes each character iconic instead of attempting a 1-1 representation. Rose in particular is defined by her hair and, and Jack has a particular swagger that reminds you precisely what omnisexual means. For the Doctor, Melo has the benefit of Eccleston’s chiselled features, character within his face that makes it easy to translate into animated form. I had previously criticized Titan’s portrayal of Capaldi (a similarly charactered face that comes from putting a grown up in the role) in my review of Four Doctors, and it’s great to see the artists they’re working with have seemingly been given more freedom since then in that area.
In terms of other visual design elements, I was actually surprised how well the Ninth Doctor’s era naturally translates into comics. As much as it is remembered for its depressed, dark Doctor and moody atmosphere, it was also a remarkably colourful series that wasn’t too worried about taking itself seriously. It was a time before the show had established its true voice, and camp villains and cartoonish designs were never out of place. Looking at the garish purple citizens of Gharusa Prime in this comic, I could easily imagine how they would fit in with the actual show. Compared to characters like the Slitheen and Lady Cassandra, fangirls with purple faces don’t seem that dissimilar. There’s a sense of whimsy that permeates the era of the Ninth Doctor, brilliantly connecting with the Classic Series that came before it, and the comic actually captures that element quite well.
VERDICT: Check It Out. I’m sometimes on the fence about the Titan Comics Doctor Who range, but the sheer potential in seeing these characters again is enough to forgive the odd inconsistency. I’m an absolute sucker for Ninth Doctor stories, and considering we only got thirteen on screen, an ongoing book for Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor is more than welcome. With Jack and Rose, Cavan Scott has chosen a winning team whose strengths compliment the Doctor in ways Rose on her own never could, though I’d be interested in seeing if they introduce a new companion down the line like they have for Doctors 10 & 11. The book understands its function well, filling in gaps in the show’s story and making just-slightly-too-cute meta-references for the fan that are definitely enjoyable. It’s a strong start. I’d call it entertaining. Perhaps even fantastic.