You Were Expecting Someone Else 18 (The Eighth Doctor Comics)

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First off, an announcement: I'm funding the second edition of the William Hartnell book via Kickstarter. The link is here. Please, contribute, spread the word, et cetera. There are some lovely perks available - most of the tiers amount to "pre-order the book," but if you're interested in signed copies, that's up there too. Also, for all the people who have ever requested that I cover something in one of the future volumes, here is your chance to make me. Plus there's a Kickstarter-exclusive essay to be had at any donation level.

You might fairly ask why I'm funding the project this way. The answer is pretty simple: I know the financials on a new book. I know how much a book makes in its first month and how to balance production costs against that. But I have no idea how to budget an updated edition, and I don't want to put out a bunch of money on production and then have the book take six months to earn out. So I'm trying to fund it via presales. If the Kickstarter falls through it doesn't mean the book won't happen, but it'll mean some... reevaluating.

Also, I have some really fun stretch goals if it funds, so, you know. There's that. So, yes. On to today's post.

As we said on Wednesday, there are six Eighth Doctor eras, abortive as some may be. And with this we come to the final one of them: the Doctor Who Magazine comic. It’s telling that of the eight Doctors to have had a comic in Doctor Who Magazine the only three where the comic is highlighted as a specific and important part of the era are the ones that coincided with what is widely, if not universally, considered a problematic era elsewhere. The Mills and Wagner Tom Baker strips provided a desired tonic to the controversial levity of Season Seventeen. The Parkhouse/Ridgway Sixth Doctor comics were valued in a large part because of how problematic the era itself was. And here we get the third era of Doctor Who Magazine comics that people are very invested in: the Eighth Doctor comics.

They’re not the salvation of the Paul McGann era. I mean, nobody expected me to say they were, right? They have some charming ones - most notably “Where Nobody Knows Your Name,” a one-off strip featuring the return of Frobisher. Several of the moments of high drama work quite well - when the Doctor’s main comic strip companion, Izzy, gets turned into a fish person there’s some lovely emotional beats. And a fake regeneration into Nicholas Briggs’s Audio-Visuals Doctor is delightfully cheeky, as plot twists go.

There are, in other words, lots of bits to love. But it’s still a Doctor Who Magazine comic strip, which means characterization is at a minimum. The Eighth Doctor is as featureless here as ever, running firmly as “generic Doctor” with occasional outbreaks of fight scenes. As with the previous two times there’s been a selection of people who think that the comics are the “real” version of the Doctor, it’s more a criticism of the rest of the era. The Doctor Who Magazine comics are fandom’s protest vote, and the degree to which they are beloved is curiously unrelated to what’s going on in the comics themselves.

That does not, however, mean that they haven’t had some genuinely significant ideas. As we’ve noted, the Alan Moore comics carry a strange appeal, albeit one in excess of their actual quality, and thus presumably largely due to Moore’s name. And, of course, there’s Frobisher, who is a ludicrously charming enough idea that he became part of the series’ lore, albeit only among a fairly dedicated fans. (But, of course, who else is buying Doctor Who Magazine?) And there’s always Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer. The comics were always reasonably long on ideas, in other words, to the point where they have their own genuinely loved and nostalgia-producing continuity.

And what jumps out about the Eighth Doctor run is that the comics draw more on this continuity than on the television series. I mean, yes, it opens with that great classic of people who have run out of good bits of Doctor Who to mine, the return of the Celestial Toymaker. And there’s an Evil of the Daleks sequel - though that’s actually an absolutely fantastic idea that never got adequately followed up on, so it’s tough to criticize that. But far more often than there are references to television stories there are references to past comic strips: Frobisher shows up; Shayde, the sphere-headed robot assassin from the Davison era, is a major recurring character; Alan Moore’s Black Sun sect appears; Steve Moore’s creation of Kroton, the Cyberman with emotions, not only appears but becomes a companion; a parade of Miles/Wagner villains appear, with Beep the Meep gracing the pages twice; and, inevitably, we’re back to Stockbridge. This is the most referential the comic ever really gets with its own past.

What’s interesting is that the Eighth Doctor comics also mark the dividing line on that past. Since the debut of the new series the comics have been almost entirely cut off from the past of the Doctor Who Magazine comics, with only a story where the Tenth Doctor drops by Stockbridge to provide any connection to the past of the comics. And so the Eighth Doctor comics are in an odd way an elegy for this entire line and style: the last flourishing of this part of Doctor Who’s heritage. Realistically, we’re never going to see Kroton the Cyberman again in Doctor Who Magazine again, except maybe in some anniversary celebration. In that regard it’s nice to see a final hurrah. As marginal a facet of Doctor Who as it was, it was also a facet full of some of the maddest ideas ever to be passed off as official Doctor Who. That they got a victory lap, and a victory lap that was actually important to the Eighth Doctor’s era, is genuinely nice. (After all, in an era where everything was basically for fans only the comic is fundamentally less marginal than usual.)

But there’s also something just a bit odd about it. The Eighth Doctor, in all of his iterations, is oddly trapped by the spectre of continuity and the series’ past. Which is all well and good, but what’s really striking about the comics is that he’s ensnared in such a strange bit of continuity. It’s one thing to get caught up in the history of the television series that one is working in the fandom of. But to get caught up in the history of the fan magazine’s comic strip feels almost pathological - like something about the series in this particular era just can’t resist the pull of wallowing in the past. Even the Radio Times comic that ran for a year after the TV Movie - a comic that presumably was actually intended to reach a mass audience and capitalize on the assumed success of the TV Movie - started off with returns of Cybermen and Ice Warriors. Admittedly, it was Gary Russell, so, you know, what do you expect, but still. The gravity of the cult approach is deeper-seated in the Eighth Doctor era than we’ve really given it credit for, which is impressive given that it’s been one of the major themes of the blog these past four months.

But the flashpoint in all of this really comes with the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration. Or, you know, the lack of it. The only one of the Doctor’s regenerations we know nothing about, the default fanon seems to be that it’s the Eighth Doctor who fought in the Time War and regenerated shortly thereafter, and that Rose is essentially the Ninth Doctor’s first adventure. Rose itself is rather more ambiguous on this point - it’s certainly possible that all of Clive’s scrapbook clippings of the Ninth Doctor post-date Rose, but if so it’s odd that she appears in none of them. The scene of the Doctor eyeing himself in a mirror vaguely implies that he’s just regenerated. But the matter is thoroughly up for debate, at least in terms of Rose.

This issue is really more one about the nature of the gap between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors. Simply put, Russell T Davies, for entirely well-grounded reasons that nobody reading this blog can possibly have any trouble understanding, made zero effort to connect the Eighth and Ninth Doctor eras directly. The default decision of having the Time War also serve as a regeneration is a sort of Occam’s Razor approach to the minimal guidance that the actual text afford you: you don’t need to come up with an additional traumatic event for the Doctor. But in practice there’s no reason to go one way or the other. Imagining scads of Eighth Doctor stories leading into a Time War and Rose as the first Ninth Doctor story works just as well as imagining that the Eighth Doctor hits his head on the TARDIS console ten seconds after the end of The Gallifrey Chronicles and that the restoration of Gallifrey and buildup of the Time War were all early Ninth Doctor stories.

I mention all of this because Russell T Davies did make one move to document the Eight/Nine transition: he offered the regeneration to Doctor Who Magazine. Obviously they did not end up taking Davies up on the offer, though they considered ending their final story, The Flood, with a regeneration. The Flood is one of the better Eighth Doctor comics - an eight-parter with some decidedly creepy Cybermen that did a quite solid job of tying up the whole Eighth Doctor comics era. Like most Doctor Who Magazine comics it feels a bit like a Baker and Martin story - an unceasing flood of ideas with a relative lack of exploration of any of them. But they’re good ideas, so, really, the basis to complain is minimal. It’s what the strips are good at.

But, as Clayton Hickman and Alan Barnes quickly realized, this made it a poor choice for a regeneration story. Especially since the Doctor had a companion with a story arc at that point in time. With no way that they could possibly lead straight into Rose - especially with the Time War in between - they would have been forced to regenerate the Doctor and then leave a gap with the Ninth Doctor and Destrii that was never going to get filled. Hickman and Barnes proposed a “Year One” comic with Eccleston set before Rose, but, of course, that wasn’t going to work either.

I say “of course,” but it’s perhaps worth pausing and explaining exactly why that’s true. It’s actually fairly simple: nobody cared. The new series was debuting the Doctor and Rose, and it was debuting them as huge popular culture icons. To go back and do the Ninth Doctor without Rose would defeat the purpose. The new series was being designed to have a massive audience who were primed for those two characters. As created, the Ninth Doctor without Rose is essentially unthinkable. To put Ninth Doctor stories before Rose is as silly as pre-Unearthly Child stories. A pre-Time War Ninth Doctor doesn’t make any sense. The character isn’t designed to do that, at least, not in an actual storytelling way.

Which is to say that the entire idea of connecting the Eighth and Ninth Doctor eras is ultimately ludicrous. Because they aren’t made to connect. The new series is designed with a traumatic break from the past. As we’ve noted, this ends up making the Eighth Doctor era look particularly silly, simply because it has so many traumatic breaks of its own, all of which are ultimately rejected in favor of a brand new traumatic break. And no amount of fractal history quite repairs that problem simply because it’s not really a problem with the nature of the Time War. It’s a problem with the fact that the Time War is designed to be a radical and traumatic break with the past of the series.

In that regard “what happened during the Time War” is the wrong question. Or, at least, it’s a very easy question: what happened during the Time War was that Doctor Who got cancelled for sixteen years save for an unsuccessful TV movie. That’s what the Time War really is. Doctor Who’s cultural continuity collapsed, and as a result its internal continuity did. This gets literalized within Doctor Who as a war between the Daleks and the Time Lords, but that conflict is a metaphorical figleaf. At best the Time War is a war between what the Daleks and Time Lords represent within Doctor Who, but really it’s just that the Dalek/Time Lord conflict is the best way to literalize that gap - in a way that none of the previous “drafts” of the Time War possibly could. The Time Lord/Dalek conflict is the only narrative anchor large enough to hold the scar of cancellation. We will, of course, return to this.

But for now let’s appreciate the odd gap - the regeneration that could not be told. Because, of course, the consequence of this reading of the Time War is that it renders the wilderness years irrelevant. Perhaps worth mining for decent ideas, in much the same way that, say, the Peter Cushing movies are, but fundamentally not a part of Doctor Who’s history. They may have been a necessary chrysalis - although the question of whether the Cartmel era could have thrived had the BBC realized what they had remains one of the greatest what ifs of Doctor Who - but they were still a dormant phase. Yes, the transition from Survival to TV Movie to Rose was one that requires looking at the years in between each step to understand. You can’t jump to either the TV Movie or Rose without some context.

But we should still remember: the wilderness years were so marginal they couldn’t even show the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration. That’s how far they’d fallen from touch with the brilliance of Doctor Who’s cultural legacy: it actually made more sense to skip the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration entirely than it would have to depict it. And if we do grant the claim that the comics were the best version of the Eighth Doctor, we must grant it in the larger context in which that claim always is tacitly made: the Eighth Doctor era was so blighted by failure that the Doctor Who Magazine comics may well have been the best it had to offer.

Comments

AdamAttley 4 years, 5 months ago

Finished 'The Flood' last night in advance of this, still kinda buzzing from it. I thought you'd be pretty cool on the strips if you were doing just the one article, and fair do's. I can only say I found some of the finest bits of storytelling in the whole franchise in these comics. 'Children of the Revolution' and 'The Flood' are strong contenders for the best stories featuring their respective antagonists (I found the latter particularly effective in the face of the new series' stabs at the Cyber-mythos, only making them seem a credible threat in those five minutes of 'The Pandorica Opens').

Must disagree on the characterisation certainly - like the post '05 series, it's all done on the hop but is at least as much a priority as the mechanics of story. The sense of consistency and follow-through in depicting the existential headfuck of Izzy's arc is as good as it gets in DW, putting Amy's ultimately rather blase attitude to her (far more traumatic) series 6 arc to shame, without plunging into grimdark.

There's a lot more to discuss in the way that ghosts of this era haunt the new series too. Daleks praising the Doc as their saviour (actual dialogue: "Well... this is new!"). Ghostly cybes in contemporary London. And Destrii, man! Clearly on Steven Moffat's mind when fleshing out a certain time-travelling archaeologist!

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AdamAttley 4 years, 5 months ago

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AdamAttley 4 years, 5 months ago

On your regeneration hypothesis, though... totally agree. The TV movie had already shown what utter folly it was to kill off your hero five minutes after introducing him, before RE-introducing him, and oh god, it's annoying me just thinking about it.

To restore the series, Davies takes it to original set-up; a traumatic break that can never be fully explored on-screen, knowledge that can never be spoken, and only the feverish, kinetic headlong movement of the hero to impress upon us the direness of what he's escaped.

No regeneration story could ever hold a candle to the sinister... interruption... of the story in terms of adding to the myth.

Though now that I've said that, Big Finish's first 'Time War' boxset will probably be announced by lunchtime.

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Scott 4 years, 5 months ago

To be honest, I think one of the appeals of the Eighth Doctor comics for me is that unlike the books at least (I can't really speak for Big Finish, though from what I've gathered it doesn't seem a million miles off either) -- which, as you've noted previously, got themselves so caught up in trying to be the official replacement Proper Doctor Who that they ended up constantly rebooting and reinventing the wheel and spiralling further out of control and, ultimately, further into irrelevance -- the comics seemed so much more relaxed about it all.

As I believe you've also said in an earlier essay, the comics never really had much of a shot at that crown to begin with, but what that meant in practice was that they didn't have to worry about reaching for it so much. They could just relax and have fun without worrying about how Important they were to the overall scheme of Doctor Who. So instead, why not fake everyone out with a regeneration (and oh, the tantrums and whining in the letters pages about how they so weren't allowed to do that, they weren't Official Proper Doctor Who were so much fun to read...) or do a twelve-issue story arc that ends with Kroton the Cyberman and an immortal samurai fighting in the ruins of a time-altered London while the Doctor and the Master do battle across the whole of the Omniverse? It might not be the Official Proper Doctor Who, but by God it's entertaining.

They might not have reached some of the heights that the other two lines reached or shared the same ambitions, and may have shared plenty of their faults, but for me they were also for the most part a hell of a lot more fun to read than most of what BBC Books put out.

"it’s certainly possible that all of Clive’s scrapbook clippings of the Ninth Doctor post-date Rose, but if so it’s odd that she appears in none of them."

There is also that five seconds that the TARDIS has left Rose and Mickey in London at the end of "Rose" before the Doctor pops back to remind us all that it's also a time machine, which is a popular place to put those little encounters in fanon as well.

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Gonzo 4 years, 5 months ago

Backed Hartnell book - can't wait. Still loving your work, sir.

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Neo Tuxedo 4 years, 5 months ago

Not the Kickstarter I was expecting to buy into at this time (c'mon, Onyx Path, hurry up with Exalted Third Edition already), but one worth supporting.

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Ciaran M 4 years, 5 months ago

I must say that I'm somewhat disappointed with this post. These strips feature some of the all time greatest Doctor Who stories, and given that this post doesn't even name the major creative force at work here- Scott Gray- I can't help but feel, well, disappointed.

The Eighth Doctor of the strips is my Eighth Doctor. The ideas are wonderful and unceasing, his companions are well fleshed-out, and after Scott Gray almost completely takes over writing duties from Wormwood onwards- thus removing Alan Barnes from the scene, it is one of the most consistent eras of Doctor Who in terms of quality. Yes, the series is bound up in continuity, but it's certainly never alienating because of it.

The Glorious Dead is just the greatest Master story ever told. I love it so, so much.

Also, the amount of ideas that the 2005 series has outright lifted from the comics is astonishing.

Finally, although there is no way it could have reasonably worked, I really wish that the strips had accepted the regeneration. I feel it would have given the strip more validation amongst fans, and although I'd usually say that it hardly matters to me, it would mean that they would be discussed in more depth.

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AdamAttley 4 years, 5 months ago

Well said, that fellow. I would add as well that looking at the supplemental material in the collections, Gray's own proficiency as an illustrator is on full display. Many of the sketches and studies he provides are produced faithfully by Geraghty, Ross, Sullivan et al (legends all, I mean, they're *such* attractive stories to look at), adding to the consistency of vision Ciaran describes.

It's interesting to track the sort of visual effects he comes back to, enemies suffused with or composed of light, uncomfortable conflation of personalities and physicalities, a real love of flight or defiance of gravity to add an element of the uncanny. The incorrigible little pop scholar in me gets a kick out of the way an artist returns to themes that speak to them from a different angle.

It's endlessly fascinating to me, for example, how Davies (a cartoonist himself, of course) returns to bodily excess to denote monstrousness. The bloated, flatulating Slitheen. The cheerful perversity of the adipose, brought gurgling happily into the world from the dysmorphic neuroses of unhappy humans. The literal thick-headedness of the judoon.

I'd wondered if Mr Sandifer might bring up the work of these artists in relation to his insightful commentary on the series' 'glam rock' and 'Ballardian' phases, the interplay of strange and extraordinary images producing intriguing extra-textual meanings.

Still, if Phil doesn't see much in the way of depth here I can't hold that against him, he's brought this old fool a lot of pleasure with his critiques of other materials, even the ones pertaining to spin-off materials I have comparativley little experience of!

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elvwood 4 years, 5 months ago

Same here - though it had already passed its target by the time I did so! One comment on the page: it still says Auld Morality, which is amusing an' all, but remember to change it for the book as it's the sort of error that can easily be missed by proofreaders.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 5 months ago

I do wonder if I did the strips wrong, so to speak. Every era whose strips I've covered I've done by reading the strips in a single shot. Which is, of course, not at all how they're written, and does exactly what I usually stamp my feet about not doing with the television series. And I do wonder, in hindsight, how much that would have changed things.

I'll tell you what - I'll reread the comics doing one installment a day as I prep to do the McGann/Eccleston book, and rewrite this entry accordingly. :)

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Ununnilium 4 years, 5 months ago

Hmmmmm. Not much to say on this entry, so, since probably nobody saw it, I'll bring up my comment from yesterday (and then just leave it at that):

I was reading the Pertwee volume, and I noticed something. On the blog, you seemed to take Dicks's assertion that Jo was meant to be a brainless peril monkey with a grain of salt; in the book version, it seems you take it much more seriously. Is this what was meant in the blog, or is it a change of perspective over time? Or am I just seeing things?

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 5 months ago

Backed. If I wasn't going back to school this fall I just might have pitched at that $1000 pledge level...

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 5 months ago

Can I just say as an aside, your dedication impresses me a great deal. Many academics I know wouldn't give 2bits over criticism like this.

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Daibhid C 4 years, 5 months ago

Just occured to me, why don't the Radio Times comics count as an Eighth Doctor era? (I mean, besides the fact no-one cares about them except as an answer to the trivia question "Where did that Martian/human couple in Placebo Effect come from anyway?")

You make a good point about the New Series comics being disconnected from the Old Series comics (whatever DWM say about their official line being that there's only one series). It's particularly noticable in the current story, which actually is mining the past (can't think why...) - but while it goes right back to the start of DW's TV history, the stream of comic references are all from Eleventh's era, apart from a passing mention of The Flood.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 5 months ago

"That’s what the Time War really is. Doctor Who’s cultural continuity collapsed, and as a result its internal continuity did."

For me, this is your best post yet. From now on I will always visualise the 8th and 9th Doctor eras as represented by an asymptotic hyperbola. The closer they get to each-other the further away they veer, the two eras that can never meet, and in between, hovering around the point where all axes cross, lies the Time War, an infinite horizon separating the 9th Doctor from his past - a barrier he can never breach.

The closest the Doctor ever got was in The End of Time, when one part of the graph momentarily poked itself into the other, before falling back into the hellish maelstrom that exists forever in the singularity that is the heart of the Time War.

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encyclops 4 years, 5 months ago

"The Time Lord/Dalek conflict is the only narrative anchor large enough to hold the scar of cancellation."

Hmmm. I'm almost convinced it's a "good" narrative anchor, but I'm not sure I'm convinced it's the only one large enough. I suspect it would be easy for the authors of some of the 8DAs you panned to come up with something even bigger, for example, but also probably a lot stupider.

I remember when I learned what the Time War was supposed to be, I had an "is that all?" reaction to it. I think that's because I never really gave the Daleks much credit for being that large of a threat (and you notice they've basically won, because they're still around and with one exception (that we know of) the Time Lords are, effectively, not). I suppose if the Vardans and the Sontarans could invade Gallifrey, why not the Daleks? But at the time it seemed like it was the Daleks not because they were a particularly credible threat but because they were the most iconic villains.

It's nice to hear the Eighth Doctor comics had some good moments. I never read the comics back in the day and have been dipping in here and there recently, and most of them just seem so awful, both in terms of art and story. It's hard to credit the idea that there were comics better than Alien Bodies or The Year of Intelligent Tigers, but I suppose there were a lot more books with bad ideas to drag down the averages?

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Ross 4 years, 5 months ago

I've always been conflicted about the Time War being the Time Lord/Dalek war. On the one hand, yeah, the Daleks seem like kind of crap villains to be the equal and opposite force to the time lords. And on the other hand, "Well yes, of course it was the Daleks. Who the hell else was it going to be?" There's no one else in the Rogues' Gallery with the gravitas to be The Enemy, and if it'd been "Oh, some new villains you never heard of before", that'd be pretty deeply unsatisfying too.

But something our host said some time ago really made the idea work for me: that the Daleks are, by design, inherently an endpoint. Designed as the "final form" of Kaled mutation, the one thing the Daleks never do is *change*, and if there's one theme the new series has been consistent with about the Daleks (At least up until the Matt Smith era), it's that for a Dalek, to change is to die.

In that light, I can buy the Daleks as the ultimate counterpart to the Time Lords: straight up Apollo and Dionysus, the guardians of the *flow* of history versus the "fixed endpoint" of history.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 5 months ago

I could see a few concepts that could be as big - for instance, the Time Lords versus a version of humanity from the future that, due to the Doctor's constant protection of them, had gained enough power to become Time Lords themselves. But who would put a concept like that at the beginning of a new series?

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Steven Clubb 4 years, 5 months ago

I think part of the reason why the Eighth Doctor strips are praised is its the first time the DWM strips really came into their own. Up until then, they just kind of did random stories and for the first time they created a proper run where they were in complete control of all the elements in play.

Of all the Doctor Who strips, I think this is the one which I'd come the closest to recommending to a casual fan. It's a good, solid piece of entertainment.

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Ciaran M 4 years, 5 months ago

Reading the comics a month at a time was both incredible and excruciating. I only started reading with Oblivion, but I can only imagine what it was like trying to read The Glorious Dead in ten parts, with abyssal month long gaps. Here is an interesting question, I think brought up in the commentary, does The Glorious Dead count as the longest story, given that it took ten months to tell?

It's a testament to Gray, however, that each 7-10 page 'episode' of the comic felt like an episode. You never feel like you were being cheated of content. The fact that you can read The Flood as an epic, despite it being only 80 pages along is phenomenal.

Incidentally, the Flood is one of only three good Cybermen stories. The Cybermen earnestly believe they are helping humanity, and humanity WANTS their help. They take a little push, but still, it's a take on the Cybermen that actually requires the Cybermen, which is a rare joy.

Okay, I'll stop gushing now.

Gray/Geraghty/Salmon is the greatest creative team in Doctor Who.

I'll stop gushing NOW.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 5 months ago

It's a tough one. I mean, Dicks is a raconteur who lies his head off. This is impeccably documented at this point - Dicks's accounts of Doctor Who are shamelessly rewritten to be better stories. On the other hand, the fact that this is his story about Jo is, I think, revealing whether it's entirely true or not.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 5 months ago

I'd weigh in here, but I'm off writing Friday's post on Sometime Never, and I figure why just copy-paste it into the comments. :)

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Ciaran M 4 years, 5 months ago

This. Exactly this.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 5 months ago

It's not that DWM turned it down, but that they weren't allowed to do any Nine stories without Rose. Apparently, RTD didn't want Nine's life to start before his beloved shop-girl entered the picture... ;-)

Also... and I feel a little sheepish to say this, and I really don't want to come over like an asshole, but I'd never seen what you'd looked like before, Phil. Did not connect the voice and the appearance, sorry; gave me a start. :-(

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 5 months ago

Well, at least I didn't give you a headache. :)

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 5 months ago

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 5 months ago

You didn't, don't worry; my problem is that you've a thicker beard than I'll ever have. [/jealous] ;-)

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 5 months ago

As for Rose, I basically noted that in the post. Though it was as much Gardner as Davies, and they were right: a pre-Rose/Time War Ninth Doctor doesn't make sense as a character any more than a pre-Unearthly Child First Doctor does.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 5 months ago

I think it might've; would've been an interesting dynamic... and it was already sort of set up with the photographs shown in "Rose".

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Scott 4 years, 5 months ago

@Ununnilium: Funny you should say that, since I seem to remember RTD once mentioning that he'd created a new enemy to be the Enemy had he not been able to get the rights to use the Daleks in the new series, the description of which seemed to be pretty much what the Toclafane ended up being.

Which isn't quite your suggestion, but apparently RTD was thinking along similar lines (albeit as a fallback).

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T. Hartwell 4 years, 5 months ago

Your gushing has peaked my interest- I want to read these, where can I find them?

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AdamAttley 4 years, 5 months ago

I often wonder what that version of RTD's series one would be like. In fact, part of me rather wishes the rights to the Daleks had remained out of their reach until, say, series four's climax... if at all.

Davies might not have felt so inclined to lean three out of four finales on a creature of his own creation, leading to a greater degree of variety.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 5 months ago

It's very interesting to imagine "Dalek" and "Parting of the Ways" with the Toclafane instead of the Daleks, and actually surprisingly easy. Both stories depend on an implacable unstoppable foe that the Doctor hates because they destroyed his people in the Time War. You'd still get the massacre of Van Stratton's people in "Dalek" (plus "Metaltron" still fits), the Doctor's panicked reaction to being locked in a cell with it, and since the Toclafane are future-mutated humanoids (like the Daleks) you'd still get the "harvesting of humanity" plotline from "Parting of the Ways".

"I'm gonna wipe every last stinking Toclafane from the sky!"

Which kind of leads you to realise that there probably aren't any Dalek stories that would only work if it was the Daleks.

But of course the reason why you do use the Daleks whenever you can is that...it's the Daleks! And everyone loves Daleks.

Mind you, what would we have had as the Master's allies in "The Sound of Drums"?

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Spacewarp 4 years, 5 months ago

The sense I got from Clive's old clippings is of a single Doctor wandering around alone, trying to help people but in a companionless kind of way. Although he does save people, and destroy invasions ("Rose" catches him in the middle of doing just that), there's a kind of feel that he's just going through the "Doctor" motions, because he doesn't know what else to do. He's a Doctor emptied by the Time War (aka the Cancellation) waiting for the addition of Rose to re-actualize him (and kick-start the new series). Prior to meeting Rose he's just a potential, unformed Doctor, both as a person and a concept.

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Anton B 4 years, 5 months ago

'there's a kind of feel that he's just going through the "Doctor" motions, because he doesn't know what else to do. He's a Doctor emptied by the Time War (aka the Cancellation) waiting for the addition of Rose to re-actualize him'

Nicely observed. Of course Nine is in the process of dealing with the Nestene consciousness when he meets Rose. His method (blowing up a department store), always struck me as a bit extreme. He obviously needed to regain his compassion through a human companion. Also note how in the confrontation with the Nestene he calls on the authority of the Shadow Proclamation. He doesn't feel confident yet to assert his own authority or perhaps is looking for a replacement for the Time Lords when what he really needs is to find his 'human side'. Is this maybe a possible explanation/handwave for Eight's contentious 'half human' assertion?

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AdamAttley 4 years, 5 months ago

Ninth Doctor adventures set before 'Rose' = Colin Baker Redux

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Ross 4 years, 5 months ago

As for Rose, I basically noted that in the post. Though it was as much Gardner as Davies, and they were right: a pre-Rose/Time War Ninth Doctor doesn't make sense as a character any more than a pre-Unearthly Child First Doctor does.

But, of course, this doesn't require that 'Rose' be set immediately post-regeneration and more than 'Unearthly Child' must be set immediately after the Doctor left Gallifrey. "He isn't yet the man this show is about" needn't literally mean "He hasn't regenerated into this incarnation yet"

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encyclops 4 years, 5 months ago

the one thing the Daleks never do is *change*

I agree that's the intent, and yet we often see attempts to change them, from the eventual split into factions in the classic series to nonsense like "Evolution of the Daleks." As you describe, I think this is one case where it's almost more interesting to have them remain a constant that just deploys itself in varying ways. It makes better symbolic sense, even if it stretches their credibility as a race (but then in a universe where Angels could evolve, that sort of credibility is out the window).

Of course, the Time Lords are also supposed to never change. Which might make them natural enemies?

I dunno. I must say I'm glad there wasn't an invented mysterious enemy, though; as Ununnilium points out, it would have been a bad idea to burden the series with that kind of backward-looking mystery at its very start. I think the Toclafane worked best where they were used, and I like the idea of wiping out the two biggest sources of annoying continuity at the very start. I was a little sad about losing Gallifrey at first but now I can't imagine it any other way, and still kind of wish we hadn't gotten a glimpse of it in "The End of Time" (but there are so many things to regret about that story, aren't there?).

Spacewarp: yep, that's the problem -- we need more Dalek stories that only work if it's the Daleks. To be fair, we've had a couple that at least make solid stabs at it.

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Ross 4 years, 5 months ago

I think it's a concept that is more honored in the breach. Evolution of the Daleks is pretty much the Go-To example for that: we've got a dalek trying to become something "more than Dalek", and this is, in essence, a sin, for which he and his creations must die. You see the same thing in 'Dalek': the Dalek itself feels the need to die because it has started to become something other than Dalek. Then Dalek Kaan has his mind-expanding experience, gains a greater perspective than a Dalek ought, and decides to orchestrate the genocide of its own race. And though I accuse the Moffat era of going astray from that, there's something there in the idea that the "craziest" Dalek of all is the one that thinks it's human.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 5 months ago

The thing is we're basically guaranteed another Gallefrey story, and another Master story. Eventually the Time Lords WILL come back in some fashion. It's just too large a nexus of potential not to happen. If it's done right (Wait until the end of next series or the series after) it can fade just a little into memory making the Time Lords/Master even more mythic.

Whether or not this is good for the series or will produce good stories is another matter entirely.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 5 months ago

That's a fair cop.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 5 months ago

I'd say that starting off by giving the Time Lords as mythic status as possible before reintroducing them is probably a good first step towards good stories. I'd say that The End of Time actually helps with that; for all its flaws, it had the Time Lords as something much more mythic than we saw in Lungbarrow or The Ancestor Cell.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 5 months ago

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Who-Complete-Eighth-Strips/dp/1905239653

Is a link to the collected editions available through Amazon. If you have a Friendly Local Comicbook Store they could probably order them in for you as well.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 5 months ago

Again though it's the Dalek problem. To really bring them back properly you need a story where it can't be anyone else but the Time Lords. Even if you build them up as mythic and potent...it'll still fall flat if they are just place holders for "baddy of the week". This happens with the Daleks often enough that I feel like it's a legitimate reservation.

I've yet to read the Ancestor Cell...are they fairly uninspiring there?

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elvwood 4 years, 5 months ago

Just looking at the collected comics: how come I can't seem to find End Game anywhere? Amazon says it's unavailable, Forbidden Planet that it's been discontinued, there are no copies on eBay: what's going on with that?

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Kit 4 years, 5 months ago

"Which kind of leads you to realise that there probably aren't any Dalek stories that would only work if it was the Daleks."

Genesis and Jubilee both require the metatextual* weight of the Daleks' cultural history to work (or at least to start); and Remembrance depends on the accretion of history and continuity within the show. Obviously every '79-85 story might as well have some other, or new, grudge-match foe of the Doctor's in place of Dave, and the Daleks themselves are mostly redundant.

*both external to the series, the way the history of Who is bound up with the success of the Daleks, and external to those individual stories

Day Of The Daleks prima facie would work *better* without them. Victory Of The Daleks would have been improved if it HAD depended on their role in the setting...

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Ununnilium 4 years, 5 months ago

See, I'd say Victory of the Daleks has a strong central idea that depends directly on the ontological conflict between the Doctor and the Daleks. And then a particularly weak story built around that central idea.

(Also, it's pure spectacle, but Doomsday depends on the fact that it's Daleks vs. Cybermen.)

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 5 months ago

The plot of "Dalek" wold work perfectly well if it was some other murderous mechanised alien threat, it's true. But that scene where the Doctor enters the darkened cell and confronts the Dalek for the first time - that wouldn't be one tenth as powerful if it were any other monster.

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Kit 4 years, 5 months ago

re: Victory; yes, it feels like it's setting up a good and interesting story that's built on both the Daleks and their conflict with the Doctor -- but then throws this source of conflict and potential plot directions away completely for 2 unconnected and pointless half-tangents.

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Ed Jolley 4 years, 5 months ago

This has been a fairly hot topic at Outpost Gallifrey of late. Apparently the initial print run has sold out, and there's not enough confirmed demand to make a reprinting financially viable (minimum print run 5000). And among the fans who do want copies, there are enough desperate ones that any second-hand copies that come onto the market tend to be a) decidedly expensive and b) sold almost immediately despite the triple-figure cost.

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 5 months ago

The problem with Victory of the Daleks is that what should have been the Act One story question - "Will Churchill form an alliance with the Daleks?" - is resolved offstage before the curtain rises.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 5 months ago

Well, I think that's the clever part - the Daleks set up the Doctor by going down and tootling around on Earth a bit in a historically significant period, setting up what looks like a bog-standard Who plot.

...the trouble is, after we get that reveal, it then becomes a bog-standard Who plot, only with repeated cutaways to the Doctor threatening them over and over with a cookie.

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Unknown 4 years, 5 months ago

I've been very interested to read this article and would like to thank those who've written in defence of the comic strip - I really appreciate it.

I know the Eigth Doctor DWM strip was a labour of love from all those who worked on it from 1996 to 2005 - Gary, Alan, Martin, Ade, Roger et al - plus muggins here - but most of all Scott Gray. We all wanted a comic strip that was fun, surprising, played with and got the best out of the comic strip format and most of all told Doctor Who stories in as bold and wonderful a way as did the early Tom Baker strips under Gibbons and Skinn.

When I joined DWM it was clear from our sales figures that the BBC Books and Big Finish audios, though important and things we were keen to promote, were not selling anywhere near what the magazine itself did. And DWM likes to embrace everything out there in the world of DW, but we knew each Big Finish feature would get us snarky letters from the books fans. And vice versa. And we also had a fair percentage of our readers who weren't interested in anything other than the TV show. It was a real balancing act

So with the DWM strip we were always aware that it was reaching the widest audience of Doctor Who fans of ANY spin- off. So we worked really, really hard to make it worthwhile, a good, exciting read and hopefully a nice fix of new Who for the non-book, non- audio brigade. Plus we made sure our stories were kept separate from the universe of the books and audios. No toes got stepped on.

So it was a real honour when Russell - a DWM-er from way back in the DWW days asked us to do the regeneration in The Flood. The ins and outs are in the graphic novel, and ultimately we were stymied by (very sensible) BBC rules. But you look at those first few seasons and I don't think Russell would disagree that he was inspired by moments and little story beats and even visuals from our strip. Stretching back even to those Gibbons days when a 'kronkburger' is offered in 'The Long Game'. And that's just lovely.

And then later we got The Lodger and (less blatantly) The Shakespeare Code directly adapted from the comics. There's even a scene in The Unicorn and the Wasp directly lifted from DWM's first Ninth Doctor strip.

The comics have often been, unfairly I think, ignored or downplayed when discussing the non-TV world of Doctor Who, but I remain extremely fond and proud of what we all achieved. And in awe of the blood, sweat, tears and missed sleep Scott Gray in particular poured into them.

I hope you will give them another go. I think they're worth it.

All the best,
Clay Hickman
DWM comics editor 2002-7

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Clay Hickman 4 years, 5 months ago

Oh, and I just noticed on a quick rewatch of the pre-credits conclusion to Asylum of the Daleks that it's VERY close to the end of the first part of 'Children of the Revolution' - Doc surrounded by Daleks who then say something unexpected. Even the Doctor's final line, "Well, this is new!" is word-for-word the same in both cases! Haha!

I know Moff read the DWM back in the day - The Lodger proves that one - but it could just be a coincidence. A nice one, though!

Clay
x

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