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Graphic Novel Review
The beloved Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler and Captain Jack Harkness return in a thrilling new tale! Time Lord technology, thought to be lost in the wake of the Time War, is being sold on the intergalactic black market! Now the prospect of a new temporal conflict looms on the horizon, with the Doctor and his friends caught between the twin threats of the cosmically empowered Unon and the armoured Lect – two species with intertwined histories who are jostling to replace the Time Lords on the universal stage. Can the Doctor prevent history from repeating itself…?
There simply aren’t enough Ninth Doctor stories in the world. Compared to the copious amounts of licensed fiction devoted to the other numbered incarnations of the Time Lord (that is, not counting John Hurt’s War Doctor), Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor has taken the lead in just thirteen television episodes, six novels, one novella, one audio book, and a handful of comic strips and short stories. This graphic novel, which compiles last year’s five-issue mini-series, helps to redress the balance. Its title may be Weapons of Past Destruction, but in terms of Doctor Who mythology this is a weapon of past creation!
The events take place between The Doctor Dances and Boom Town, as a helpful note on the introduction page and references to Spock and bananas within the dialogue make plain. It’s a good interval to inhabit – it is clear from conversations in Boom Town that the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack experienced a number of off-screen adventures at this point. An even more tempting gap to fill might have been the one before Rose, but that may have been declared off limits by the BBC.
Blair Shedd’s likenesses of our heroes vary a bit, but they tend towards good. It helps that these characters and their costumes were originally designed to have very distinctive silhouettes – particularly that of the Doctor – so there’s not much chance of mistaking them for anyone else. The artist makes good use of this aspect, incorporating several silhouette shots into the strip. He also captures the full range of Eccleston’s flexible facial expressions, from grinning loon to angry to bereft. Even more remarkable is the way in which he manages to capture the soft-focus gleam that the 2005 series possessed.
The dialogue is less memorable than that in Titan’s other Doctor Who series has tended to be, but this is largely down to the fact that the Ninth Doctor is less of a motormouth than his successors. He has his moments, though. “You travel with me, you lose the weapons,” he tells Jack during the opening chapter, “They’re stupid, they’re ugly and I’ve seen enough to last me several lifetimes. Used enough. Get it? No. More. Weapons.” Later on, he characteristically boasts about his ship’s capabilities: “This TARDIS has plunged into the middle of antimatter tornadoes, swallowed suns that should never have existed and out-run the Big Bang itself. Materialising around a 19-year-old girl? Child’s play.”
This story probably works better as a graphic novel than it did in monthly instalments, because the plot doesn’t advance very far during the first episode, and our heroes don’t actually arrive at the illegal weapons fair mentioned in the synopsis (the Fluren Temporal Bazaar, which is hidden inside a star) until the second. Look out for some familiar alien races from the Doctor’s past, present and future buying and selling there. The Doctor goes a bit ‘Jesus versus the money-changers’ when he sees some of the wares on display – well, Eccleston did play the lead in The Second Coming, after all. Consuming this narrative in one go may also aid your recognition of the creature inside the Lect suit, when it is finally revealed…
On the other hand, the compilation highlights a degree of repetition in the plot, with our heroes facing seemingly certain death on a number of occasions (attacked by Lect and Unon, exposed to the lethal Time Vortex, burned up in the heat of a supernova) only to be saved each time by a transmat beam or similar device.
Unon commander Arnora explains that a temporal power vacuum has been created by the absence of the Time Lords following the Time War. This is a notion that was rarely touched upon during the television series, and is well worth exploring. The Centaur-like Unon have set themselves up as time’s new champion (a phrase first coined during the Seventh Doctor New Adventures novels), not to control time, but to prevent others from seizing power over it for themselves.
The Unon also get inside the heads of the Doctor and Jack, facilitating a brief flashback to the Time Lord’s previous two incarnations and a throw-forward to visions of Jack’s future. There’s a nice speech from Jack about the virtues of the Doctor towards the end of the tale… but after such a long build-up, the graphic novel is over rather abruptly, with just one page of happy ending after the climactic explosion.
A new Ninth Doctor comic series is due to start later in the year, which is good news as far as I’m concerned, because I would like there to be many more stories featuring this version of the Time Lord. However, I do hope the writer will give us a stronger storyline next time.