“Sometimes he is a soldier.
Sometimes he is a madman.
Sometimes he is the oncoming storm.
He is all of these things.”
The Day of The Doctor was undoubtedly a triumph for Doctor Who, bringing together a half-century of stories and legacy into one massive 75-minute long celebration. But, as good as it was, there was always that little niggling feeling that it could have done more – specifically, when it came to including more past Doctors from its 50-year history. It was great to see Paul McGann back in The Night of The Doctor, and none of us will ever forget the bumbling efforts of Doctors Five through Seven in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, but what about the rest? Sure, they all popped up at the end to save Gallifrey in their TARDISes, but wouldn’t a full adventure starring every single Doctor be the stuff of dreams?
Fortunately, IDW were on hand to deliver. Unrestricted by the boundaries of television and only limited by their imaginations, in 2013, they brought together the whole of the Whoniverse for another 50th-anniversary celebration of their very own. Originally released throughout the year as a whopping twelve part series, one per month, Prisoners of Time is an epic in every sense of the word – each chapter focuses on one of the eleven Doctors (no War or Twelve here sadly, as this was before The Day of The Doctor aired), with the final twelfth chapter serving as a dramatic multi-Doctor conclusion unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Now, thanks to this omnibus re-release from Titan Comics, you can enjoy the entire series in one cohesive collection.
As an anniversary tie-in, naturally you’d expect there to be plenty of fanservice and, needless to say, you won’t be disappointed. As well as all eleven Doctors, we’re also treated to a cavalcade of previous companions – Ian and Barbara, Jamie, Sarah Jane, Leela, K-9, Peri, Ace, Rose, Martha, Clara… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! At its heart, this is very much a story about The Doctor and his companions, so it’s nice to see some of these previous pairings back together for more adventures, blessed with brand new and original tales (even if some hark strongly back to classic Who tropes – aliens lurking underneath London, anyone?). In fact, a few chapters in Prisoners of Time dare to push the creative boat out further than you might expect, offering up some premises that would never have been possible in the past – The Fourth Doctor facing off against the Judoon, for example. Those law-enforcing space rhinos aren’t the only notable adversary returning to cause trouble either, and again there’s a healthy mix of old and new monsters to defeat. Considering the anniversary status, though, there’s some surprising omissions – but equally there’s some surprising additions, and it’s unlikely you’ll see the identity of the true antagonist coming.
Each chapter is essentially a standalone adventure, beginning with a beautifully presented poster-like image of its respective Doctor and ending with something that ties them all together into the overarching story. With such a large number of chapters, some are bound to stand out as more exciting to read than others, but in true Doctor Who fashion there’s a real variety of genres and locations on display here, doing its format-busting source material proud. Admittedly the close of each chapter begins to become a tad predictable once you’ve seen it the first few times, but luckily the writers throw in a few curveballs, later on, to keep things interesting. The ultimate conclusion to the bigger mysteries may be a bit underwhelming for some, but if nothing else you should enjoy the journey it takes to get there.
The story arc benefits from having the same two writers for all twelve chapters, but this consistency is not something that extends into the artwork itself – not in quality, it should be said, but simply in that each chapter is handled by a completely different team, giving each Doctor’s story a distinctly unique flavour. Again, this is a nice nod to the series itself as each Doctor’s era felt different to the last, and it helps to keep things fresh, always presenting you with something new much in the same way that one week’s episode of Doctor Who is invariably a completely different beast to the ones immediately preceding and following it.
In addition to the main story, the book also contains some reminiscing in between chapters about Doctor Who comic history as well as closing with a gorgeous gallery of Prisoners of Time cover artwork from the original run of releases. Spanning a total of over 300 pages, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck, so if you’ve yet to experience this 50th-anniversary adventure then this is likely to be the definitive edition to look out for.
All in all then, the Prisoners of Time omnibus dares to do something different, not only by providing something its TV counterpart could never do, but by telling a story that you might not expect from a multi-Doctor celebration. Though fans of certain eras may get more out of it than others, every Doctor gets their chance to shine, making it an accessible read whether you were a fan in the Sixties or only just jumped on board the good ship Doctor Who with Matt Smith. It may not be perfectly plotted, but it’s got a little something for everyone – if you missed out on it before, or just fancy reliving the experience all over again, then this excellent effort from comes highly recommended.
Written by Scott & David Tipton
Artwork by Simon Fraser, Lee Sullivan, Mike Collins, Gary Erskine, Philip Bond, John Ridgway, Kev Hopgood, Roger Langridge, David Messina & Giorgia Sposito, Elena Casagrande & Silvia Califano, Matthew Dow Smith, Kelly Yates
Released 20th January 2016