The early hours of Doom’s quest to find the Doctor prove strangely inaccessible to anyone who hasn’t done their homework
This year’s multimedia crossover event continues with Four Hours from Doom’s Day. Coming in the form of a 16 page comic book (20 including front and back covers) packaged with this month’s Doctor Who Magazine, it ambitiously tries to cover four whole hours of Doom’s quest to find the Doctor and avoid Death.
Though, oddly, there are no explanations of the above here. The Titan Comics books always show an abundance of caution, with every issue featuring a ‘Previously’ page even taking pains to introduce who the Doctor is and what the TARDIS is. In contrast, this collection of four short stories never explains who Doom is, what’s she’s doing, or why. While this information may be included in the Doom’s Day article in Doctor Who Magazine itself, but it makes for a bewildering read for anyone who hasn’t done their homework before sitting down to read it. Far from being a hook to get readers to pick up future instalments from Titan, Big Finish et al, it makes the whole thing seem frustratingly inaccessible.
The four short stories themselves treat exposition as cardinal sin, leaving too much neither shown nor told
It’s a shame as the setup is actually straight-forward when you know it. Doom is an assassin with the Lesser Order of Oberon, selecting a new job from a list given to her every hour by the Order’s secretary Terri, and then having an hour to do the hit. After her last mission went wrong she’s been marked for death with actual, literal, Death hot on her heels. Her only lead is the Twelfth Doctor, who somehow knows something about what’s happened to her. With 24 hours left to live she has 24 chances to select assignments that might cross paths with the Doctor.
The story itself is similarly murky at points. The opening pages feature Doom and River Song while the Grim Reaper emerges from the shadows between them. But neither of them refer to the big man in the cloak and with a skull for a face. Is he a visual metaphor? Invisible to the two women? It’s impossible to say for sure.
Autons, Cybermen, Jo and River lend to the celebratory ‘kitchen sink’ approach of a 60th Anniversary adventure
The page-to-time ratio does the strip no favours. It briskly runs through battles with Autons and Cybermen, and encounters with River Song, the Sixth Doctor, and Jo Grant. But it’s telling that only the longest story, the six page The Plastic Population, ever really comes into focus narratively. But it’s hard not to think of classic Doctor Who Weekly backup strips and what they could often accomplish with similarly limited page counts. A curious stylistic decision to completely eschew captions, a mainstay of comic book storytelling, certainly doesn’t help.
It would be a shame if this quartet of strips put people off following Doom’s Day, as the essential concept remains a strong one. Even the stories in this issue suffer more from being so rushed than with any actual problem in their concept or execution. But as the first point of contact many will have with Doom’s Day, it’s undeniably disappointing.