Five brief vignettes of the Dark Times arrive in the Doctor Who Comic Creator app, as the Eight and Ninth Doctors continue to search for their future self
Two things about Time Lord Victorious, the epic Doctor Who multimedia event, have been particularly impressive. The first is the sheer breadth of formats and type of media that have brought together to tell this story. And the second, in balance to that, just how successfully they stand alone so that all add to the world of Time Lord Victorious, without requiring you to have gotten everything else too. Tales from the Dark Times, part of the Doctor Who Comic Creator, is certainly a fantastic example of the first. But, surprisingly, it’s the only piece of Time Lord Victorious so far to not entirely manage the second.
The Doctor Who Comic Creator app, available through the PlayStore and iStore, gives fans their access to assets that allow them to create their own basic comic strips. You can get Doctors, companions and monsters in various outfits, and with various facial expressions and poses. You can place them in a variety of pre-created environments. From there you craft your story by entering your own speech bubbles and text. It’s all good silly fun. And used (and let’s face it humourously misused) by fans on social media for some quality tweets.
Setting the Tales from the Dark Times during a novel that’s not out until next month complicates things. But it also offers tantalizing hints
But as well as adding elements like the Tenth Doctor in his Time Lord Victorious robes, and the Dalek Time Squad, for users to play with, the Comic Creator has gone a step further. The Time Lord Victorious project has already achieved some remarkable feats of narrative and form. Like telling part of Brian the Ood’s origin story on a glow-in-the-dark t-shirt, for one. Now TLV mastermind James Goss beats the app into submission to tell more Tales of the Dark Times.
The results are slight, but neatly formed little Doctor Who narratives. Each of the five comics is ten pages long, but with few panels per page. This makes some of them little more than a single scene. Despite this, it deftly captures the various characterizations, particularly of the Dalek Time Squad and the Eighth Doctor. While Brian the Ood Assassin continues his fine line in withering disdain, like a homicidal Alfred the butler. Though there’s a downside that there’s little to no space for setup or backstory. So there’s little context explaining how we got to these particular moments.
That’s complicated by the recent update to the Time Lord Victorious timeline. That revealed that these comics are actually set during the events of the novel All Flesh is Grass. Since that’s still a couple of weeks from release, it leaves these comics temporarily feeling quite dislocated. The essential concept here is that the Tenth Doctor has gone missing, and his two previous incarnations, along with the Daleks, are looking for him. But all the hows and whys of that are currently unknown. As it stands, it just adds to the somewhat random feel.
The scripts impress by largely fitting in proper miniature SF tales into the limited word count, while hinting at troubled times ahead for the Doctors
As to the stories themselves, they’re intriguing vignettes, possibly because they only hint at events to come. In Episode 1, we encounter the Tenth Doctor wandering in the desert with a concerned Brian. Rightly concerned, it seems. There’s a sense that, whatever happens in All Flesh is Grass, he’s been left with a tenuous grip on reality.
The TV Century 21 comics, just reprinted last week, have been a major influence on Time Lord Victorious and Episode 2 represents a bold attempt to capture the energy of those classic strips in this form. An entire planet awaits imminent disaster when strange creatures they’ve never seen before, wise and peaceful benefactors offering salvation. Daleks. It’s one of the most complete story here, with beginning, middle and twist ending. And it’s also a neat illustration of how finely drawn these new Restoration Empire Daleks’ personalities have been. Even here they still feel like the distinct individuals we’ve met in the DALEKS! cartoon and Titan Comics.
That continues with Episode 3, in which the Eighth Doctor and his unlikely allies investigate a drifting space hulk during their quest for the Tenth Doctor. It also again manages to again tell a proper little science fiction tale in its limited pages. The drifting ship’s secrets are revealed in a storyline reminiscent of 50s comics Weird Fantasy. Meanwhile, it points to an intriguing relationship between the Doctor and the Dalek Strategist, based on wary mutual respect. Although Blogtor Who can’t help put feel the Time Lord’s attempts to inspire the Strategist to be a better person (and therefore a worse Dalek) are doomed to fall on deaf lumosity emitters.
Buying the comics also unlocks new assets to use in your own Time Lord Victorious stories
Episode 4, starring the Ninth Doctor and the vampire Madam Ikalla, is by far the most perfunctory. The two wander about a snow planet, almost get eaten by a shadow monster, and then don’t. And that’s about your lot. We finish up with Episode 5. Remarkably, it’s our first glimpse into how the Eighth and Ninth Doctors relationship will work in Time Lord Victorious. Maybe it’s only because of the brief space allowed, but there’s little of the banter or squabbling we normally associate with multi-Doctor stories. Instead they’re right to business, working together to figure out why a 20th century Earth semi-detached house is sitting on a desolate planet in the Dark Times. The mystery has hints of Sapphire & Steel and some moments that are pretty strong horror once you think about them, using the appealing and childish art style to smuggle them in under your perceptions.
The Tales from the Dark Time are arguably the thinnest sliver of the Time Lord Victorious pie. And at £4.95 for the five (compared, for instance to £5.40 for a full issue of ‘proper’ comic Defender of the Daleks) they’re probably only worthwhile for true completists and fans willing to buy into the spirit of the thing. An added attraction, however, is that you get the various Time Lord Victorious characters, locations and props to make your own comics with. Which, with a bit of imagination, can be bags of fun.
Tales from the Dark Times are the tiniest sliver or a gargantuan crossover, but are symbolic of its underlying sense of fun
All in all, the Comic Creator Tales of the Dark Times aren’t going to shatter any universes. But it’s a great example of the imaginative way Time Lord Victorious is bringing out all the toys in the BBC Studios toy box. And it highlights the sense of fun and energy that Goss has made sure fizzes throughout the range.