Can the Doctor and friends find the source of their mixed-up memories and escape captivity in Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – Holiday Special #2?
Although we didn’t get to see the Thirteenth Doctor and company on our screens this Christmas Day, Titan Comics have thankfully stepped in to bring us a festive two-part adventure starring the current TARDIS team!
The first half of this Holiday Special saw the ‘fam’ discussing where and when to celebrate the festive period. However, their conversation lead them to the realisation that their memories of their previous visit to an outer-space theme park (as detailed in this year’s Free Comic Book Day special) had been altered.
Upon returning to the theme park, the Doctor and friends were told by an alien named Friffle that their minds have been tampered by a ‘Mr Henderson’, and that they have in fact tried to stop him once before. It seems this mysterious figure has been taking other inhabitants of Friffle’s planet to work on his world – but to what end?
Armed with neurological trackers (which look suspiciously like Christmas lights) to monitor their brain activity, the gang set off to pay Mr Henderson a visit. They arrived at a festive, Alpine building, surrounded by snow, and guarded by life-size toy soldiers. They were introduced to Mr Henderson (who looks rather a lot like Father Christmas) and swiftly taken prisoner as suspected industrial spies attempting to infiltrate his research facility.
Fortunately, it seems a shadowy figure has come to their rescue – but who are they? And how do they know the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham?
A Doctor Who Spin on the Santa Claus Tradition
Once the identity of the fam’s mystery saviour is revealed, it comes as quite a surprise – as Graham remarks, ‘didn’t see that one coming’! In fact, given their appearance, I’m amazed that Yaz, Graham, and Ryan don’t react more strongly. Nevertheless, perhaps their composure is a mark of just how used to seeing such weird and wonderful sights they’ve become now they’ve been travelling with the Doctor for so long.
After being set free, the Doctor and friends come to discover Mr Henderson’s terrifying true identity, and just what he has Friffle’s people building in his workshop. Much like previous Doctor Who Christmas specials such as ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe’, writer Jody Houser puts a clever and sinister twist on some traditional Christmas folklore.
This story’s second and concluding chapter also offers some more direct nods to the Doctor’s previous adventures, both on- and off-screen. Houser riffs off the Eleventh Doctor’s comment from 2010’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ about ‘Father Christmas, Santa Claus or, as I’ve always known him, Jeff’ throughout the issue to great effect.
There’s also a brief callback to the Corsair, the swashbuckling rogue Time Lord the ‘fam’ encountered in this series’ previous story arc. It’s little references like this that help to tie the Thirteenth Doctor and friends’ comic-book adventures together into a cohesive universe of its own, rewarding readers who have stuck with the series over several arcs without entirely excluding new readers, and instead intriguing them to go back and explore previous issues.
The only minor issue I had with the second half of the story was one piece of character design, namely that of Mr Henderson’s alien henchmen – they looked a little too cartoon-ish, and out of place next to the more realistically rendered characters.
But that small personal dislike pales in comparison with the overall success of this concluding chapter of the Thirteenth Doctor’s inaugural comic-book Holiday Special. As always, Houser‘s spot-on writing, combined with the stunning artwork produced by Ingranata, Angiolini, and Chankhamma‘s artwork and Starkings and Hedrick‘s lettering, all make for a thoroughly captivating festive adventure for any Doctor Who fan to enjoy!
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – Holiday Specials #1 and #2 are available to purchase now from all good comic retailers.
Check out the three variant covers available for this issue, featuring artwork from Claudia Caranfa, Will Brooks, and Blair Shedd!
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Season 2 #1 will be available to purchase from Wednesday 8th January 2020.
Eisner-nominated writer Jody Houser and Witchblade artist Roberta Ingranata return for a brand new story in the Thirteenth Doctor comic series.
An epic adventure spinning off the new season starting in the new year, starring Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor. With her pals, Ryan, Yaz and Graham, the Doctor encounters a familiar foe, and it’ll take a familiar face to stop them!