EDITORS NOTES: THIS REVIEW DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS
Titan has been doing a wonderful job giving Whovians plenty of fan-service since acquiring the comics license in 2014, including the scintillating ‘The Four Doctors’ crossover event and ongoing adventures for all the modern incarnations. So it’s about time the classic series got a look in and who better to start with than the Fourth Doctor in an adventure that would be right at home alongside his early television outings – Gaze of the Medusa.
From the very first page, this story has the feel of a Philip Hinchcliffe episode with a creepy mansion, mysterious veiled woman and her glassy-eyed servants. Not to mention our first monsters of the series, a pair of gargantuan cyclops sporting Victorian garb. Appropriately enough, the Doctor is wearing a Holmes-style deerstalker in this adventure, as he did in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, though this does present us with the first problem in the comic. The artwork depicting the Doctor and Sarah-Jane is based, per common practise, on publicity photos of Tom Baker and Lis Sladen. While this means that the two are drawn with wonderful detail, the shading frequently fails to match the other characters in the panel.
That said, the realistic illustrations, along with the dialogue, really helps to sell the presence of the Fourth Doctor. As you read it, you can’t help but hear Baker’s distinctive enunciation with every word. It’s harder to get a gauge on how well writers Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie have captured Sarah-Jane in this opening part of the story since she’s whisked away early on and has to listen to a villain monologue going into the cliffhanger, but she still gets a moment to shine this issue.
Speaking of cliffhangers, this one is brilliant even though we’ve seen this kind of ending before. It’s hard to pull off a final reveal like this and have it be dramatic since we know the history (or should I say future?) of the two main characters. But, from an in-story perspective, it’s a really exciting twist that draws on the tone of the classic series. You can practically hear that pre-credits sting of the theme tune as you take in the final panel.
The first of this five-part outing for the Fourth Doctor and Sarah-Jane Smith has clearly been developed with a lot of respect for the era of the show in which it’s set, but with a mystery that seems to draw on the more timey-wimey aspects of the modern series. It sets up a lot of intrigue for the next issue (though the story’s title is potentially a bit of a giveaway), a pair of supporting characters for the Doctor to bounce off of and an imaginative use of the comic format to realise the henchmen monsters. This really has a bit of everything so should be great for the nostalgic old guard and curious new fans alike.
DOCTOR WHO: THE FOURTH DOCTOR #1
Writers: Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Artist: Brian Williamson
Covers: Alice X.Zhang, photo, Brian Williamson, Jay Gunn, Matt Baxter, blank sketch
Publisher: Titan Comics
FC – 32pp – $3.99
Released: March 23