After a fantastic first half, ‘Gaze of the Medusa’ continues in part three with another entry that perfectly encapsulates the gothic tone of the Fourth Doctor’s era in both writing and artwork. While the story definitely slows down for this issue, the team at Titan Comics prove their ability to make Doctor Who entertaining even when it’s standing still.
That’s not to say that nothing happens in this story, far from it, but by the end, it doesn’t really feel like the plot has advanced very far from where it was left in the last issue. Luckily, writers Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby have made a valiant effort to pack this issue with moments that make it a really fun read. As in issue #2, Sarah Jane gets the bulk of the story and has to guide the Professor, who has a habit of bursting into Homeric verse at inopportune times, in a nice parallel of her relationship with the Doctor. You can almost imagine that this is how she’d respond to interacting with the Sixth Doctor.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Athena get their moments too, with each learning more about the other and the writers once again nailing the Fourth Doctor’s unique characterisation. It just feels like their scenes should have occurred against a backdrop more dynamic than “tinkering with a thing”. That said, giving them a side-quest may have convoluted a story that has (so far) neatly maintained the balance between rich and dense, so it’s probably for the best.
But the absolute centrepiece of the issue, alone worth the price of admission, is the monster reveal we get in a glorious splash page towards the end. Artist Brian Williamson has outdone himself with this creature design and that panel could have made a satisfying cliffhanger on its own, and the fact that it isn’t may be why the sense of padding permeates in spite the strong writing.
Given how well the “To Be Continued” moment was handled in the first issue, to see them essentially repeat it here is a huge let-down and suddenly makes the fact that nothing really happens in this part really glaring. We get practically no involvement from Lady Carstairs, despite how much time was devoted to developing her last time, besides one appearance that also feels like an excuse to pad out the issue.
This is probably the weakest entry into the story so far but, given how strong the first two issues were, that’s not a bad thing. But despite the slower pacing the strong writing (especially when it comes to the Doctor) and the flawless artwork make vital contributions to the essence of the story, if not the actual plot.