On-screen, the multi-Doctor story tends to appear every ten years to celebrate anniversaries. In the panels of the comic book page, however, the multi-Doctor story is becoming something of an annual event.
Since 2013’s anniversary tale Prisoners of Time, we’ve had Four Doctors in 2015, Supremacy of the Cybermen in 2016 and, published last year, The Lost Dimension. It’s a solid fixture of Titan’s summer “event” release strategy, one huge story told across their existing Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth ranges, often with occasional input from other Doctors. It’s nothing new for the comics world, Marvel and DC have been doing it for years and it’s a model that has, to varying degrees of success, transferred to the cinema over the past decade.
Given that we’re a few days from the broadcast of Jodie Whittaker’s full debut in The Woman Who Fell to Earth, Titan has adopted a different approach this year. Over the past few weeks, they’ve published self-contained standalone 10th, 11th and 12th Doctor adventures under the banner of The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor each including a coda involving, presumably, the 13th Doctor’s hand reaching into her previous selves’ adventures. We’re yet to find out what this means (another multi-Doctor event to see Titan through the winter perhaps?) but have been assured the story will continue in The Thirteenth Doctor #1, due for publication on October 17th and headed by an all-female creative team.
Before that, however, Titan has published The Thirteenth Doctor #0, a special edition prequel that both celebrates the past whilst looking ahead to the glorious future. Structured around the idea of life passing before your eyes at the moment of death, Richard Dinnick’s script is set during the Twelfth Doctor’s regeneration into the Thirteenth, as an unidentified narrator (the Doctor himself, not quite done dispensing advice to his successor or the TARDIS are this reviewer’s guesses) guides them through memories of past adventures for each of the thirteen previous incarnations. These snippets, often focusing on either the start or climactic resolution of an unseen adventure aren’t always narratively satisfying to the point that if you miss any of the guiding narration, you may feel like some pages have fallen out in transit.
There’s a breakneck pace to much of this, which is presumably due to the need to fit as much, for want of a better term, Doctor Whoness into proceedings. So we get a celebrity historical, alien planets, a visit to Gallifrey, the Time War, Daleks, River Song, The Master, spaceships, alien invasions of Earth which can often leave the reader feeling over-indulged. That being said, the strongest segments capture an essence of the featured Doctor and era as well as the overall appeal of this 55-year-old television programme.
Dinnick has the benefit of a huge team of artists illustrating his story, which reflects the different creative teams involved across the five decades of the show’s production. It’s often the case in reviews where there is some criticism aimed at an artist’s inability to 100% capture an actor or character’s likeness, perhaps a hangover from the good old bad old days of World Distributor’s creative approach to licensing contracts. The artwork is strongest when it’s more concerned with capturing a certain mood. For example, Arianna Florean’s Disney style illustration of a Fourth Doctor and Romana adventure captures the wit and whimsy of that breezy Season 17 period as City of Death is essentially relocated to the world of department stores and New York socialites.
Titan is pitching this as the perfect beginner’s guide, which is a noble enough intention but with a dazzling array of artwork, whistle-stop tour of the Doctor’s previous incarnations and a focus on the 8th, 10th and 11th’s comic book companions it is truer to say that The Thirteenth Doctor #0 is a primer for Titan’s back catalogue and upcoming Thirteenth Doctor range. It is also an entertaining, diverting way to pass these last, slow days until the Thirteenth Doctor comes crashing into our lives on October 7th.
DOCTOR WHO: THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR VOL. 0
Writer: Richard Dinnick
Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Mariano Laclaustra, Rachael Stott, Claudia Iannicello and various
Publisher: Titan Comics
FC, 68pp, $7.99, £5.40 On Sale: Now