Review: Doctor Who Through Time and Space

Doctor Who: Through Time and Space from IDW

800+ years ago, a man ran away; far, far away.  Away from his people, from the responsibilities they wanted to heap upon him and from whatever destiny they saw for him that he didn’t want for himself.  He stole a ship, a fantastic ship that allows him to travel not only through space, but through time.  You see, his people, they mastered time long ago.  They are called the Timelords and they live on the planet Galifrey.

Well, they lived on the planet Galifrey.  Still do though no one can visit them and they cannot escape.  The Timelords fought in the TimeWar, the greatest war ever known, that raged across time and space and only ended because he ended it by locking it all away from the universe along with the Nightmare Child, the Skaro Degradations, The Horde of Travesties, The Could-Have-Been King and his army of Mean-Whiles and Never-Weres and, of course, his greatest enemies – the Daleks.  This left him alone, the last of the Timelords; alone to carry on their legacy.  He doesn’t like to talk about it.

From the beginning, he’s been running, is still running, whether it’s away from something as it was in the past, or to something now, we don’t know – but he is still out there, running.  Somewhere along the way, he fell in love.  Oh, not the kind of love that you and I might experience one for the other, no – he fell in love with an entire planet: Earth.

Now on his tenth regeneration, a quirk of his people that allows him to live far longer than us, the man known only as The Doctor is still running, still traveling in his stolen TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space) and, if he notices you, maybe he’ll take you along for the ride…

Doctor Who: Through Time and Space is a trade paperback / graphic novel that brings together 6 one shot issues of Doctor Who originally published by IDW Publishing.

Paperback: 152 pages
IDW Publishing (December 2, 2009)

With his Ninth regeneration, The Doctor found a companion to travel with him who found a special place in his hearts; her name was Rose.  He gave up one regeneration to save her life and, with his Tenth, she planned to stay with him forever.  Then came the Daleks ( managing to escape the timelock ) and the Cybermen ( bleeding through from another reality caused by the Daleks escaping the timelock ) and Torchwood ( created by Queen Victoria to act as a defense for the Empire against the alien hordes ).  Rose is transported to the alternate reality, leaving the Tenth Doctor to travel alone again.  Or, perhaps with some new companions.

Doctor Who: Through Time and Space gives us six stories featuring the Tenth Doctor on his own, with Martha Jones and Donna Noble.  Since the stories are not one, cohesive plot, I’m going to talk about each separately.

The Whispering Gallery by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Ben Templesmith

Our story opens with The Doctor and Martha traveling in the TARDIS.  On a mission to find Martha some milk for her tea, The Doctor brings them to the wrong planet; Gratt.  At first, Martha believes they’ve arrived inside an art gallery, but The Doctor tells her that each picture is actually the last words of one of the Grattites, the people of this world.  They capture a piece of their consciousness and lock it away here, in The Whispering Gallery, preserved for all time.

Creepy Comic Book Doctor wants to know if Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka is hiring...

The Doctor explains that he traveled with one of the Grattites for a time, just giving her a ride really.  Her name was Grayla and she told him that no one on Gratt ever smiles or laughs or cries.  That’s why they created the Gallery, so they could say all the things in death that they never could in life.

When he finds Grayla’s portrait hanging in the gallery, her last words directed to him, telling him that the emotions she had sought in her travels were wrong, were bad, he decides to find out what could’ve possibly happened to such a free spirit since he last saw her, what could’ve changed her into the mournful, regretful creature hanging on the wall of the Gallery.

Leaving Martha in the Gallery, he goes exploring and finds that there is a very good reason the Grattites do not allow any displays of emotions, a reason that may destroy the planet ow that he and Martha have arrived, which is where our adventure truly begins…

On a close up like this, there's a lot of detail to the art - click to see it larger

A common theme for me throughout my reviews of these stories is going to be the artwork; it was very distracting.  Overall, this was a decent story, but the artwork killed it for me in a lot of ways.  Maybe I’m too set in my Marvel / DC ways where the art is pretty consistent throughout the book, I don’t know.

First – it seemed like they couldn’t decide what style of art they were going to use from panel to panel.  This resulted in one panel looking very different from the next.  In one, it looked almost like a half-finished sketch, on the next, some sort of half/real photo half/drawn/colored image.  It just really distracted me from the story and a comic book’s art shouldn’t do that.

Second – I think they were going for ‘playful’ with the art, trying to capture the essence of Tennant’s Doctor and the humor that comes through via the art, but failed to deliver.  The mish/mash of styles from panel to panel, page to page, didn’t feel playful as much as it felt ‘incomplete’ to me.  Art is subjective, of course, so you could absolutely love it, I don’t know.  I don’t, and that took away from the story for me – I couldn’t enjoy it for what it was because I was constantly thinking, “Gah! That looks terrible!”

on something like this, a 'further away' shot, they did a lot of detail on the TARDIS but Martha looks like a stick figure drawing

The Time Machination by Tony Lee and Paul Grist

The Doctor, traveling alone, brings the TARDIS to London in 1889.  Apparently, the TARDIS is in need of fuel once again, but The Doctor can’t get her to Cardiff as he did with Rose and again with Martha, so he enlists the help of H.G. Wells and John Smith, a local physicist ‘of some renown’ to try and get her going again.  Part of the trouble is that the Torchwood Institute is hunting for him under orders from the Queen, so he has to lie low and try not to be seen.

While The Doctor and John Smith discuss ways to refuel the TARDIS without actually moving her to Cardiff, The Doctor also keeps dropping hints to Wells about how he should write a book, something Wells does not seem very keen to do.  “I told you Doctor, I’m not writing a book!”

Donning an outfit that looks suspiciously familiar, the three go off exploring only to run into folks from Torchwood!

The Doctor and John Smith escape, but Wells is captured and interrogated by the Torchwood Institute where he reveals that he has been in the company of The Doctor once before, though he looked very different.

In the end… well, I won’t tell you that.  There is a twist to this story that I won’t reveal, but it’s an amusing story if a little confusing once everything is revealed.

I liked the art in this one better than the previous story.  It’s completely different from the first story but consistent throughout which helped a lot and didn’t distract from the story which is in the same vein as the historical figure stories from the recent series (Shakespeare, Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens).  As such, it’s a lighter story, though it does have a decent twist and TWO references to Classic Who episodes that I caught – one in the middle and a nice little epilogue that ties the story to one of my favorites from the Tom Baker years; The Talons of Weng-Chiang.

The Doctor and Leela arrive in Victorian London for a little adventure.

Bonus shot - from the original and classic episode of Doctor Who-The Talons of Weng Chiang

Autopia by John Ostrander and Kelly Yates.

The Doctor and Donna travel to the closed planet Autopia.  Millennia ago, the inhabitants mastered robotics and announced they were going to make an automated utopia.  The robots would take over the task of keeping the planet going while they pursued higher goals like perfecting their minds and intelligence.  They built planetary shields to keep the rest of the universe out so they could live undisturbed.

Of course, this doesn’t keep the TARDIS out.  Together with Donna, The Doctor ventures out to explore Autopia and find its inhabitants.

First they run into robots who are definitely doing all the upkeep on the planet from gardening to security.  Essentially, they’re arrested and taken to one of the inhabitants who seems both annoyed at being interrupted in her studies and indifferent at the idea that new people are standing before her.  She simply wants to be left alone to keep ‘improving’, so she tells the robots to do to The Doctor and Donna what has been done to others who’ve managed to break through the planetary shield; kill them.

What happens next… well, that would be spoiling the story, wouldn’t it?

Of all the art throughout these stories, this one has my favorite.  It’s light, fun – feels like an animated series might look.  My only complaint is Donna herself; Catherine Tate is a, shall we say ‘curvaceous’ woman?  Far more curvy than they’ve represented her here.  I almost want to say that the comic book artist’s desire to make all women look impossibly thin and busty  won through, which is sad.  I don’t know – maybe they didn’t have the rights from Tate to her likeness so they decided to go with ‘Donna-like’ (or ‘Donna-lite’).

This is also my favorite of the stories, though I didn’t like the very last panel, which I won’t spoil here.  It had a bit of the Ood flavor to it even though the aliens were very human looking.

Okay – six stories, six very different bits of artwork, six very different plots and way too much content for one post SO, I’ve split this into two.  Part 2 will hit in a couple of days.  In the meantime (and in case you’re ready to go out and buy this right now without even reading the rest of the review) let me say this – the trade paperback itself will run you $20 at a brick and mortar barring any discounts you may have or you can pick it up online for around $12.