Friday, January 23, 2009

Doctor Who: The Forgotten #6

(Tony Lee, Kelly Yates)

That Ben Templesmith picture is the best cover any issue of this series has had. On the inside Kelly Yates is handling the art; I miss Pia Guerra’s work from the earlier issues and would happily have waited months for this ending if it had meant seeing more of it. Yates isn’t bad, it’s just that Guerra’s mix of richly detailed backgrounds and simpler, cartoonishly iconic renditions of the familiar characters that perfectly captured their mannerisms was something extra-special and beyond what you expect from a tie-in book.

The Forgotten has been a bit of a fanboy story in which all 10 of The Doctor’s incarnations appear. I’ve seen a decent chunk of Doctor Who – a random smattering of the older episodes when I was a kid and all of the new series – so I know who all of these Doctors are and catch enough of the references to get by, but certainly not all of them. I’m in the weird position of both being annoyed by the references I get (I know the ninth Doctor said “Fantastic!” a lot, give it a rest) and those I don’t (who or what is The Valeyard? Do I really have to go to Wikipedia just to follow this?). While a degree of this stuff is to be expected, especially in the mostly enjoyable flashbacks to previous incarnations, this issue is really the tipping point where it goes too referential, too clearly becomes all about tapping into nostalgia rather than doing anything really interesting with these characters.

What clinched it was the sequence where several of The Doctor’s companions we hadn’t seen yet showed up one by one to pull out their signature shtick – Leela’s violent and thinks everyone else is a coward, Adric’s good at maths and doomed – before vanishing again. Too many of the characters are reduced to catchphrases and I get the feeling I’m reading bad fanfiction. The only difference between this and fan-comic The Ten Doctors is that this shows a less nuanced view of the characters and people got paid for it. When Tony Lee’s writing the 10th Doctor he gets the quirks of his dialogue right and you can imagine David Tennant speaking the lines, but when he’s got less space the other characters devolve into caricatures of themselves.

The early issues had a lot of promise, joyfully romping back and forth through the timeline of a show that’s changed pretty radically over the years, and the way the flashback to Doctor Number One was drawn to look not black and white, but the authentically fuzzy grey of 1960’s television was a neat touch. Only the most hardcore of fanboys will appreciate this conclusion though, and that’s the audience most likely to get sick of the one-note versions of their beloved heroes.

It’s a lovely cover, though.



  1. In fairness, I had effectively 22 pages to bring this to a close while utilising the companions not yet shown, whilst the excellent Ten Doctors has been running for over 160 pages, usually averaging 9 panels a page... :-)

    Unsurprisingly, this issue has either been a totally love it or utterly hate it. I've had 3/10 and 5/5. And as ever, the comic world is split.

    Sorry you were in the hate it bracket, though.

  2. I'm sorry, too. The first four or five issues really impressed me by living up to the better episodes of the show -- as too few tie-ins do -- fuelling my disappointment at the conclusion.