June 30, 2009

Doctor Who By Numbers

Being a Doctor Who fan right now is challenging - the next Tennant "special" won't happen until November (although Torchwood is gearing up for a five-night special); the Tenth Doctor will soon regenerate into the Eleventh Doctor, and then...onto a new era.

However, thankfully IDW has been publishing a series of one-shots featuring the Tenth Doctor. Both of them are really good, solid reads, and (admittedly) are typical Who-esque stories...but one of the two issues stands apart.

That would be Doctor Who: Autopia, written by John Ostrander and drawn by Kelly Yates. It's like a lost story from the fourth season, where the Doctor and Donna Noble visit a planet where one race benefits from the servitude of another. OK, we've read this story before...but what sets is apart is that it has a very strong feel for character. The Doctor and Donna fit in this comic...and yes, although it is a little bit of Who-By-Numbers (you can see almost every plot point coming a mile away), it's not a bad story - in fact, it would serve as a nice entry point into the fourth season of Who.

The other one-shot of note is Doctor Who: The Time Machinations, written by Tony Lee (who wrote The Forgotten, and who will be writing the upcoming monthly) and Paul Grist. And this is one where I have very mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I liked it - yes, it was continuity porn (much like The Forgotten), but in the latter series, it was used to an advantage, a way to provide a summary of the Doctor's history....here, it tends to be a bit confusing. (Doing a Torchwood/Doctor Who crossover is one thing, but there are so many references to other shows...if I were a new fan, I'd be confused). Grist's art is wonderful, capturing the Tenth Doctor's facial and behavioral nuances, and other characters are fully realized.

I may be speaking out of both sides of my mouth - as a fan, I enjoyed the references, but as a reader, I found the references to past shows a bit confusing. I don't mind the occasional references, but Lee...doesn't quite get the mix right.

Of the two, Autopia is the stronger book - these may be relatively simple stories, and both can appeal to hard-core Who fans, but for those who are only slightly familiar? Autopia.

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