When Jodie Whittaker finally takes the reigns of Doctor Who, it will have been over 10 months since we saw Peter Capaldi say “Doctor, I let you go,” ushering in a brand new everything for the show. Every off-shoot and spin-off of the series has been in a holding pattern until we get to see the Thirteenth Doctor’s first episodes of television. Titan Comics has team all set to go for the Thirteenth Doctor comics, but they’re waiting like everyone else, and so to get people excited, they’re offering “Thirteenth Doctor #0,” a way to celebrate the character’s past while getting people stoked for the future.
The original graphic novel was written by Richard Dinnick, the longtime writer of the Twelfth Doctor comics for Titan and the writer of tons of Doctor Who material. It features the Doctor’s inner monologue the moment prior to regenerating fully, and takes the reader and the new Doctor through various short adventures from each of the Doctor’s past incarnations. Each comic strip is also accompanied by art from a different artist, often wildly different. The Third Doctor short, for instance, features art by Brian Williamson, which is highly detailed and realistic—not unlike the old Pertwee comic strips from the ’70s—and this is followed by the Fourth Doctor story featuring incredibly cartoonish and whimsical art by Arianna Florean. It’s a lot of fun to travel through the Doctor’s history this way.
This acts much more as a series of shorts, each with their own title, than as a cohesive storyline, but they do flow into each other nicely through the Doctor’s inner monologue. But since this is a comic with thirteen different stories (yes, the War Doctor gets his own short), some of them seem more superficial than others. The First Doctor’s story–which has gorgeous art by Mariano Laclaustra–doesn’t so much have a narrative as a look at a scene which fans of the classic series will know all too well: the Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and her teachers Ian and Barbara, landing on a strange planet and looking around at stuff. Other vignettes have almost too much story for their few pages; the Second Doctor story–with art by Georgia Sposito–is about weird playing card aliens, which resolves itself very quickly indeed.
The later we go in the timeline of the Doctors, the more interesting the stories become. The Fifth Doctor has an entire discussion of life and death with a misunderstood foe in the cloisters of Gallifrey–as depicted in the Twelfth Doctor episode “Hell Bent”–and it feels like the end of a particularly interesting television story indeed. The War Doctor short plops us directly in the middle of the fabled Time War where the warrior tries to defy the Daleks without killing anyone or anything. The Eighth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors each have their comic-continuity companions, which might throw off fans of the show picking up the book, but rest assured their individual stories don’t require any other prior knowledge of the comics. The Ninth and Twelfth, though, are fully steeped in television characters, and felt particularly genuine in the writing.
My up and down reception to the stories in the segments aside, Dinnick absolutely nails the tone and personality of not only each of the Doctors but of their specific eras on television. The First Doctor is mysterious and austere; the Second Doctor is the voice of reason in the strangest of circumstances; the Fourth Doctor is a big goon and it’s Romana who actually gets stuff done; the Seventh Doctor is always 10 steps ahead of his various foes; the Eleventh Doctor is constantly at the whim of River Song. It’s great! These act as tiny snapshots of times past, even though none of these stories ever appeared on the show.
It’s been mentioned several times that series 11 will not feature references to previous eras of the show–we’ll see how long that lasts–so I’ll be interested to see the new direction of Doctor Who in comics form, which often relies totally on referencing the past. But when you get a graphic novel this fun and full of love for a very long running series, you almost can’t get enough.
Doctor Who: Thirteenth Doctor #0 is on shelves Wednesday, September 26 from Titan Comics.
4 out of 5
Images: Titan Comics
Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor and the resident Whovian for Nerdist. Follow him on Twitter!