The first issue of Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time hit stands this week. With so many offerings in different media being presented to us for the 50th Anniversary, how does IDW’s stack up?
Warning, here be spoilers. And Katy Manning.
The first thing that struck me was the similarity between this and The Five Doctors. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Five Doctors, but we are definitely getting the same set up here. A mysterious hooded enemy is observing the Doctor through multiple incarnations, throwing old adversaries at him. In The Five Doctors, the Doctor gets scooped off and away. Here, it is only the companions. Where they are being sent, we don’t know. If it turns out to be the Death Zone, I shall kick someone.
The more I ruminate on it, the less it feels like a William Hartnell story. While the characterization of the regulars is nice, the story itself feels more and more out of place. It is perfectly in keeping with the era that the Doctor meets a historical figure. Indeed, one of the original goals for the series was to educate and expand on famous events and people. This became less of a priority after the Daleks made such a splash, but it was still part of the series until Patrick Troughton‘s first season. Yet Huxley would have been a controversial choice for the sixties, still being a divisive figure. He would have been in living memory for some people and the show shied away from such things until the 1980s.
Also, as the following annotations note, the Doctor getting to the precise time and place he intended was completely unheard of. Oft times, the TARDIS crew had no idea where they landed and would have to figure it out over the course of the first ten minutes of the first episode. This was part of fun of the show. You never had a clue where they would wind up next.
Simon Fraser’s art is a mixed bag. In terms of storytelling, it is very well done. There are some great panels of the Doctor battling Zarbi that can’t be missed. But this is a comic that lives on likenesses. The Doctor himself is alright, but Ian and Barbara look nothing like William Russell and Jacqueline Hill, Vicki often looks far older than 16, and strangely Huxley is pretty good. Fraser has a knack for old men apparently.
Overall, I enjoyed it. I have always adored the Zarbi, so any excuse to see them again is very welcome. Quite where this is all going, I’ve no idea but we shall hopefully get some more clues next issue.
And now, a few things to notice about Issue #1.
Page 1, Panel 1 — While most images in this panel are too small to make out, of special notice is the upper right hand corner which features one of the infamous Katy Manning (who played companion Jo Grant) nude photos. Its inclusion here may be an indication that in the Who universe, Jo also took a nude photo with a Dalek. Jo met the Daleks in the episodes Day of the Daleks and Planet of the Daleks.
Page 2, Panel 2 — From top to bottom: The fourth Doctor and an unknown companion in Hollywood. Judging from the hairstyle, it’s probably Sarah. There is no recorded adventure with the fourth Doctor in Hollywood, but his first, second, fifth, sixth, eighth, tenth and eleventh incarnations have visited. This is the carving of the tenth Doctor and Donna as featured at the end of Fires of Pompeii. A photo of the TARDIS in Roald Dahl Plass taken during Boom Town. Roald Dahl Plass is also home to the Torchwood Hub.
Page 3, Panel 3 — From left to right. Row 1: Barbara Wright, an older Vicki Pallister, Captain Jack Harkness, the second Romana, Amy and Rory Pond-Williams, Micky Smith. Doctor Liz Shaw. Row 2: Dorothy “Ace” McShane, Rose Tyler, Adric, Frobisher (Doctor Who Magazine comic strip), Adam Mitchell (Dalek, The Long Game). Row 3: unknown (Possibly Charlotte Pollard from Big Finish audios), K-9, Matthew Finnegan (IDW comics)
Page 5, Panel 3-The sixth Doctor would meet a young Charles Darwin in Bloodtide. Darwin also gets name checked frequently in the seventh Doctor story Ghost Light,a sort of parable about evolution.
Page 6, Panel 3 — The first Doctor was almost completely incapable of getting the TARDIS where he intended to go. The running arc of the first season was his trying to get Ian and Barbara back to the 20th century. Just how they are in 1868 on the right day is something of a mystery. Let alone writing Huxley a letter that would get to him in a timely manner…
Page 8, Panel 2 — The first Doctor usually carried a tiny pen torch, but this larger model is new. The same prop torch would later be used as the first version of the sonic screwdriver. The flashlight was invented in Britain in 1899.
Page 9, Panel 4– The Zarbi seen here are different than those seen in The Web Planet. In that story, they are large bipedal ants with six limbs. Here they scuttle around on the ground and seem to have either six or eight legs depending on what panel they’re in.
Page 11, Panel 3 — Here the Doctor calls Ian “Chatterton”. This is an example of what is referred to in fan circles as a “Billy Fluff”. During most of the 60s, Doctor Who was shot on video almost as live. Tape was very expensive and there was very little editing. They would pretty much only stop if something went very, very wrong. If a line was fluffed, it was often left in. Hartnell had a tendency to fluff his lines, sometimes quite noticeably. How much of this was intentional to show how the Doctor was a befuddled old scientist, no one will ever know. But this did often show itself when the Doctor was referring to Ian. Of course in this comic, Ian’s last name has not been mentioned yet, so if you didn’t already know who Ian was, you might be confused.
Page 15, Panel 3 — The Isop-tope Device was created by the other native race to Vortis, the Menoptera, a race of giant butterfly men. At the end of The Web Planet, it was Barbara that threw the Device at the Animus, seemingly killing it.
Page 19, Panel 2 –The Light at the End is also the title of Big Finish’s forthcoming 50th anniversary Doctor Who audio featuring the fourth through eighth Doctors.
Page 20, Panel 4 –The Doctor shall encounter the Zarbi again in Twilight of the Gods and Return to the Web Planet. A Zarbi also made a cameo appearance in The Mind of Evil as a manifestation of one of the Doctor’s greatest fears! A seed of the Animus returns in Twilight of the Gods, trying to take over Vortis once more.
Page 23 — As mentioned in John Ainsworth’s essay, the 60’s Doctor Who comic strip was a sometimes bizarre sidestep from the show. For the sake of completeness, the Zarbi did appear in the comic and in the Doctor Who annuals released at the same time, but these are so confused in terms on continuity, these are usually ignored. For example, The Lost Ones features the Doctor traveling alone to Vortis before The Web Planet and includes a war between Atlanteans and the Menoptera.