❉ A brand new story arc for the Ninth Doctor begins, from the pen of Cavan Scott.
Aside from the unique case of John Hurt’s “War Doctor”, Christopher Eccleston’s tenure as the Doctor is the shortest by a solid margin. McGann had far less screen time, but multimedia extensions and the length of interstitial time spent as the incumbent Doctor – not to mention speculation about his incarnation’s role in the Time War – combined to give his story a weight well in excess of the limited television appearances. For its part, Eccleston’s one shining season was no less epic but has a far different dynamic with the non-TV stories.
While comics, novels and (especially) the Big Finish audio dramas were the main building blocks of McGann’s Doctor Who legacy, Eccleston’s place among the Doctors was rock solid on the basis of his thirteen TV episodes alone. As a result, the various spin-off stories never felt quite as essential for his incarnation as they did for his predecessor. Of course, not being essential doesn’t mean they weren’t good, and the Ninth Doctor has been gifted with good spin-off stories from the outset, especially in the comics.
It started in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine, with stories by TV series writers Gareth Roberts and Robert Shearman, and continues with Titan Comics current Ninth Doctor series, written by Cavan Scott. Scott has written for multiple Doctors in a variety of mediums and has written for this particular Doctor regularly in the comics for the past couple years going back to the 2015 miniseries Weapons of Past Destruction.
Issue #11, the latest of the present series begins a new storyline entitled The Sin-Eaters. It opens with the Doctor in a literal tight spot. Accused of murder, he’s imprisoned at the Hesguard Institute, a 53rd Century rehabilitation unit located in the middle of a time storm. Not surprisingly, that rehabilitation is proving to be a challenge, as Examiner R. Tyler learns when she arrives at the facility to perform a surprise inspection focused on the Doctor.
Rose soon learns from Director Highsmith that the Institute’s “Bad Wolf Process” is is designed to remove the patient’s negative impulses and transfer them to…well, that’s the question. It’s clear enough that the titular Sin Eaters that the process uses find plenty of sustenance in this Doctor’s dark side, not to mention what Highsmith refers to as “the worst case of multiple personality disorder on record”. However, her plans beyond that remain a very open – and somewhat frightening – question as this issue reaches a nicely satisfying cliffhanger.
What’s most satisfying about this issue overall, though, is how it fits within the established story of the Ninth Doctor. To the extent there was any real gap in the overarching narrative of the 2005 series of Doctor Who, it was not getting to see the learning curve that the Doctor, Rose and Jack all went through between Jack coming on board and the events that led to the Doctor’s regeneration. Having this story set in that window (albeit with Jack temporarily out of the picture) lets readers see Rose’s development into the more confident character whose persistence ultimately saves the day on TV in The Parting of the Ways.
Long time fans will also enjoy the little references dotted throughout the issue, particularly in relation to the Time War. In the wrong hands, invoking continuity can stop a story dead in its tracks, but Cavan Scott is as adept at telling Doctor Who stories as he is at conveying the history of Doctor Who. As noted above, this issue poses quite a few questions by the end. One certainty is that whatever path subsequent issues take they’re likely to be highly entertaining.
❉ ‘Doctor Who: 9th Doctor #11 – The Sin-Eaters’ (Writer: Cavan Scott; Artist: Cris Bolton) was published by Titan Comics on 29 March 2017 and is on general release from 5 April 2017. Available in print from Titan Comics, RRP £2.65 and digitally from Comixology, RRP £2.49.