❉ The Eleventh Doctor meets the Ood…
“Both writer and artist have a good handle on the Eleventh Doctor – whilst it’s impossible to capture a performance fully, between them they manage the next best thing of translating the essence of Smith’s Doctor to the page.”
Titan’s eleventh Doctor range has displayed some wonderfully ambitious storytelling chops of late, culminating in the quite brilliant idea of turning the Earth into a giant ribbon looped around the sun where you could time travel forwards or backwards just by walking along it (a wackier, more comic friendly riff on Kate Orman’s Benny Summerfield book Walking to Babylon). And as with the ongoing tenth Doctor series he’s acquired a potentially all-powerful being (the Sapling) as a companion. Between them, these series have had a lovely sense of consistently pushing at the boundaries of what Doctor Who can do in comics that perhaps hasn’t been there since the glory days of Steve Parkhouse and John Ridgway (or, at a push DWM’s eighth Doctor strips).
Time of the Ood is as close to a breather as Doctor Who gets. After the high concept fun of the previous story things are a lot quieter here – the stakes are far smaller, the antagonist of the piece less powerful and misguided rather than moustache-twirlingly evil. You might have guessed from the title that the story sees a return appearance by Tennant era slave race the Ood. Whilst they’re perfectly fine in themselves, they’re perhaps not the most thrilling of returnees – a race whose story of slavery and emancipation was neatly encapsulated in their TV appearances and whose subsequent freedom and realization of their own power was illustrated in their cameos at the fag end of Tennant’s reign. What’s new to be done with them?
The answer is: not a lot. To a large extent this is a remix of the previous Ood stories – the Ood we meet are slaves on a station orbiting a black hole who’ve suddenly developed aggressive tendencies (though not devil driven here) and there’s a key role for a pro-Ood activist who just wants to see them set free. Oh, and there’s a cameo for a very familiar Ood too. It’s also a fairly straightforward, linear story which develops without any real twists before moving to a logical but obvious happy ending. The key mystery of the story – why these certain Ood haven’t been set free when the rest of their race have – is plot driven and quickly resolved rather than being an interesting development. The last page, combined with the story title, suggests that these rather low key events are a prelude to something more interesting to follow, with that familiar Ood suggesting that his race have learned an interesting lesson from the Doctor. It suggests that there’s a possible and logical further stage to the story of the Ood race which might reflect the ingenuity of an RTD era icon being placed in a Steven Moffat era context, a glance at a different facet of a diamond.
Pleasingly both writer and artist have a good handle on the sole familiar regular character to anyone coming to the comics for the first time. James Peaty’s got a good handle on the Smith Doctor’s casually brilliant babble and artist I.N.J Culbard is adept with Smith’s expressions and body language – whilst it’s impossible to capture a performance fully, between them they manage the next best thing of translating the essence of Smith’s Doctor to the page. This isn’t an issue for those who like their Who big and bold, but as a quieter story with fan pleasing elements and hints of bigger things to come it works just fine.
❉ Doctor Who : The Eleventh Doctor Year Three #5 (Writer: James Peaty, Artist: I.N.J Culbard) was published by Titan Comics on 10 May 2017. Available in print from Forbidden Planet, RRP £2.65 and digitally from Comixology, RRP £2.49