❉ Jody Houser does a great job building an intriguing and engaging plotline and captures Jo Martin’s voice immediately, writes Matt Dale.
“The plan is… that we’re going to improvise”
“That’s. Kind of the opposite of a plan.”
“Precisely. A plan means we’re being predictable.”
Doctor Who: Origins has a thankless task ahead of it. Prequels by their nature already have to play by the rules of “never mind the (predictable) destination, let’s have fun with the journey”. By virtue of being a spinoff comic, Origins needs to take care twofold – both presenting a vision of the Doctor that feels at home in a world set before the last 59 years of material, while also not taking major liberties to tread on any potential future flashbacks the show might bring us to fill in the gaps itself.
Fortunately, with constraints comes creativity. And Jody Houser does a great job building an intriguing and engaging plotline that rattles along well over 100 pages while treading extra-carefully around the Chibnall sandbox. And indeed, creating a plotline that’s so neatly wrapped up at the end that there’s only the slightest doubt as to why we haven’t heard anything about Time Lord colony worlds over the last half-century of TV.
Houser captures Jo Martin’s voice immediately, and manages to throw some surprises and twists into the mix, although the structure is rather confused by the editorial decision to jam the Comic Book Day special at the start, with a “Many Years Earlier” caption joining the two. Although this, pleasingly, creates a ‘complete’ collection of Titan’s Fugitive Doctor stories so far, the brief appearance of the First Doctor seems to be a plot thread that goes nowhere, and the sight of the Fugitive disappearing with a bag (of villains) on one page, and then appearing again a few pages later with a very similar looking bag (of spider eggs) is messy.
The characters are all well-realised, with Taslo especially being an intriguing ‘companion’ that’s entertaining to follow. Her motivations appear to be a bit confused, but by the end we can be fairly sure that any ‘plot holes’ are explained away by her playing both sides at different points throughout. The High Council emissary who sends Taslo and the Doctor on their mission is chilling, although why he seems to favour the ‘timeless gentlemen’ fashions the Doctor has often chosen is anyone’s guess.
Visually, this strip is a bit of a mixed bag. There’s a lot to love: The realisation of Kreb, in particular, is fantastic and unique, as are the other worlds the team briefly visit. The Doctor’s outfit is drawn accurately (although please, let’s not return to the 80s and have a ‘uniform’ for the Fugitive – how great would it be in future issues to see her wearing different clothes of a similar style?), and Roberta Ingranata gives her the pose and swagger we’ve seen on screen, complementing Houser’s script to create someone immediately recognisable. The general artwork style lends itself to some very sharp angles, which occasionally misses the mark when compared to Jo Martin’s own softer features, leaving a handful of panels failing to fully capture this Doctor’s face, but perhaps Martin is just the new Davison – an actor that will challenge artists for a while.
As expected, the graphic novel contains a number of bonuses. A comprehensive and beautiful gallery of all the cover variants leads this off, followed by rough illustrations for the collection’s own sumptuous front art, and some fascinating analyses of several pieces of key art.
Overall, a worthwhile addition both to the Titan stable, and to the Fugitive Doctor’s limited canon, likely to be particularly enjoyed by fans who appreciate especially creative ways certain spinoff media has jammed adventures into the series over the past 30 years.
❉ DOCTOR WHO: ORIGINS (Trade Paperback). Writer: Jody Houser. Artists: Roberta Ingranata, Warnia K Sahadewa. Published by Titan Comics 4 November 2022 (UK)/ 27 December 2022 (US). RRP £14.99 (UK)/ $17.99 (US). ISBN: 9781787737556.
❉ Matt Dale is co-editor of a website on the minutiae of Doctor Who, still going strong after 24 years at millenniumeffect.co.uk. He also often rambles about Quantum Leap: the second edition of the epic ‘Beyond the Mirror Image – The Observer’s Guide to Quantum Leap’ will be available from tmebooks.uk in 2023, and he can be heard regularly on the Quantum Leap Podcast, at quantumleappodcast.com. Follow his musings on twitter @Matt_Dale