Everything old is new again. Doctor Who Classics, from IDW Publishing, takes old comics, published in Doctor Who Magazine during the time of the original series, and repackages them for a new generation of Doctor Who fans. Originally printed in black and white, they’ve been colorized and given a slick, new appearance. This first issue contains two adventures of the Seventh Doctor (played by Sylvester McCoy on the show), a somewhat mysterious, though capable and determined, incarnation, identifiable by the question mark motif in his attire.
In the first story, “Time and Tide,” the Doctor finds himself on Tojana, a planet that’s rapidly approaching its doom. As soon as he emerges from the TARDIS, it’s caught in a wave and swept out to sea, with the Doctor being captured by the planet’s inhabitants soon afterwards.
These aliens are a good example of the advantage that the comics provide over the television show. They allow the freedom to explore more complex visual concepts in more detail. The creatures are extremely tall, with facial shapes and features that are much easier to draw than to accomplish with makeup effects. The newly colorized version allows each one to be a different hue, as well.
The creatures aren’t evil or vicious, merely callous, placing no value on life of any kind, be it an alien visitor like the Doctor, a lifelong friend, or even themselves. Their cavalier attitude is a shock to the Doctor, whose abiding concern for the lives of those around him has been a hallmark of just about all of his incarnations. He struggles, first to understand these creatures, then to reason with them, then to help them, as he always must.
The story takes the opportunity to explore some deeper themes about the different ways people find to deal with their own inevitable mortality, whether or not survival is something worth fighting for, and the things that make our lives worth living. It’s beautifully drawn, rather poignant at times, and well worth reading.
The second adventure, “Follow That TARDIS,” is a lighter story and a bit silly. Set in a gritty near-future where Frank Sinatra is President, the Doctor runs into an old enemy, the Meddling Monk, another Time Lord who was an occasional adversary of the First Doctor on the television show. He also encounters the Sleeze Brothers, El Ape and Deadbeat (who look a bit like the Blues Brothers the morning after a drunken bender). They coerce him into chasing the Meddling Monk across history in order to get his insurance information. That’s as far as the motivation goes in this story, so it’s best just to relax and go with it, rather than thinking about it too hard.
Not only is the story thin, the characters are somewhat two-dimensional. Their dialogue is peppered with made-up words that are meant to represent urban slang of the future—a writing tactic that’s difficult to pull off and easy to overuse. Still, the visuals are interesting, and all-in-all it’s entertaining, with some fun bits in it. The Sleeze Brothers later went on to get their own short-lived non-Who-related spinoff series, further exploring their gritty future world, which is certainly the most interesting aspect of this story.
Despite the occasional cheesiness, it’s fun to see these old adventures. “Time and Tide” is a good story in its own right, while “Follow That TARDIS,” if a bit weaker, is still worth reading for the nostalgia factor. Hopefully, as the series continues, it will help to get fans of the current Doctor Who interested in the classic series.