on 23 December 2009
After producing two mini-series featuring the Tenth Doctor, IDW Comics branched out into a series of one-shot comics experimenting with a range of creative talent, and a variety of different approaches to 'Doctor Who'. 'Through Time and Space' collects these tales in graphic novel form, and as might be expected, it's a rather varied collection, with stories set across Series Three and Four of the TV series.
'The Whispering Gallery', from Leah Moore and John Reppion (whose credits include 'Albion' among many others), with art by Ben Templesmith ('30 Days of Night' et al), is a spooky tale which sees the TARDIS land in an alien gallery filled with pictures that preserve an element of the deceased subject's consciousness. As he investigates further, the Doctor discovers a shocking truth - and is forced to face up to the consequences of his actions. It's an intriguing tale, made all the more effective by Templesmith's unusual artwork, which is quite unlike anything I've seen in a 'Doctor Who' comic before.
Tony Lee's 'The Time Machination', illustrated by Paul Grist, is a very different kind of tale, a densely packed runaround set in Victorian London, which sees the Doctor teaming up with teacher (and soon to be legendary science fiction writer) HG Wells. On that information alone, you can probably guess where this is going, and that Wells' experiences will inform his later writing, but that's only part of the story - this is what the Doctor might describe as a 'twisty turny, timey-wimey' kind of adventure, which works as a great story in its own right, whilst simultaneously being a sequel and / or prequel to several 'Doctor Who' TV episodes, and even a tie-in with spin-off series 'Torchwood'. Generally speaking, I don't like it when 'Doctor Who' references its past purely for the sake of it, but Tony Lee has done a great job of weaving many disparate continuity elements and references in a way that enriches, rather than detracts from, the story, and as a result, this is probably my favourite story in the collection.
Donna Noble joins the Doctor for a trip to the titular planet in 'Autopia' by John Ostrander and Kelly Yates, which sadly feels like the weak link in the collection. It's a pretty simple story about robots being encouraged to rebel against their humanoid masters by the Doctor and Donna, and both Ostrander's script and Yates' artwork feels strangely at odds with the more mature tone and modes of storytelling in some of the collection's other adventures, feeling more like the kind of story younger readers might enjoy in 'Doctor Who Adventures'. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but next to its stablemates, it can't help but fall short.
Thankfully, 'Room with a Deja View' restores the balance a little, with Rich Johnston's script making good use of the comic book format to tell a fascinating - if occasionally slightly confusing - story about a character living in an opposite timeline to the Time Lord. Even though it doesn't always work, it's a great example of what these one-shot comics should be doing - experimenting with the form, and offering something a little bit different.
'Cold Blooded War', like 'The Time Machination' before it, takes its lead from the Doctor's past, with the Time Lord and Donna finding themselves caught up in a crisis involving the Draconians and the Ice Warriors. Unashamedly traditional to the extent of feeling almost like a hangover from the Jon Pertwee era, Richard Starkings and Gary Russell's story is given a real boost by wonderfully stylised artwork from Adrian Salmon. His art is probably my favourite in the collection, being incredibly distinctive but doing an excellent job of serving the story, and I hope to see more of his work in IDW's 'Who' range in the future.
Finally, we have 'Black Death White Life' by Charlie Kirchoff and Tom Mandrake, which takes the Doctor and Martha back to the 17th century as they discover the Black Death has returned, and there are sinister figures stalking the English countryside. A good, strong historical adventure with a sci-fi twist, it's exactly the kind of story one could imagine being attempted on television, possibly more so than any of the other stories here.
So, whilst by its very nature, 'Through Time and Space' is something of a mixed bag, it's certainly worth a look. At its best, it's some of the best 'Doctor Who' in comic book form that I've seen for a long, long time, and I'd recommend it for 'The Time Machination' and 'Cold Blooded War' alone. Not every story reaches those heights, but they're all interesting in their own way, and the variety of writers and artists contributing to the collection means that if you don't like one story, there are five more which may be more to your taste.