“Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #1”

(w) Scott and David Tipton
(a) Simon Fraser
IDW publishing
32 pages, $3.99

I will begin with ending because there is a great post-script on the final page of this issue from writer John Ainsworth, a Who-comic veteran from the 1990s. In his brief reflection on being apart of the history of Doctor Who, he alludes to the power that the comics medium can have on an existing property from another media outlet. Doctor Who began as a television show in 1963 in the U.K. and soon began to branch out to comics. It is in that branching out into comics, says Ainsworth, where writers of the Doctor found interesting new avenues to explore, as they were not held to any strict continuity. I think this is an important point because for characters and universes to continue to expand, creators must be allowed to breathe new life into them, to let them exist as a unique and special nugget of context to reflect an era and medium. You can stay true to characters based on established idiosyncratic behavior, but those routines, habits, and personality traits can be investigated in directions perhaps yet not tested.

So this brings us to an interesting question hovering over this new mini-series featuring the universe of Doctor Who—how will the Doctor be presented? And which one? There have after all been eleven of them in the fifty year life span of the show. Those questions are answered to a degree (at least according to advance solicits), that each era of the Doctor, each incarnation, will be represented in subsequent issues over the course of this year tied together by a larger mystery. This is intriguing to me as a fan of the show, as I am not as familiar with every incarnation (I currently have worked my way from the first Doctor through the sixth, taking a pause to keep up with the eleventh), and my curiosity is always so great that I will do a Netflix dive and gorge on the show. David and Scott Tipton have framed this series in the first issue by pointing out something fundamental about the Doctor that from time to time has come up in the run of the television series, primarily that he is never alone. My own bias towards him just traveling with K-9 aside, it is a great question to ask—Can the Doctor survive without companions? The television series (and comics) seems to believe that he needs companions to not only provide some plot movements, but also to humanize what is essentially an alien character that has taken a shine to the human race. So what if they were subtracted? What Doctor would emerge? The hooded villain of this introductory issue  is betting on that without his companions he will be vulnerable, and I would posit that is not a stretch based on the history of the character.

The artwork of this first issue, supplied by Simon Fraser, has nice moments of light and shadow which is a testament to the appeal of the character. The Doctor is complex, and slightly dangerous, so Fraser makes sure to balance those smiling grandfatherly moments with glimpses of the darkness that hides deep within (especially when the Doctor is debating a point with someone). The original adventures of the first and second incarnations were filmed in black and white, and if  you go review those episodes, you see the wonderful way lighting was used to sometimes reflect mood or suggest deeper problems (which is not to take anything away form the performances of both the actors from that time period, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton respectively), something that perhaps Fraser went back and referenced.

The Tipton’s have written a very accessible comic for a character with so much history. Much like the show sometimes it requires patience, as things will be explained. For example, the creatures causing havoc in this installment initially are not fully explained but are mentioned as being encountered before. A few pages later, however, enough necessary background info is supplied. In my mind that makes this comic, which could easily become too lost in its own history, accessible and enjoyable for old fans and interesting enough to entice new readers to at the very least follow this mini-series for the duration.