“Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #2” a Celebration of Confidence

(w) Scott & David Tipton
(a) Lee Sullivan
IDW Publishing, 34 pages, $3.99

It’s a large universe, Zoe. And there is still much in it…that makes me despair.” 

While the first Doctor encapsulated the personality of a wise old school master the interesting thing about the second Doctor is his complex vacillating between being arrogant, insightful, and unsure. This incarnation of the Doctor jumps between such extremes in his adventures, and writers Scott and David Tipton craft a very laudatory tale (this is a celebration of the character for the 50th anniversary after all) that demonstrates his capricious emotions. The main story for issue #2 is about illegal slave traders operating out of an intergalactic trading post. While the quote I began this review with is from a key moment featuring Zoe and the Doctor locating the slave holding cells that wonderfully encapsulates how thoughtful the Doctor can be, I am most fascinated  in thinking about how they got to the slave holding cells which was ethically complicated. In order to discover the slave holding cells, the Doctor uses one of his companions, Jamie, as bait to be captured by the enslavers in order to track them. Using someone as bait, someone that feels completely confident in your ability to protect them, is…well, it’s insane. This incarnation of the Doctor, and some of the future ones as well, often have these moments of questionable ethics when it comes to companions or other beings generally, when trying to solve a problem. I always like to think about what if the Doctor’s gambles with others do not payoff? Failure follows this character because he cannot understand that what drives him does not drive others, his ambition does tend to be blinding.

The art of Lee Sullivan reminds me of the early work of U.K. veteran comic sci-fi artists like Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons with his rendering of expressive faces, wonderful creatures, and the ability to capture a strange retro-futuristic architectural design. One example of this is the intergalactic bazaar depicted in a medium sized horizontal panel on page four. The panel shows us architecture of large, oval cut deep set windows, pink and orange sherbert colors outlined in purple mouldings with pop art stencil designs on storefronts. Sullivan’s idea here seems to be to show not only an homage to comics of the period and the oncoming decade of the ’70s, but to present the time period of the series as it would be if the television show during the second Doctor tenure (the mid to late 1960s) had been filmed not only in color but with a substantial budget. The art, though, is the substance of the history of Doctor Who comics—and sci-fi comics generally—which let creators show places that the mediums of television and movies could not go. Perhaps that is what makes issues like this, and really all the reprints and collections of classic sci-fi work from the first seventy-odd years of the 21st century, wonderful time capsules. It reminds us that wonder and imagination on the page helped fuel all the CGI magicians that exist today.