Titan has absolutely nailed their “Doctor Who” line, turning it into one of their flagship properties and lavishing care and attention onto the books, satisfying fans of both the current series and the classic alike. Not every story or series has turned out classics, but all of them have delivered solidly enjoyable, strongly evocative stories crafted by top-notch creative teams that all feel like they’re doing it out of love for the show. And Doctor Who – The Third Doctor #1, written by Paul Cornell with art by Christopher Jones, is no exception.
For “Doctor Who” fans who perhaps haven’t dived into the Third Doctor era, it lasted from 1970 to 1974 and featured a Doctor largely exiled to Earth as punishment by the Time Lords. During this time, he worked with the United Nations Intelligence Task Force, or UNIT, defeating alien invasions and sinister conspiracies orchestrated by a fellow rogue Time Lord, the Master. For anyone who is a fan of the era, Cornell’s script absolutely seethes with love of that period, so there’s lots to appreciate. The story nails the atmosphere, tone and style or the era; a time when the Doctor was an elegant man of action clad in velvet smoking jackets and frilly front shirts. When he was as comfortable hanging around in posh gentlemen’s clubs as he was espousing anti-establishment rhetoric and championing the underdog. When the Doctor was a gadget-laden man of action, using his souped-up roadster Bessie to jet to crises and employing Venutian aikido to subdue a pesky Ogron. Cornell hits all the UNIT touchstones, from the reliably stodgy but beloved Brigadier, to jazzy stiff Mike Yates to solid old Sgt. Benton to the Master to more obscure characters like Corporal Bell and Osgood. It’s like a greatest hits album of the Third Doctor’s era.
The story of Doctor Who – The Third Doctor #1 is fairly standard stuff, all things considered, though Cornell does insert enough intrigue and energy to keep the reader entertained throughout. He concludes the issue with a joyful whopper of a cliffhanger that is kind of wonderful and unexpected, and welcome. Truth be told, he could have gone two ways with this series. The first would be to do an innovative and bold story that brings the Third Doctor out of the feel of his era and into a modern type of storytelling. But I’m glad that he chose instead to embrace a period feel when it comes to the Third Doctor. More than many classic Doctors, his era feels very specific to a time and place, and to run away from that would drain the character of his considerable warmth. I don’t think that Cornell ever makes the mistake of coasting on nostalgia, but rather uses the touchstones of the time to make the reader comfortable and eager to settle in for good old fashioned adventure.
The art by Christopher Jones wisely plays along with that, evoking a style that wouldn’t feel out of place with the Third Doctor’s comic strip adventures of the time. It never feels like a throwback though, but rather just embraces the bright feel of the time. There’s an energy to the issue that keeps the pace moving at great speed, just like the era’s more action-oriented feel. He doesn’t try to do photorealistic depictions, which I great appreciate, but rather captures the spirit of each character without obsessing over whether they look perfectly like the actor in question. There’s tons of wit in the art, too, such as a scene where hapless Osgood sucks on an asthma inhaler while the Doctor fiddles with a gadget and UNIT squaddies fight off bad guys. Solid stuff. He even nails the legendary gurning of Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor.
Titan’s line of Doctor Who comics continue to be great not just for their quality, but for the continued feeling of being labors of love for those involved. Paul Cornell and Christopher Jones deliver, with Doctor Who – The Third Doctor #1, a rousing debut for what promises to be a fun adventure with some old friends. 8/10.