Doctor Who reviews: Prisoners of Time

Happy birthday to Who!

No, as of this writing, the highly anticipated Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special is still a few days away from being broadcast.  However, another great celebration of a half-century of traveling in the TARDIS came to its conclusion today as the final installment of the twelve-issue Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time comic book series was released.  Published by IDW, written by Scott & David Tipton, and drawn by a line-up of amazing artists, Prisoners of Time features all eleven incarnations of the Doctor, numerous companions, multiple aliens & villains, and plenty of surprises.  It’s been an exciting, enjoyable romp through the rich history of the series.

As I detailed in my post The Big Bad of Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time Revealed, the mastermind behind the scheme to attack the Doctor in all his incarnations was none other than Adam Mitchell, previously seen on the television episodes “Dalek” and “The Long Game.”  After nursing a lifetime of bitterness & hatred towards the Doctor for abandoning him, Adam was finally able to assemble a cache of stolen alien technology and began abducting the Doctor’s companions from the time stream.  Along the way, he allied himself with the Doctor’s diabolical arch-nemesis, the Master, who did everything in his power to further enflame Adam’s long-festering resentment towards the Doctor.

So at last we’ve come to the grand finale in issue #12.  Now, as River Song likes to say, “Spoilers, sweetie!”

The Eleventh Doctor is a prisoner of Adam and the Master in their base in limbo.  Adam is threatening to murder all of the Doctor’s companions, offering him the impossible, torturous choice of saving one, just one of them.  In the grand tradition of Doctor Who cliffhangers, just when it seems that all is lost (and I have to admit, when I reached the end of the previous issue, I was really left wondering how the heck the Tiptons would resolve this) we are greeted to new arrivals, beautifully depicted by artist Kelly Yates (click to enlarge):

Doctor Who Prisoners of Time 12 pg 2 and 3

What follows is a fantastic finale as all of the Doctors and companions fight off Adam, the Master, and a horde of Autons.  As they’ve done with the previous installments of the miniseries, Scott & David did a brilliant job scripting this, getting the dialogue & cadence of each version of the Doctor just right.  Yates was pretty much dead-on with all the likenesses, and also did wonderful work pacing the story, finding room for literally dozens of characters without it ever seeming cluttered.

Along the way, the Tiptons did a great job at bringing Adam’s story arc to a close.  In the previous issue, drawn by Matthew Dow Smith, the Doctor had futilely attempted to convince his one-time companion that, whatever the legitimacy of his feud, it was a terrible mistake to ally himself with the Master, who was “pure unbridled evil.”

Doctor Who Prisoners of Time 11 pg 17Now, in #12, the Master seizes the opportunity presented by the Doctor’s combined TARDISes, sending a wave of chronal energy through them in an attempt to not only destroy all the regenerations of his enemy, but to wipe out reality itself, so he may rewrite existence as he wishes.  And, for the first time, Adam is aghast.  As twisted and vengeful as he has become, he simply cannot conceive of committing such a monstrously vast crime.  The Master’s response shows just how utterly consumed by hatred, by the lust for power, he truly is.  Scott & Dave’s dialogue for the renegade Time Lord is doubly emphasized by Yates’ artwork, which demonstrates his sheer, burning insanity.  That bottom panel on page 11 is chilling.

Doctor Who Prisoners of Time 12 pg 11In the end, the Doctors finally manage to appeal to Adam, and he turns against the Master, saving reality at the cost of his own life.  When I got to page 19, and saw Adam laying there dying, surrounded by the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh Doctors and Rose Tyler, um, well, I have to admit that for a second I really thought I was going to shed a tear.  Yeah, the story and artwork were just that moving.

Doctor Who Prisoners of Time 12 pg 19As I said, there were so many brilliant artists who worked on Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time.  Some of them have been intimately involved in illustrating the Doctor’s comic book adventures in the past.  For others this was, I believe, their first time.  And I really wish I had the space to post examples of all of their work on this series.  But for the record, this is the list: Simon Fraser, Lee Sullivan, Mike Collins, Gary Erskine, Philip Bond, John Ridgway, Kev Hopgood, Roger Langridge, David Messina & Giorgia Sposito, Elena Casagrande, Matthew Dow Smith, and Kelly Yates. (I encourage everyone to click on the links and go to those artists’ websites to view their wonderful work.)

Literally toping things off were the dozen covers by Francesco Francavilla which assembled to form one amazing image.  Here’s a picture of the complete illustration, courtesy of Scott Tipton, who posted it on Facebook a couple of days ago:

Doctor Who Prisoners of Time complete covers

As the Ninth Doctor was fond of declaring, “Fantastic!”  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Francavilla is without a doubt one of the most talented artists to come onto the comic book scene within the last decade.

By the way, for those who missed out on picking up Prisoners of Time, IDW is releasing a hardcover collection of the entire series next month.  There you go, you have no excuse now.

In closing, I want to tip my hat to Scott & Dave, and their numerous artistic collaborators.  You all helped to make the series’ fiftieth anniversary that much more special.

The Big Bad of Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time revealed

Over the last nine months I have really been enjoying IDW’s year-long Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time miniseries written by Scott & David Tipton, and illustrated by a very impressive line-up of artists.  In each issue, a different incarnation of the wandering Time Lord has been spotlighted.  And at the end of every installment, a mysterious cloaked figure bearing an unspecified grudge against the Doctor has appeared out of nowhere, altering the time stream by kidnapping the Doctor’s companions.  For the first several issues, I really had no idea who the heck this enigmatic foe could be.  And then issue #s 7 and 8 came out, featuring artwork by Kev Hopgood and Roger Langridge.  In these two issues, the Tiptons offered up a pair of very important clues.

In #7 the Seventh Doctor and Ace encounter the Master who, as per his usual 1980s shenanigans, was hiding behind a very transparent & pointless disguise.  Once unmasked, the Master tells the Doctor that “I’ve been working with a new partner. He’s an old friend of yours. Or should I say… companion?” The Doctor responds that he has no idea what the Master is talking about, which causes his old foe to tauntingly add “Of course not, because you haven’t met him… yet!”

Doctor Who Prisoners of Time 7

Then in #8, after the Eighth Doctor and Grace Holloway have finished an adventure liberating an alien world from its oppressors, our mystery man once again pops up.  In answer to the Doctor demanding to know who he is, the cloaked figure states “I’m your mistakes come to life, Doctor. I’m your past come home to roost.”

Doctor Who Prisoners of Time 8

Having read these two sequences, it suddenly occurred to me: what if this mystery villain was Adam Mitchell, the Doctor’s very short-lived companion who was seen in the episodes “Dalek” and “The Long Game,” now much older, and still majorly pissed off that the Ninth Doctor & Rose had left him with all of that alien technology from the far future installed in his head?  It would explain why Adam was among the numerous companions who artist Simon Frasier drew on the display screens back in issue #1, even though the character had barely traveled with the Doctor.  Adam could have been included there as a subtle reminder to readers that the character was still out there.

Doctor Who Prisoners of Time 1

So this week Prisoners of Time #9 came out, illustrated by David Messina & Giorgia Sposito. The Ninth Doctor and Rose have (as is par per the course) just narrowly escaped an explosive death on an alien world.  However, before they can make their way back to the TARDIS, they find someone waiting for them, someone who is very familiar to the both of them.

Doctor Who Prisoners of Time 9

Yes, it is Adam Mitchell, now old and embittered, seeking vengeance against the Doctor in his numerous incarnations.  (As soon as I read this page, I actually said aloud “I knew it. I knew it!” This was on the M Train, during rush hour. I have no shame.)  And, you know, the way Scott & David Tipton have Adam lay out his motivations in this issue, it is very easy to see that, from his viewpoint, his grievances and resentments against the Doctor actually seem very reasonable and legitimate.

The thing to remember about the Doctor is that, yes, he is brave and heroic and brilliant and he travels the universe saving entire worlds from tyranny and injustice.  That said, throughout his numerous regenerations, the Doctor has often demonstrated that he can also be very arrogant, egotistical, headstrong, and rash, with little to no consideration for the long-term consequences of his actions.  There have been a number of television stories that have addressed what happens when he doesn’t think things through.  “The Daleks,” “Planet of the Spiders,” “The Face of Evil,” “Bad Wolf,” “The Sound of Drums” and “The Waters of Mars” all show just how incredibly bad a situation can turn out when the Doctor screws things up.

And, from the moment that the Doctor condescendingly kicked Adam out of the TARDIS at the end of “The Long Game,” I could not help thinking to myself that eventually this could come back to bite the Time Lord in the rear end.  Yes, Adam made a huge mistake, deciding to get alien tech installed in his head & then use it to send information from 198,000 years in the future back in time to the present day in an impulsive scheme to get rich quick.  But the Doctor handled the situation really poorly, leaving all that ultra-advanced technology in Adam’s head, believing this would teach him a lesson and forcing him to lead a low-profile existence.  Even if Adam was selfish and foolish in his actions, the Doctor’s punishment seemed unnecessarily cruel.  I also immediately saw how spectacularly wrong this could turn out.  What if some group of alien invaders or the Torchwood Institute or someone else did stumble across Adam and plundered the futuristic secrets in his skull?

Scott & David Tipton obviously were thinking along similar lines, having Adam Mitchell turn out to be the Big Bad of Prisoners of Time.  And, now that he’s been revealed, I’m certainly looking forward to the concluding three issues of this series.

Doctor Who Prisoners of Time TPB 2

In any case, Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time is a fantastic series which I highly recommend.  If you want to get caught up to speed, the first eight issues have been collected into two trade paperbacks, topped off with really cool covers by Francesco Francavilla, the super-talented illustrator who has been providing the cover artwork for this series.

By the way, a few weeks ago I e-mailed Scott via Facebook with my guess about Adam, which he coyly commented was “a cool theory.”  After I read Prisoners of Time #9 on Wednesday, I contacted him again, and he informed me I was the only person to have guessed successfully.  That’s definitely gratifying.  Hmmm, I can’t manage to balance my checkbook or remember where I put my tax returns from last year, but I can solve the mystery of a Doctor Who villain.  Go figure!