Comics Fourth Doctor cover

Published on March 23rd, 2016 | by JCDoyle

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Doctor Who: Fourth Doctor Review

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Everyone has their own Doctor, usually it’s the one they first remember watching or the one that got them hooked to the long running BBC TV series. It’s not always the ‘best’ one but is a favourite because of the added emotional attachment and strong feelings of nostalgia.

For me that was Peter Davison’s 5th Doctor and I wait patiently for Titan Comics to bring out a relating comic, hopefully with Turlough as companion. However for a large number of old school fans Tom Baker IS the Doctor and to everybody else he is arguably the best Doctor that there has ever been, emotional attachments aside. So it’s not surprising that the 4th Doctor would make it into Titan comics before any other pre 90’s Doctors. Let’s face it, everyone loves the shaggy haired giant of a man and with Sarah Jane as the companion surely there’s no way this comic can fail?

Fourth Doctor image

“I’ve got my eye on you” Image credit: Titan Publisher

Set early in the fourth Doctors life, The Medusa’s Gaze draws from the very popular Gothic Horror phase in Doctor Who’s history. The story mixes Victorian settings with classical mythology and a hint of the sci-fi craziness that was a popular story telling technique during Tom Bakers tenure on the show. It starts in London 1887 where a mysterious Lady’s household, run by blind staff, is disturbed by the arrival of two giant men. These giants turn out to be cyclops’s and are expected by the Lady who has a task for them to complete; hunt down the time travellers who have arrived in London. Now, who could that be? Before the reader finds out they are quickly introduced to Professor Odysseus James and his daughter, Athena.

The rest of the story is standard fair for an opening Doctor Who episode. The Doctor and Sarah Jane run into the villain’s henchmen where there is a struggle and Sarah Jane is taken captive. This leaves the Doctor to meet the local heroes of the story and also have a reason for getting involved with the Alien threat. Meanwhile, Sarah Janes’ capture provides the story teller with the opportunity to tell the villains part of the story via the hapless prisoner.

Although standard in format it’s not standard in quality. The script is fun and quick with a host of intriguing characters. There are clever references to classical mythology and the impact they have had on the history of literature; take for example the Professor’s name, Odysseus refers to the legendary Greek King who, among other things, was captured by a cyclops and his surname, James, refers to James Joyce who wrote the modernist novel Ulysses based on the Greek myths.

Of course Athena is Goddess of War and already in this issue she is a force to be reckoned with. Writers Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby have created an engaging character whose sarcastic tone and daring do is a match for both Sarah Jane and the Doctor. She’s a scene stealer drawn with a lot of energy and life by Brian Williamson. But she’s not the only strong character in the story; the Lady Emily Carstairs is shrouded in darkness and mystery but the clues all point to one thing; you don’t want to look into her eyes.

The Doctor is rendered brilliantly in both the art and the script. His tendency to reference his various time based adventures and spout techno-babble at the drop of the hat is all present and correct. So is his massive head of hair and unbelievably long scarf. Sarah Jane’s curiosity and journalistic attitude make her stand strong despite her all too familiar position as prisoner.

Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane

Image Credit: Titan Publisher

There are a few moments where the art looks more like a photo collage than a panel from a comic book but this minor setback is swallowed up in the rest of the spectacular work. The story calls for a Gothic Horror look and Williamson delivers just that. The towering, gloomy mansion and the disturbing appearance of the hired help all create an atmosphere that makes your skin crawl just like the close quarters of the lighthouse at Fang Rock or the dark London sewers in The Talons of Weng-chiang. This eerie style to the work also makes this Titan Doctor Who comic stand out from the others currently on sale.

If someone told you that this was a ‘lost script’ from the 70’s you would easily believe them. Everything about this story reeks of the Peter Hinchcliffe era and fits snuggly into the middle of series 13. It also illustrates why the 4th Doctor is often cited as the best Doctor because despite the standard narrative structure this is an outstanding story.

Title: Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor

Publisher: Titan Comics

Writers: Gordon Rennie/Emma Beeby

Artist: Brian Williamson

JCDoyle

JCDoyle

Lover of comics and Art and Sci-Fi in multiple media. Currently teaching my kids the ways of the Geek (while protecting my first editions)
JCDoyle

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