Because a lot of the earliest popular science fiction began in comic strip format, it makes sense that a hit sci-fi TV show would create a comic version of itself. Certainly the larger-than-life and tongue-in-cheek adventures of our favorite Time Lord have a kind of comic book flair, so it makes sense that he has existed in comic and graphic novel format throughout time and space. IDW recently hit the reset button on their ongoing Doctor Who series, wrapping up their original Tenth Doctor stories and, now that the Doctor’s Eleventh incarnation is strongly solidified in the minds of Whovians everywhere, starting anew with Matt Smith. But how does the first issue fare? Is this comic book bigger on the inside?
The issue begins with a variety of strange characters in the TARDIS, all sounding suspiciously like the kind of pop-up advertisements or spam message one experiences on the Internet. Lo! They are spam messages! And somehow they have become manifest as walking talking holograms. As a result, the TARDIS is overrun and short-circuiting and it sounds like it might all be Rory’s fault. After quickly diagnosing the problem, the Doctor makes to land the TARDIS and materializes on a planet known as Phayke. Phayke is a world populated by intelligent holograms that is set to be destroyed by a gang of intergalactic scavenger thugs known as the Scroungers. These are big mean dudes who wear some serious shoulder pads; a fashion statement the Doctor coyly mocks. The Scroungers like turning people into slaves but because the Phayke-based holograms are stuck on their planet, they can’t be removed. (I guess these holo-people don’t have mobile emitters like the other Doctor from Star Trek Voyager.)
It turns out that all the trouble with the pop-up ad holograms has to do with Rory checking his e-mail on the phone that Martha left behind long ago for the Doctor. The problem is Rory didn’t make a phone call but instead checked the data package and, as the Doctor explains, the TARDIS doesn’t have a firewall, meaning any and all spam messages in Rory’s inbox have flooded through the time vortex and are bothering the Doctor, Amy, and now the inhabitants of the planet Phayke, who are in essence, nice non-spam holograms.
As a science fictional send-up of contemporary internet culture, this story totally succeeds. At one point, a nondescript, ordinarily looking guy is simply “following” the Doctor around. This “follower” hologram and says that if the Doctor becomes his “friend” that it would really make him look good, because the Doctor is a celebrity. Similarly, “friend requests” that Amy and Rory seemed to have left in some kind of pending status turn into monsters in a somewhat inexplicable way.
As one might predict with a hologram-heavy story, the Doctor ultimately solves the problem of the Scroungers with some simulacrum switch-a-roo action. And while I saw this one coming a light year away, it was still satisfying.
Like Tony Lee’s story for “The Forgotten,” the plot seemed a little low-stakes, as many of the characters were in situations that either weren’t real, or easily fixed. However, the dialog and pacing were thoroughly enjoyable, on par with last season’s “Vampires of Venice.” I found myself laughing out loud at least twice! Andrew Currie’s artwork was fairly convincing and straightforward. I never found myself thinking I wasn’t really reading a Doctor Who story.
All in all, as stand alone story for a new ongoing Who comic, things look promising. And it sounds like the folks and IDW have some interesting things lined up for the next few issues. Road to Perdition artist Richard Pier Rayner is slated to illustrate the next several issues, which will feature a story about Jack the Ripper!
Allons-y! Err… I mean, Geronimo!
Ryan’s writing has appeared here, on Nerve.com, Clarkesworld Magazine and elswhere. He lives in Brooklyn.