BBC America has been working hard to promote Doctor Who here in the U.S. and they’re being rewarded with an audience that continues to grow in leaps and bounds. BBC One and BBC America have finally wised up and have been airing and making Doctor Who available at the same time on both sides of the (Amy) Pond. Finally, it seems like we’re getting recognition as a legitimate fan base!
As we wait for the series six premiere tomorrow, I thought I’d spotlight a couple of new ways in which to appreciate The Doctor here in North America. We’ve now got our own Doctor Who magazine, called Doctor Who Insider; and the Eleventh Doctor and Amy are finally going to be in IDW’s Doctor Who comic, which started this week in the first part of a four-part story arc called “A Fairytale Life.”
Doctor Who Insider
I was thrilled when I heard that Panini was publishing Doctor Who Insider, a new Doctor Who magazine that would be cheaper than the imported U.K. Doctor Who Magazine, and would be specifically geared to a North American audience. So how does issue #1 stack up?
Right away, you feel a difference. It’s lighter (different sized paper, thinner paper stock) than its U.K. counterpart, but this shouldn’t reflect on its quality. We aren’t getting less, but we are getting different. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not:
Centerfold poster of Matt Smith as The Doctor running with his sonic screwdriver on one side, and the cast of “A Christmas Carol” on the other. As I took the poster out of the magazine, I felt like I’d just purchased the nerdiest version of Teen Beat ever. And it was awesome. It would be nice if there were a poster in every issue!
Lots of focus on the Eleventh Doctor in general, from coverage of the new audio adventures to focus on the new novel featuring The Doctor, Amy, and Rory. The magazine is acknowledging the fact that a lot of their growing North American audience started watching New Who, and for them, Doctor Who is very much an alive thing, not a historical thing.
A section that DWM doesn’t have called the “Fan Zone,” where fans can send in their pictures and stories of interacting with Doctor Who cast and crew members! It’s divided into sections on fan meetings and “The Re-creation Generator” showing off fan costumes and homemade TARDISes/knit sonic screwdrivers/etc.
It isn’t all New Who. There’s a feature called “Nexus” which focuses on an important moment from the Fourth Doctor’s run—this time from “The Pyramid of Mars”—as well as an interview with Jacqueline Pearce (guest star in “The Two Doctors”), and a story on the new Fifth Doctor Big Finish audio plays. The “DVD Insider” section also has short interviews with Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Marc Platt (writer of the Seventh Doctor story, “Ghost Light”) that go with their stories on the DVD release of the Fifth Doctor stories “Kinda” and “Snakedance.”
No “Production Notes” letter from Steven Moffat. Come on, Steven! How hard would it be to email the bloody thing to Insider editor, John Ainsworth—fercryinoutloud? Seriously, those letters are hilarious and ridiculously informative. But I’m not going to keep paying two more dollars a month just so I can read them. So get it in Insider’s pages, please!
No comic! Booo! What I wouldn’t give for this magazine to either have a Doctor Who comic of its own, or original prose fiction! Why should the Brits get all the shiny, new stories?
Doctor Who Insider seems very photo-heavy. As if they think Americans can’t…handle…words. Believe it or not, we do read stuff like this for the articles! So, while splash pages with photos from an episode like “A Christmas Carol” are nice once in a while, I hope it isn’t a trend. I’d much prefer interviews with the people who made it (like the lovely interview with that episode’s production designer, Michael Pickwoad). Also, if you’re going to focus on an alien like the Sontarans, give us an actual article, not just a photo spread that happens to have some words that go with it.
This point sort of goes with the point above, but I picked up a random issue of DWM that I had lying around, and it had an 8 page, in-depth article on the history of “The War Machines,” one of my favorite Who stories (which features my least favorite Doctor—the First!). Doctor Who Insider had a two-page spread on one scene from “Pyramids of Mars.” I understand putting lots of focus on the newest Doctor in a North American magazine, but if you’re going to bother having stuff on Classic Who at all, do it right! There are plenty of North American fans that love all of Doctor Who, and they’d like to read your magazine, too!
As the magazine goes on, I’d be curious to see if they review episodes the way DWM does, or if any of the “Cons” I mention above are actually planned for the future. But the bottom line? It’s cheaper, and it’s ours. Those are two really big “pros.” Issue #2 comes out May 5th.
Doctor Who #1: “A Fairytale Life” (part 1 of 4)
I generally have a rule about not reading comics based on television shows that are currently airing. Why read a comic based in a world in which I’m already watching stories happen? But Doctor Who is different. By virtue of the show’s format, anything can happen at any time, and it never need interfere with the show’s canon. Oh, Rory’s not in this comic? That’s okay, because this story probably happened in the time between episodes before Rory was on the TARDIS full-time!
And no, Rory’s not in “A Fairytale Life,” the four-part story arc that begins the new run on IDW’s Doctor Who comic featuring the Eleventh Doctor.
The Doctor and Amy arrive on a human-colonized planet called Caligaris Epsilon Six, a “holiday planet” which is engineered to look like a medieval fantasy land complete with knights, swords, and damsels (despite Amy’s insistence that she’s not one). Oh, and by the way, the planet’s been quarantined because of a deadly plague to which Amy’s now been exposed. Oh, and the TARDIS is missing.
It’s just another adventure with The Doctor, and a strong start to what could be an intriguing story. The idea of a holiday planet being faced by a plague and victimized by a mysterious monster who seems to feed on sick children is an interesting one, despite having certain similarities to the Series 5 Doctor Who episode, “The Beast Below.” Matthew Sturges has done a wonderful job fleshing out the periphery characters in only a few panels. For example, his opening pages featuring a group of children playing are warm and funny, but quickly become terrifying—a hallmark of Doctor Who that Sturges executes well. His voice writing as Matt Smith’s Doctor is absolutely dead-on, and it made me able to see The Doctor flailing around in my head. The only problem was his characterization of Amy. I think he focused on her feistiness at the expense of her intelligence and experience. For example, at this stage in the game, why would she even ask why The Doctor is taking a sonic screwdriver to a potted plant when a minute ago he just said that he was looking for an information panel? And why, when The Doctor mentions “damsels in distress,” she takes issue with it by saying “I’m no damsel!” What she should’ve said to make her point was “I’m not in distress!” Her insistence in not being a damsel seemed, well, too stupid for her. She would know that a damsel is simply another word for “woman.”
Moreso than the story, I had a bit of trouble with the artwork. Kelly Yates’ work at times has gorgeous detail (freckles, great facial expressions, a beautifully drawn TARDIS), but it’s inconsistent. Just as often, faces (particularly Amy’s) look stretched out or disproportionate, and the landscapes and characters seem generic as often as they pop with personality. I hope that Yates’ style finds its footing as the story goes on.
“A Fairytale Life” is a good, if flawed beginning. What it does best is remember that Doctor Who is supposed to be accessible to all ages. In much of the writing for the Tenth Doctor in comics, writers often got caught up in The Doctor spouting technobabble. Here, we see that The Doctor is clever without resorting to making everything sound like gibberish. It’s a strength of the Eleventh Doctor that Sturges captures perfectly. That despite his vast knowledge, The Doctor is someone even a child can understand.
*This review originally appeared on Newsarama.
Teresa Jusino is the Thirteenth Doctor. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.