We might just be on the cusp of an Eighth Doctor renaissance. Paul McGann’s Doctor is showing up in merchandise and he’s meeting up with River Song in his audio plays. Now he joins Titan’s line of Doctor Who comics—and while his first issue treads familiar ground, it’s still a delight to see more of this incarnation.
Mild Spoilers ahead for the The Eighth Doctor #1, by George Mann and Emma Vieceli.
As might be expected for the first issue of a Doctor Who series, the Eighth Doctor’s comic plays out a little like you’d expect the first episode of a season of the show to—especially if said episode introduced a new companion, who here we get in the form of Josephine Day, an artist who takes up residence in an abandoned Cottage owned by The Doctor in a quaint English village. Rose, Smith and Jones, Partners in Crime, The Eleventh Hour, The Bells of St. John, the legacy of the modern show’s past companion introductions shines brightly through—the story itself is largely inconsequential and serves as a way for The Doctor to meet his new best friend, and we spend more time setting up their meeting than anything else.
That’s not a knock to the story, which sees said quaint English village come under attack when creatures painted in Josie’s artwork (creatures inspired by some of the knick-knacks in The Doctor’s cottage, leading to blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos from Ice Warriors, Cybermen, and more) come to life. It resolves as quickly as it starts, serves to show how resourceful and quick witted Josie is, and gives The Doctor enough to be impressed by that he offers to take her along on his adventures.
Mann’s speedy pacing is a pitch-perfect recreation of a sort of light and breezy episode of the modern show—and like the show itself, it does a good job of laying out a few dangling mysteries and plot threads to pick up over the course of the series. It’s basically what would have happened in an alternate timeline where the show returned in 2005 with Paul McGann still in the role (which in my book, as an unabashed fan, sounds like quite a good thing indeed), rendered in comic form for your reading pleasure.
What’s far more exiting about the issue is just how well in nails the Eighth Doctor. The joie de vivre that defined him in his first outing in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie is on full display, despite his outward appearance emulating the dusted-up, on the run Time Lord we glimpsed in “Night of the Doctor.” This is most certainly not the damaged, darker, and righteous Doctor of Big Finish’s long running audio plays, which have done wonders for Paul McGann’s Doctor, but one that’s always on the move, always willing to see the joy in the smallest things, be it a copy of Jane Eyre or a nice day in a quiet village, as he is in figuring out a clever plan to save the day.
Hopefully we’ll get to see some of the characterization that gave the Eighth Doctor a bit of an edge come to fore in later issues, but for now, it’s a delight to have an incredibly underused Doctor executed perfectly here.
Now that Titan is juggling four different Doctor Who comics, it’d be easy to underestimate that the Eighth Doctor series would just end up as a small aside—but if the first issue is anything to go by, we’ve got a decent start to what could be one of the best portrayals of one of the Doctor’s myriad incarnations in a comic.