The reason I started writing articles on comics was simple. I like comics and for some odd reason most of the reviews I found involving comics dealt with how bad something was. Knowing which comics are bad is one thing, but as someone who is in constant search of a new and intriguing story just knowing the bad parts wasn’t helping. So needless to say I took the same advice I give to anyone else who’s ever been stuck on what to write or do, “Don’t write about the things you always see others write about, write about the things you want to see written about.” I want reviews on things that are good so I know what stories might interest me more. Doesn’t mean those stories don’t have their flaws but if all I see are things I’d never want to read then how can I find out more about the things that I might want to read.
That all said, I have a confession. While I do like this book it has some glaring flaws that I can‘t help but point out. By now you’ve read the title or seen the picture and know that it’s a Doctor Who comic. I don’t want you to get the misconception that I don’t like Doctor Who or that I don’t understand the things I’ll be listing negatively. I’m not writing this to complain about Doctor Who, I’m really writing this review for two reasons. The first being that this comic perfectly exemplifies some of the problems commonly seen in Doctor Who literature. The second is that I really do think that Doctor Who fans will like this book. There are things to love about it, but in the matter of balance I also have to discuss the things that are bad as well. Basically what I’m saying is just don’t get too hung up on my criticisms. Read over the positives and the negatives and see what you think for yourself.
That all said, lets talk about a crossover book! Queue the obligatory “Aw Lord” by Dosm. Today we have “Doctor Who: The Forgotten” featuring the first ten Doctors.
“Doctor Who: The Forgotten” takes place during the 4.5 season, a series of four episodes that fell between seasons four and five leading up to the departure of the Tenth Doctor. In the book the Doctor awakens in a mysterious museum joined by prior companion Martha Jones. Unsure of how he got there or why Martha was with him the Doctor quickly notices that the museum is in fact dedicated to him. With the memories of his past selves sudden vanished from his mind the Doctor must recall each of his previous incarnations in order to figure a way out of his personalized prison.
I’ll start off with the aspects of the story that I honestly really enjoy. This is exactly how a crossover of this caliber should really have been done. Instead of gathering all of the Doctors into one room to see them needlessly bicker and joke the story instead focuses on the (then)current Doctor’s personal memories as each of his past incarnations. This is honestly the best part of this book as it gives us looks into the past at who this man used to be and how he’s developed over the course of the show. Each incarnation gets their own time to shine and each one perfectly reminds you of exactly why they were special in their own ways.
Obviously I can’t deny the scene in which they all are present within the same room and stand next to each other but this book manages to handle the story well enough to make sure that one scene isn’t what really matters overall. What blows me away even more is the little touches done to the writing and dialogue during each individual flashback. They may not be noticeable right away but once you catch on that little bit really goes a long way towards showing the differences between not only the various versions of the Doctor himself but how the show was actually written during those times.
One last little bit that I found honestly really well done was a small scene towards the end of the book. I really hate to spoil it, but needless to say it’s a very heartfelt scene that any long time Doctor Who fan will enjoy. The scene itself isn’t necessarily relevant to the plot, but the inclusion of it felt natural for the Doctor’s character. To avoid spoilers, but to give well versed fans an idea of the scene, lets just say that the Doctor’s first goodbye is one he’ll never forget.
With the good part out of the way unfortunately my problem with the comic lies in almost every remaining aspect of the book’s writing. The story itself is pretty basic and the overall mystery attempts a fake out towards the end, but is fairly unconvincing. The resolution felt oddly rushed considering how nicely paced the other chapters were and the ten Doctors defeating the enemy really lacked much pay off. The enemy himself was featured far less than he should have been and his threat became fairly meager by the end of it all. Unfortunately while the majority of the book was not hindered by the idea of all ten Doctors being together at once the ending most certainly was.
Those are admittedly minor complaints in the face of why I really have a problem with this book as a whole. References. I know it’s fun to spout off Doctor Who references, I’ve done it my fair share of times as well, that isn’t the problem. The problem is that with this and most other Doctor Who literature I’ve read the writers seem to believe that it’s a good idea to insert as many of these fan favorite lines into their book as they can. Here’s the problem. Those references are cool and funny to fans because of the context given within the show. When it’s used by a writer for one of the books those lines becomes forced and worst of all quite pandering.
The writers of the books know what fans like and they use it to their advantage. Unfortunately this is extremely forced, manipulative and above all lazy. A work is not good because of the references it makes. Rather a well written, interesting show with original and memorable dialogue is exactly how references come about. Because the show was good the fans will remember the lines, not the other way around. Unfortunately there is an abundance of forced lines within the book and it really breaks up the flow of the dialogue far too much for most of the non-flashback panels to even be worth reading.
The art for the book is rather varied. The covers to each of the chapters are honestly pretty fun little pieces of art that really come closer to being crossovers than anything else within the book. Each of them shows off the tenth Doctor along with whichever Doctor was featured in that chapter’s flashbacks. These range anywhere from the very cool picture of the Tenth standing in the foreground as the original Doctor’s image looms in the back to the Tenth playing cricket with the Fourth and Fifth Doctors.
The variation between art styles comes in the art for each chapter as the artists are frequently rotated out. Unfortunately switching out artists like this causes some visual inconsistencies from chapter to chapter. That said the character designs are never too far off from what you imagine them being and the art never really falls into the trap of attempting to make the characters look exactly like the actors. Still the change from artist to artist comes off as jarring at times and may turn some people away altogether.
The biggest draw with the art though are the visual Easter eggs found throughout the book. Being within a museum dedicated to the Doctor naturally you’re bound to come across a few old relics of episodes long past. What I found most interesting here was an Easter egg tied into an episode that was actually soon to come. Let’s just say a certain gauntlet wielding Timelord has a few visual shout outs here.
Normally I don’t go into the art this much but the last big draw to this book is once again within the flashbacks. Similar to the alterations to the writing to reflect the style of the show in each Doctor’s respective time, the art manages to carry such aspects across as well. In fact, more so even as all of the art for each flashback is done in the style and color of the original broadcast format of the time. That means the first Doctor is displayed in stark black and white while the Third is in the glorious color of the 70’s. Each Doctor is displayed in a different style which once again helps to differentiate between each one. I especially enjoy the eighth Doctor’s flashback oddly enough as it’s displayed in a format that mirrors the way his book were written, going so far as to give him parchment-like thought boxes. The attention to detail within the flashbacks stands as a much appreciated stark change from the somewhat inconsistent aspects of the main story art.
“Doctor Who: The Forgotten” was originally released in April of 2009 by IDW Publishing. The comic was only released in paperback and as far as I know there are no plans for a hardcover edition or a re-release. While this book can no doubt be found it may take you a bit of hunting in order to finally get it. Personally I ended up acquiring a second hand version of the trade after some difficulty with finding it via comic book shops and book stores. When it can be found the price of the book is fairly reasonable and has yet to really see any sort of inflation.
Overall “Doctor Who: The Forgotten” is a very welcome edition of the DW lore into any fans collection. The hiccups found within the book can be jarring, but if what I expressed here isn’t a problem for you then by all means pick this book up. Really, despite the flaws I definitely recommend any Doctor Who fan to at the very least read this book if only to enjoy everything truly good about it. That all said if you’re not a fan of the series this probably won’t convert you and is definitely not a jumping on point. The story laid out within this book is meant for watchers of the series and may isolate anyone who hasn’t seen it. Regardless of everything the book will most certainly prove to be a fun experience for any fan.
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Retail Price: $19.99
Writer: Tony Lee
Artist: Pia Guerra, Stefano Martino, Kelly Yates
Age Rating: Any Age
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Television
Original Release: April 2009