Growing up in Britain during Doctor Who’s so-called “wilderness years”, when the show was no longer in production, I never really had a Doctor to call my own. Back then Doctor Who was something of a relic; an indelible part of Britain’s cultural history, but as much a target of ridicule as it was celebrated. There was an unspoken understanding amongst fans and non-fans alike that it was gone for good and maybe that was for the best. That feeling was only reinforced by the ill-fated 1996 TV movie which, even as an eager 10 year old primed to lap up any old nonsense if it had aliens and spaceships in it, I couldn’t help but find somewhat underwhelming.
I mention all this because it’s easy to forget, over a decade after the fact, just what an unenviable task new showrunner Russell T. Davies had in bringing back Doctor Who in 2005 for a cynical modern audience, and what an unlikely hit it turned out to be. One of the keys to its success was undoubtedly the casting of Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor.
His portrayal was a conscious inversion of many previous Doctors, with his surface-level humanity and “normalness” belying a cold, alien inner self. The Ninth Doctor was a survivor and a war veteran, haunted by his own actions during the Time War and alone and adrift in all of time and space – the last of his kind. It was a bold reinvention of the character, and exactly what was needed to get a new audience on board. Much as I’ve enjoyed each incarnation of The Doctor since, I still feel a little cheated that I never got to spend more time with number nine, who was probably as close to “my” Doctor as any incarnation could be.
Thank goodness, then, for Cavan Scott, who has penned this thoroughly enjoyable miniseries for Titan Comics. Nestled somewhere between Rose and The Doctor’s first encounter with fan-favourite (depending on which fans you ask) Captain Jack Harkness and the end of series one, this adventure finds the trio becoming accidentally embroiled in an intergalactic conflict between a race of ruthless giant robot-like beings called The Lect and the mysterious Unon (who I guess can best be described as heavily armoured centaurs).
Scott makes full use of the freedom writing for comics grants him, stuffing the story with bizarre creatures, lavish alien worlds and even a close encounter with a mammoth – all things that would be very hard to achieve on the average BBC budget. Artist Blair Shedd admirably rises to the challenge, and does a pretty decent job of staying true to the character’s onscreen likenesses (which is no mean feat).
As for the story itself, it zips along at breakneck pace, to the point that I was a tad bewildered at times and felt the need to re-read certain chunks of exposition just to keep up. Even so, it’s hard not to get swept along by it, and Scott’s commitment to emulating the impish chattiness of Russell T. Davies’ dialogue makes it a fun, breezy read even when you’re not entirely sure what exactly is going on.
It can be hard to write stories for different Doctors and make it unique to that particular incarnation as so much of what makes one portrayal distinct from another is in the actor’s performance, but this is something Scott manages particularly well. The legacy of the Time War looms large over Weapons of Past Destruction, and The Doctor’s war-weariness and exasperation at the sight of history poised to repeat itself makes this a distinctly Ninth Doctor kind of story.
As with all tie-in media, Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Vol. 1 – Weapons of Past Destruction is ultimately inconsequential. You won’t learn any dark new secrets about the Doctor or his friends or witness events that have any bearing on the overall continuity, but for fans of the series (and the Ninth Doctor in particular) this is a lovely treat, with plenty of wit and imagination, that feels pretty faithful to the all-too-brief Eccleston era.
- Epic scope and visuals you’d never see on TV
- The dialogue feels true to the Eccleston series
- Plenty of humour and action
- The plot feels a bit rushed in places
- Fun for fans, but inessential