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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Third Doctor
Heralds of Destruction (Hardback)


Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Christopher Jones
Colourist: Hi-Fi
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £18.99, US $22.99, Cdn $25.99
Age: 12+
ISBN: 978 1 78585 731 7
112 pages
Publication Date: 18 July 2017

How could you ever win against a deadly hive-mind robotic intelligence, capable of creating itself infinite bodies out of thin air? Join forces with the Third Doctor, the infamous UNIT, and a host of staggering guest stars to find out! Twists and turns ensue as the Doctor, Jo Grant, the Brigadier and his men, and the Master continue their struggle – and a surprisingly familiar face returns! Writer Paul Cornell (Doctor Who, Action Comics) and artist Christopher Jones (Young Justice, Batman) bring you a stunning all-new adventure starring the Third Doctor and the classic UNIT team…!

As one might expect from an experienced writer of licensed fiction like Paul Cornell (the author of several top-notch Doctor Who novels, television episodes and comic books), Heralds of Destruction is full of authentic period details from the Jon Pertwee era of the show. Mike Yates has a date with Jo Grant, the Master dons disguises, Doctor goes cross-eyed when he is strangled by tentacles, we visit caves of blue crystal, and there’s a journey into a psychological mindscape (this time Jo’s).

But Cornell doesn’t simply allow himself, or us, to wallow in nostalgia, pleasant though that may be. He also explores the deeper implications of this particular point in the Doctor’s life – during Season 10, not long after The Three Doctors. All seems well, but some poignant changes are on the horizon. The Doctor has been freed from his exile by the Time Lords, but he doesn’t immediately sever his ties with his UNIT ‘family’. “I was imprisoned,” he explains to an artificial intelligence with whom he has something in common, “Here on Earth. Who I was was… changed. To fit in. Perhaps they thought it’d be too cruel otherwise. Perhaps they thought I’d get used to my cage. Perhaps I did. Because here I am. Free once more. And yet I’m still hanging about, still pretending to care about ‘gentlemen’s clubs’! … It’s my… (ahem)… friends that make me want to stay.”

Meanwhile, Jo has learned a lot during her three years as the Doctor’s assistant, and is now mature enough to tell him: “You can be whoever you want to be, you know! If we’re keeping you here, when you’d rather be off in that TARDIS, well, then, off you blinking well go!” Soon she, of course, will be the one flying the nest in The Green Death.

Mike senses that upheaval is on the way, and, foreshadowing his misguided ideals in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, he longs for a simpler time. “Wouldn’t it be great to just… take a holiday from the modern world?” he asks Jo, “Back to some golden age? Where you’d be immune from all the changes.”

Artist Christopher Jones provides generally good to excellent likenesses of the returning characters (especially the Master and the Brigadier), though their accuracy does vary depending on the availability of reference photographs. However, even when a visual depiction is occasionally not immediately recognisable, it doesn’t really matter, because you can always tell who is speaking from the tone of Cornell’s dialogue. The only significant slip in the artwork is when Jo’s camouflage face paint disappears for a few pages.

More than making up for that glitch is a particularly impressive moment when the artist allows us to see through one of the Master’s disguises – that of an elderly chess player at the Doctor’s club. The Master is still wearing his mask, but you can somehow recognise the features beneath as he tells the Doctor, “I look forward to continuing our contest.” DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!

That’s not much of a spoiler, by the way, because there are far greater revelations later on in the story, which I won’t give away here. Let’s just say that something happens that I wish the television production team had thought of at the time. As with the aforementioned Master moment, the gradual reveal is perfectly judged…

This graphic novel, which compiles all five issues of Titan’s Third Doctor mini-series, forms a single story. Some previous five-part Doctor Who comics (such as Weapons of Past Destruction and Gaze of the Medusa) have been rather slow-moving as a result of their duration, but this one isn’t, being packed with action and plot developments.

At the back of the book is a two-page behind-the-scenes feature, in which the writer points out ten things (mythology ‘Easter eggs’ and real-world details) that you may or may not have noticed in the script and the art. I had spotted four of them. What I didn’t know until now is that this story heralds Paul Cornell’s retirement from licensed fiction. Like the Doctor and Jo, he is moving on, embracing change, exploring new worlds, taking a risk. From now on, he will only write about characters he has created. I have to say, I will miss his work in the worlds of Doctor Who, but Heralds of Destruction is a fitting swansong.


Richard McGinlay

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