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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor (Paperback)


Writers: James Peaty and Jody Houser
Artists: Iolanda Zanfardino, Pasquale Qualano, Brian Williamson and Rachael Stott
Colourists: Dijjo Lima and Enrica Eren Angiolini
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £13.99, US $16.99
Age: All
ISBN: 978 1 78586 931 0
112 pages
Publication Date: 18 December 2018

The Doctor takes the road less travelled… where danger and death lie in wait! Writer James Peaty (2000AD, Supergirl) and artists Iolanda Zanfardino, Pasquale Qualano and Brian Williamson conjure three gripping stand-alone tales of the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, all expertly coloured by Dijjo Lima. And the road leads directly into the all-new Thirteenth Doctor series, as the creative team of writer Jody Houser (Faith, Mother Panic, Stranger Things), artist Rachael Stott and colourist Enrica Eren Angiolini deliver a series of short stories that introduce a brand-new character who has been drawn to incarnations of the Doctor throughout history – but will they be friend or foe…?!

The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor is a tease. The three monthly issues collected in this graphic novel were originally published before Jodie Whittaker’s first full television episode had been broadcast, and didn’t actually feature the Thirteenth Doctor except in the cover art and a few character studies by Rachael Stott. Instead, what we have here are three single-issue adventures for the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, plus three short strips that form a prequel to the ongoing Thirteenth Doctor comic-book series.

The Tenth Doctor, Gabby and Cindy have their work cut out for them when they battle a horrific corporate weapon on board a spaceship full of mysterious, ghostly creatures! But everything is not as it seems…

James Peaty is the writer of the main strips, which begin with The Ghost Ship. It’s a fast-paced escapade, to say the least, as is established from the very first shot of a crewman haring frantically down a corridor. If anything, the plot is a little too frantic. With little time to set up the secondary characters, a disturbing revelation about a certain crewmember was rendered less effective owing to the fact that the presence of said crewmember had barely registered with me. Furthermore, the Doctor’s solution to the problem isn’t adequately explained. However, the monsters are memorably creepy – creatures whose transparent bodies reveal gruesome internal organs and circulatory systems.

The cartoony depictions of artist Iolanda Zanfardino don’t give us photo-realistic likenesses of the Tenth Doctor, but successfully capture his zaniness and the breakneck pace of the piece.



The Eleventh Doctor and Alice uncover a steam-powered robot conspiracy in 19th-century San Francisco! Do the automata come in peace, or does their displacement in time signal something more sinister…?

Pasquale Qualano gives us a more naturalistic rendering of the Eleventh Doctor, while maintaining a sense of action and excitement, in The Steampunk Conundrum.

The robots’ faces look a bit like those of Cybermen without the handles, and their presence provides a good contrast to the period setting. Meanwhile, the costumes worn by the TARDIS crew seem to throw forward to future times – in order to blend in with their surroundings, the Doctor has donned an outfit that resembles his later, ‘Clara era’ garb, while Alice’s Dalek-style long dress would have suited Missy (from whom, more later) down to the ground. The visual sense of what is going on is briefly lost when the Doctor activates his sonic screwdriver towards the end of the story, but otherwise this adventure is a lot of fun.



The Twelfth Doctor and Bill face chaos on the streets of London, as a creative power runs amok! Piccadilly Circus has been transformed into an empty wasteland – empty except for a pterodactyl-like monster…!

Brian Williamson is an artist who can be relied upon to produce good likenesses of licensed characters, though sometimes the results have been known to look a little inert. Fortunately, in Tulpa he has managed to inject plenty of dynamism into this meeting between the Twelfth Doctor, Bill and Kate Stewart of UNIT. (A tulpa, by the way, is a being or object created by the mind.) Colourist Dijjo Lima helps by adding lots of special effects, including ghostly transparency, swirls of bright energy, earthquake tremors, and a hologram effect that resembles television static.

Peaty’s three stories appear to have no relevance to the upcoming Thirteenth Doctor series. Nor are they linked to the prelude serial The Road to… (see below). I had gone in expecting there to be some connections, which led me to draw some erroneous conclusions concerning alien symbols and a dimensional rift during my first reading of Tulpa.



The last step on the road to an all-new era. In moments of stolen time, in the middle of familiar adventures, a mysterious figure reaches out from beyond… Who could they be – and how can they be saved…?!

Each monthly issue of The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor contained a four-page back-up strip from writer Jody Houser, artist Rachael Stott and colourist Enrica Eren Angiolini – the creative team behind the Thirteenth Doctor comics series. In the graphic novel, these mini-episodes have not been collected together as one might expect, but are placed one at a time after each of the main stories.

Each short features a different Doctor and is set during one of his television adventures: the Tenth Doctor and Arthur the horse in The Girl in the Fireplace; the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory in The Power of Three; and the Twelfth Doctor, Missy and Nardole in World Enough and Time. These are not random settings. Both The Girl in the Fireplace and World Enough and Time take place aboard spaceships where time is out of sorts. The Power of Three was penned by Chris Chibnall, who went on to become the showrunner of the Jodie Whittaker era. World Enough and Time was the beginning of the story that led to the Twelfth Doctor’s regeneration. In the latter two respects, this is truly the road to the Thirteenth Doctor.

However, as I indicated above, there are no direct links between these interludes and Peaty’s strips. This can make the (presumably coincidental) similarities misleading. For example, The Steampunk Conundrum follows directly after the flashback to The Girl in the Fireplace, but the anachronistic robots depicted therein are unrelated. The strange patterns that the Eleventh Doctor mows in Amy and Rory’s lawn during the scenes from The Power of Three are not connected to the Kar-Yn characters in Tulpa, though at first I assumed that they were. Similarly, the enigmatic portal that appears and reappears throughout the back-up strip has nothing to do with the phase-shift that occurs in Tulpa.

Stott provides highly accurate renditions of all the television characters – especially Amy and Rory (so much so that it’s a shame she hasn’t had a chance to draw them more often). The artist is better suited to characters with smooth and youthful faces rather than lined and wrinkly ones, which bodes well for her work on the Thirteenth Doctor series.



With only three comic books collected in this volume, I have to wonder why Titan didn’t combine the material with the 64-page special The Thirteenth Doctor #0, which similarly builds towards the introduction of the new Doctor via flashbacks to her former selves. That edition, also known as The Many Lives of Doctor Who, is instead being sold separately – a two-page ad for it appears near the back of the book.

Various filler art by Stott is used to bolster the page count, including four pages of character design concepts for the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions, six pages of uncoloured art from The Road to… (two pages for each Doctor) and a preview page of colour art from a forthcoming issue of The Thirteenth Doctor.

So, The Road isn’t very long, but it certainly has many a winding turn, and it does finally lead us to Who knows where, Who knows when.

Richard McGinlay

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