Click here to return to the main site.

Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Thirteenth Doctor
Old Friends (Paperback)


Writer: Jody Houser
Artists: Roberta Ingranata and Rachael Stott
Colourists: Enrica Eren Angiolini and Tracy Bailey
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £13.99, US $16.99
Age: 12+
ISBN: 978 1 78586 692 0
112 pages
Publication Date: 27 November 2019

The Thirteenth Doctor is back in a new epic collection! Acclaimed writer Jody Houser once again teams up with Witchblade illustrator Roberta Ingranata and award-winning artist Rachael Stott to continue the Time Lord’s adventures. In this swashbuckling instalment, the Doctor and her fam – Ryan, Yaz and Graham – get caught up in the escapades of infamous rogue Time Lord, the Corsair! Styled like a daring adventurer, with a pirate-ship TARDIS to boot, the Corsair leads the gang on a rescue mission that seems dubiously like a heist. Accused of a crime she didn’t commit, the Doctor becomes involved in a daring quest with her old friend in order to retrieve something valuable for the Corsair’s mysterious benefactor…

Though there had been real-life rumours that the Doctor might become a woman ever since Tom Baker stepped down from the role, the first in-universe indication that a Time Lord could change gender came in 2011’s The Doctor’s Wife, when the Eleventh Doctor mentioned the Corsair: “Fantastic bloke. He had that snake as a tattoo in every regeneration. Didn’t feel like himself unless he had the tattoo. Or herself, a couple of times. Ooh, she was a bad girl!” It is entirely appropriate, therefore, that the Corsair, created by renowned author Neil Gaiman, should now meet the first female Doctor, as played by Jodie Whittaker.

It’s a shame that the Corsair’s presence is disclosed in the back-cover blurb of this graphic novel (which collects Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #9–12), because for most of the first episode there had been some mystery surrounding the identity of the female thief with two hearts whose crime the Doctor finds herself accused of. When it is revealed that the criminal has dark, curly hair, the Doctor (and, I dare say, many a reader of that opening issue) initially jumps to the conclusion that it must be Missy, the female incarnation of the Master. Artist Roberta Ingranata underlines the point by including an illustration of said villain.

Before long, though, Ingranata has the opportunity to create the look of a renegade Time Lord we’ve never actually seen in full before. Her version of the Corsair is beautiful and piratical, refined yet roguish. Her finely sculpted features and long, brunette hair remind me of someone, but I can’t think who. Kate Beckinsale, perhaps? Michelle Ryan? Or maybe Liv Tyler? Meanwhile, writer Jody Houser makes the Corsair decidedly flirtatious towards the Doctor, saying of her new body, “Love what you’ve done with the place”, and coming in very close to press a finger to the Doctor’s lips when shushing her.

The Doctor, however, is having none of it. Taking her cue from the more assertive Time Lord of the New Year’s Day episode Resolution, Houser makes the Thirteenth Doctor more serious than we are used to. She gets understandably stroppy with her interrogator near the start of this story, and is sceptical when the Corsair flatters her about her trustworthiness when trying to enlist her help. “Trustworthy?” replies the Doctor, “Perhaps. Depends on who you talk to, really. Trusting? Perhaps a little less so, with certain friends who’ve landed them in jail cells more than once.” This contrasts well with the more carefree attitude of the Corsair. The Doctor denies giving moral lectures, even while cautioning the Corsair about her use of weapons. She is rather put out when Ryan describes her old friend as “a fun one”. “I thought I was the fun one,” says the Doctor, sadly.

Despite the light-hearted moments, Houser doesn’t lose sight of the fact that the Corsair is destined to die prior to the events of The Doctor’s Wife, and there are some touching moments when this is quietly acknowledged.

Rachael Stott returns to artwork duty for the final chapter, providing dynamic bursts of action as the Corsair carries out some acrobatic stunts. In spite of this, the overall pace of the narrative, as is often the case with Thirteenth Doctor plots, is relatively sedate. There is almost no drama or danger to the resolution – the final instalment largely comprises a lengthy talky bit, an easy escape, and an effortless defeat of the baddie.

The villain is one that the Doctor has already dealt with in his future (and her past), so won’t arresting him now change the course of history? I guess not, if he serves his time and subsequently reoffends, though this could have been made clearer. While I’m splitting hairs, it is not readily apparent from Ingranata’s pictures that the Doctor’s smooth-faced alien interrogator is male, until Graham refers to him as such. The Doctor’s companions don’t get much to do during the latter half of the tale, and we see the TARDIS sound effect when our heroes should be hearing an alarm.

This volume also includes a gallery of covers from the four monthly issues and a one-page history of the Corsair, partly sourced from the Neil Gaiman feature “Eleven Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Corsair” from Doctor Who: The Brilliant Book 2012.

Despite my reservations about the story itself, I wouldn’t mind going on further adventures with the Corsair at some point in her (or his) past and my future.


Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online

Kindle Edition
Kindle Edition