Friday, December 5, 2014

'Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor' #5 Takes A Step In The Wrong Direction

Right now we’re in that awkward place where we try to kill time between the end of Doctor Who season 8 and the annual Christmas special (how can you not be excited at the prospect of Nick Frost playing Santa Claus? That’s going to rule so hard). Lucky for you, we have the continuing adventures of the Doctor on the pages of the funny books to keep us occupied. This time, the Eleventh Doctor is back for the fifth issue of his title, and this bubbly installment bears the moniker “The Sound of my Voice.”

The action picks up with the Doctor, his latest travelling companion Alice, and Jones, their tagalong future rock star from the past. That last bit will make sense to those of you who have read the previous issues. Just as we left them, the Doctor is being held at gunpoint by August Hart, who they encountered in the past in a future incarnation; Alice is wondering around the deep space research station, wanting to get home and straighten out some problems with her landlord; and Jones, well, Jones is in the crapper, face to face with an escaped amorphous creature that has been slurping up people’s memories, leaving them in comas. This guy is called Arc.

Most of the plot involves running around. In the Doctor’s case, he scurries about trying to discover the origins of the roaming monster, and what he finds he doesn’t like (not a big fan of torture disguised as medical experimentation, this particular Time Lord). Alice and Jones, in the meantime, have their hands full fleeing from Arc, trying not to get blanked. While all of this goes down, Hart, always a sturdy stick in the mud, is trying to stop everyone, and finds himself, however momentarily, in operational control of the entire facility, which isn’t good for anyone involved.

Once again, Alice proves to be a capable companion, more than willing and able to take care of herself, and, in this case, save Jones from having his memories devoured an amorphous grey creature. She’s a badass of the highest order, and her presence is definitely paying off for the Doctor, even if it is, as always, the sonic screwdriver that really helps save the day.

But of course there’s more to what’s going on than what you initially see, and the whole story tries to carry a point about putting yourself in other people’s shoes and trying to see the world from a different perspective. This isn’t a bad idea, but it just gets tossed in late in the game, like, “Oh, hey, here’s a grander message than just a wacky guy in his sidekicks bounding through space and time.”

More than anything, this move is a desperate attempt to give this continuing title additional depth and meat, otherwise it’s rather sparse on those fronts. You can only go on watching a two-dimensional rendering of Matt Smith (in more ways than one) bounding from frame to frame for so long before you need something more to entice you to return. While a few the lastcouple of issues were on this track, largely because of Alice, her story, her background, and her desire to take care of her own business and not be some wayward stray the Doctor picks up and rescues, this chapter is a step in the wrong direction, a step backwards.

Above all, issue #5 of The Eleventh Doctor illustrates how important Alice is to maintaining any sense of momentum and connection to this run. In a larger sense, it shows how vital the companions as a whole are to the overall franchise, especially during Smith’s time at the controls of the TARDIS. Hopefully they’ll get back to this soon, because it’s the heart and soul of these comics thus far. We’ve spent a lot of time with Smith’s Doctor, and while many fans out there miss him, this is an empty suit and there has to be something more. You hope they haven’t hit a wall already, but it’s starting to feel like that may be the case.

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