If you read the latest installment of Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, issue #6, and get seriously annoyed with the narrative storytelling gimmick it employs, you are not the only one. See, the story is told backwards, beginning with the end and moving through time in reverse. It gets really, really irritating.
You start out with the Doctor and his former librarian companion, Alice, sitting on the TARDIS, and she says, “I can’t believe he’s dead.” Who is not the mystery, as the next line reveals it’s Jones, the future rock star from the past who has been tagging along for the ride for the last few issues. She questions, given the power and technology that they have at their disposal, why they can’t go back and fix things, and the Doctor explains that life must move forward, no matter how painful. As he says that, however, the Doctor jumps back through time, and the story gradually starts to come into focus. There’s a creature named Nimon with a grudge against a planet, and he has a device, a bomb, that can create a black hole, but he needs the TARDIS to set it off and smite his enemies, which leads to much unpleasantness.
It’s possible to tell a story in reverse, beginning at the end, however this isn’t a particularly good example of that strategy. In this kind of story, you may travel backwards, but each reveal still needs to enhance your understanding of the story. Basically it needs to, even going backwards, move the narrative forward, advancing your knowledge and perception of the events. Issue #6 doesn’t pull off this feat very well, and this approach never progresses beyond being a stunt or a ploy.
The Doctor, the one who has already experienced this moving forward in time, is the very same one moving backwards. For him, time is now running backwards. He’s aware of this, knows what will happen, and it feels like kind of a cop out, like the writers want the emotional impact, but are unwilling to accept the consequences. Part of the benefit of telling a story backwards is that it lends more weight to otherwise minor seeming incidents because you already know the outcome. I won’t get into specifics because it will ruin the story, but lets just say the “conclusion” is far from satisfying.
The story tries to be about altruism, self-sacrifice, and redemption, but it all happens too quick to have much impact. You learn what happens to Jones, which impacts Alice much more than the Doctor—she slaps him—but the conflict and emotion is never really dealt with in any real way. You see Alice cry and hit the Doctor, but that’s about all.
Overall, this issue is repetitive, shallow, and bland. You have to admire that they’re trying to do something different, though they don’t come anywhere near pulling it off. The Eleventh Doctor needs something, because out of Titan’s three Doctor Who titles—along with the Tenth and Twelfth Doctors, though number Nine is getting a miniseries soon—this is by far the least engaging of the bunch. Unfortunately, their gamble doesn’t pay off, and you’re left more put off than invested. It feels way too early in the run to turn to stunts like a backwards story, and after a slight up-tic a few issues ago, it’s steadily losing interest once again.