Titan Comic’s Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor has been all over the place quality wise. Every time it takes a step in the right direction, the next issue takes two back, or at least diagonally. In fact, the last issue, the sixth in the run, was literally a story told backwards, from end to beginning, in a gimmick that was just cheap and aggravating—it begins with the death of a key character, only pull an, “Oh, he’s not really dead” move that leaves a bad taste.
More than the other continuing Doctor Who titles, The Eleventh Doctor has been prone to cramming a single arc into each individual issue, making them too short and shallow to have much impact. So knowing right away that Issue #7, “Eternal Dogfight,” is the first installment of a two-part adventure makes you aware that this is going to be bigger, longer arc. That’s reassuring, providing more space to lay the groundwork and get you invested in the story. And the result is…mixed.
What this issue does best, something the other comics have done, though this one has not up to this point, is provide a balance to the Doctor’s character. Matt Smith’s version is often called a human cartoon, and that’s all you’ve ever seen of him on the page up to now. Here, however, you catch glimpses of more maudlin, serious aspects of his personality, especially when confronted by war and the prospect of seeing a world destroyed in front of him. This all reaches back into his own past, with his own home world being destroyed, and touches on the things he’s experienced. It strikes a nerve and gives a more personal, emotional motivation to his actions. It’s not huge or super prominent, but you do see through the cracks and it is nice to know that there’s more going on than his overly jolly bit, which wears thin.
The Doctor, his latest companion Alice, future-past rock star Jones, and ARC (Autonomous Reasoning Center), travel to Earth so that Alice can take on the challenges of normal life, like organizing her dead mother’s affairs, dealing with landlords, and all the mundane details of daily existence for most of us. It’s definitely a different kind of struggle than adventures through space and time, though equally taxing. This trip also drives home the temporary nature of arrangements like the Doctor has with his companions; it can’t go on forever.
As you know, nothing with the Doctor is ever quite as simple as this, and when “all of the spaceships” show up in Hackney, it looks like the “Eternal Dogfight” has come to town and Earth’s very existence is threatened. This is a continual roving conflict between two galactic powers that has been going on for generations, for eons, for so long that no one, not on either side, even remembers what it is all about. And the Doctor, being the Doctor, steps into to try to end this endless war by finding a legal loophole.
Issue #7 starts off strong, adding some much needed depth and an air of gravity to the proceedings, but after a solid opening, it rushes through everything to get the shocking reveal at the end of part one. There are a lot of missed opportunities to see Alice cope with the grief that she’s been avoiding, or to make something more of how the citizens of Earth simply lay back and watch this ongoing war as a form of entertainment. All of this is pushed aside for jet packs and running fat jokes at Jones’ expense (he learns the hard way not to eat anything you think is a donut on an alien spacecraft).
The Eleventh Doctor definitely moves forward from the last installment, at least a small bit. But while there are things that it does well, and elements that you will appreciate if you’ve been keeping up, it is still far more concerned with being wacky than with telling a story or providing any substance. Like its predecessors, there simply isn’t much to it.