With this new era, and new Fourteenth Doctor, it was only to be expected that Doctor Who Magazine might hit the ground running with something different for its comic. But I don’t think anyone quite expected how different. As the last Thirteenth Doctor comic story came to a nice rounding-off point for 13, Yaz and Dan: speculation filled the air over a potential comic hiatus or the return of a previous Doctor – but we can at last say that the Fourteenth Doctor is making their comic debut already!
Owing to the small number of episodes the Fourteenth Doctor will feature in – only three specials in 2023 – Russell T. Davies has craftily set the DWM team with the task of bringing together this Doctor’s very first adventure in comic form. And so it begins with part one… And this is where we must say: SPOILERS! MASSIVE MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW THIS IMAGE!
So… what a starting point for the new run with – Liberation of the Daleks! Yes, it is weird to say that twenty years on from their last DWM comic appearance. But quite a surprise worth keeping.
Liberation of the Daleks – The Story
Picking up straight seconds after The Power of the Doctor, the story is rapid. Fourteen rushes back from peaceful sunset into the TARDIS, with no companion by his side.
Writer Alan Barnes adeptly takes the Fourteenth Doctor off into the heart of a new conundrum very swiftly. That said, there is a nice furthering of the televised moments where the Fourteenth Doctor recognises their teeth. Here, they recognise that their hands are in-fact their old ones.
Landed in the midst of the 1966 World Cup Final (perhaps a sly callback to where the NuWho run of DWM comic began, with Nine and Rose’s first comic story The Love Invasion featuring several changes to 1966’s history including the result of the match…?), the Fourteenth Doctor begins investigating Wembley Arena. It’s certainly a well-drawn and vibrant enough locale for artist Lee Sullivan and colourist James Offredi to get into. All the flags are a nice treat. Even at small scale, a very eager fan leaning over the front row barrier in anticipation is fun to spot. As is someone being very annoyed when Fourteen clambers up past them, standing on their shoulder absent-mindedly. And we’d swear Fourteen hand-waving through the crowd asking if anyone is the source of the distress call… is based on a certain shot that has well and truly been ‘memed’ through the years.
There’s also something very fun about seeing the Fourteenth Doctor wielding Thirteen’s iconic Sheffield-steel sonic screwdriver, as he takes down a psychic shield.
Then comes the grand twist as the full title – Liberation of the Daleks – gives away, the Daleks are here. What a treat it is to see a panel of their spaceship opening up whilst Fourteen ushers people to leave. A swarm of Daleks spreading out across Wembley, exterminating the England and Germany football teams. And the Fourteenth Doctor looks on in shock… Quite the cliffhanger! (Though I do notice that the individuals they’ve unmasked seem distinctly chuffed rather than horrified about the Daleks, so perhaps there’s more to this final page than meets the eye…)
It’s a fairly strong start to the incoming year of comics that make up this thirteen-part epic. Yes, thirteen! Across the next year, Liberation of the Daleks will continue onwards pitting the Fourteenth Doctor and the Daleks against each other as we head towards the 60th anniversary specials in November 2023.
The sheen and shading in the colours of the Bronze Daleks is well-captured and makes for a great looking return. As does Lee Sullivan’s drawing of them. What can I say? Man draws Daleks beautifully! And seeing him draw Thirteen’s amazing TARDIS interior is another great sight. Crinkles in clothes – Doctor, space tourists and crowd members – are well-rendered. Though the tartan waistcoat of the Fourteenth Doctor doesn’t come across amazingly well a few earlier wide shot panels of the comic, the closing mid-shot panel gets much closer to that physical costume.
It’s perhaps a bit sad that we don’t get a little moment or two more of reflection from Fourteen before he gets into his active adventuring. Though, elsewhere in another feature related to this comic, Scott Handcock does note that this Doctor is “more than aware” of this different experience of regeneration. Perhaps there’s more to come on this in future installments?
It’s also clarified within the issue that the story’s length and progression will not adversely affect this Doctor in terms of ‘how-long-since-Power‘. It is sure to be a thrilling but ultimately ‘non-essential’ story that will be passable for the casual TV audience. More of an intrigue and helpful starting point for the magazine readership.
Mad Theories & Side Points…
- The opening text-box “Born again, again.” is a lovely cheeky reference to the Tenth Doctor’s debut in November 2005 in the Children In Need minisode Born Again. A nice touch that also wink-nudges that this story, like that, is a technical debut filling a gap of time but which will not displace general folks at all.
- The Fourteenth Doctor, interestingly, is unable to recognise the controls and systems of Thirteen’s TARDIS. Given their lack of reference to events from The Power of the Doctor or mention of recently departed friends, Yasmin Khan and Dan Lewis, is it perhaps possible that the Doctor’s memory is reverting somewhat?
- Despite the recent regeneration of the clothes, the Fourteenth Doctor has kept Thirteen’s sonic and is able to find it within his clothes. We have to wonder if like back in The Power of the Daleks,(where the Second Doctor arrived with a new set of clothes compared to the First Doctor) the contents of the clothes have transferred safely in the process. Of course, back then, instead of being a biological regeneration… it was the TARDIS that facilitated the process of regeneration. Could it be that the Doctor’s regeneration has this time been partially down to the TARDIS?
- The TARDIS lands outside Wembley Arena, just as a policeman is passing by. How very 100,000BC (or An Unearthly Child as some folks may call it) of the Doctor!
- Is the distress signal from the time tourists? They don’t make mention of one, and seem rather annoyed about the Doctor’s unmasking of them… Though, perhaps they were expecting a discreet pickup.
- How on Earth will the Fourteenth Doctor undo the death of two renowned sporting teams, and the undoing of a historical sporting event?!
- Daleks’ Invasion Earth 1966 A.D. seems to be the title for the next ‘episode’ of the story, and honestly – that is the best Cushing movies joke anyone has committed to print in DWM. Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. filmed in 1966… so… see… Well, it was funny to me, anyway. (Can we have the Cushing Dr. Who show up in it? Pretty please. I’m dreaming. But then, David Tennant is somehow back in the DWM comics. And so are the Daleks. Stranger things have officially happened.
Liberation of the Daleks has started with a swift but simple introduction that seems promising. There are a lot of questions, and a nice debut. It’s set me up with a fair bit of eagerness to see what comes next for this beginning showdown between Fourteen and Daleks… Here’s to finding out what happens next in the next issue!
Doctor Who Magazine Issue 584 – in which Liberation of the Daleks is featured, among other exciting content – is now available as a physical copy for £6.99 from newsagents and online via panini.com. The issue is also available as a digital copy for £5.99 from PocketMags from their own website and app & via the official DWM app.
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