Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #1 – Frustrating Goodness

IDW's celebration of 50 years of The Doctor comes with a great story and not-so-great artwork.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time is a lesson in frustration. IDW is celebrating the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who with this new series depicting each Doctor and a mysterious cloaked figure that is out to destroy him. It’s an interesting idea – an enemy of the Doctor tries to strip him of the only thing her cares about, traveling companions. You have to be involved in the world of Doctor Who to really appreciate Prisoners Of Time. Issue #1 deals with the first Doctor, who debuted on TV in 1963. If you’ve only followed one Doctor, or you're only involved in the new series, you might be lost and even bored here.

For those of us who love all the Doctors, the adventure in issue #1 is fun, if a bit quaint. The Doctor and his companions arrive in London circa 1868. They’ve dressed themselves up as a visiting team of students and their worldly professor. The goal is to visit Thomas Huxley, famed biologist. Naturally, nothing involving the Doctor can be simple. Foul play is afoot at the university. Students are missing, vanished without a clue. Only one man can rise to this occasion, so the Doctor sets out with his companions, Huxley, and a few straggling scientists to figure out what has happened.

A trail of footprints lead the group into the caverns of underground London. Deep within those catacombs, they stumble upon an army of giant ants who seem to be doing the bidding of another entity. The Doctor knows who, or what, it is but plays along to see if he’s right. The missing students are found, but all of them are under mind control. Now, the good Doctor is sure of the involvement of his alien nemesis and strikes out to destroy it. It’s a typical Doctor Who battle, where science and reason overcome pure power. At the end, though, the Doctor’s companions and friends are gone. The mystery deepens.

Writers Scott and David Tipton clearly understand what makes a Doctor Who episode work. They have rhythms down, the dialogue and the relationships. Issue #2 stars the 2nd Doctor, so I’m assuming this cloaked enemy is isolating every Doctor to complete his evil plan. That idea is intriguing, as the crux of Doctor Who is that time is flimsy, it bends and circles back. All the Doctors can be operating at the same time. Trying to isolate all of them is rather ingenious.

Frustration builds because of the art. Simon Fraser’s work looks rushed, as if he was handed the project a few hours before deadline. The faces have little expression to them, often the bodies look bulbous, and there is no real detail or clever panel layout at all. Why would a story so clever, one that is celebrating fifty years of Doctor Who, be passed on to an artist who looks as though he doesn’t care about the material? It’s maddening to enjoy a story so much, but with each page epic failure comes with great success. I hope Simon Fraser is not the chosen artist for all the issues.


(5 Story, 2 Art)