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Review: Doctor Who Classics #1-10

He’s not a superhero.  He doesn’t have a cape, but a multi-colored scarf that is twice as long (and twice as useful).  He doesn’t have a utility belt or weapons, but carries a sonic screwdriver.  He doesn’t have any superpowers, but he fights for freedom and justice.  He is the Doctor, an alien with two hearts, a ship that’s bigger on the inside than the outside that travels through time and space, and has a strange affinity for the human race.

Doctor Who started on the BBC in the UK 45 years ago.  It is a children’s sci-fi TV series with action, adventure, aliens and monsters.  It started as edu-tainment, but quickly became a family show.  In the 1970’s it came to comics with a regular series that was serialized in a monthly magazine  It is the beginning of this series that IDW Publishing has brought to the US as Doctor Who Classics.

Doctor Who Classics #1-10

Writer: Pat Mills & John Wagner; Artist: Dave Gibbons; Colorist: Charlie Kirchoff
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Age Rating: Everyone

Genre: Sci-Fi
Price: $3.99/ea

The Doctor is a time traveling alien known as a Time Lord.  In his spaceship called the TARDIS, he travels to different worlds, different times and even different dimensions.  In this regeneration, he is tall and lanky, with a toothy grin, unruly, curly hair, and a gregarious personality.  Where ever he goes, he always seems to find himself in trouble.  In these first 10 issues, the Doctor goes up against a mechanized Holy Roman Empire, a world where emotions are outlawed, cute looking alien furballs that are anything but, alien werewolves, a criminal that can reshape reality, and ancient Chinese Shaolin monks, among other things.

But the Doctor never goes against these things alone.  He has his robot dog K-9, and people he befriends, usually the people he is trying to help, to assist him.  Occasionally he will take someone with him as his companion to share his adventures.  The companion is the character the reader is meant to identify with, to draw them into the stories more.  In these stories, that turns out to be a teenage girl from Northern England named Sharon, starting from the third story until the end of this run.  Like most kids her age, she is full of curiosity and loves the adventures she has with the Doctor, danger and all. 

The stories in this series, originally written to appeal to a younger audience of boys aged 7-12, can easily be enjoyed by anyone of any age or gender.  The stories and characters are well written and developed.  The plots are simplistic without being condescending.  The Doctor arrives somewhere, gets pulled into a problem and has to solve it to save the day.  It’s a basic episodic formula, but the strong writing keeps it from feeling tired.  Comedy, action and drama are most emphasized in the stories.  The Doctor can be a bit of a buffoon, lending comedic moments to otherwise serious scenes.  The drama is driven by conflict and danger, most often in the form of cliff hangers, but not always.  While the Doctor will always triumph, it isn’t always without some loss.

Doctor Who Classics is a sci-fi action series, so there is some violence and death, but nothing graphic.  There are some hints of blood, but nothing overt, and any death is seldom seen.  The most graphic scenes I can think of would be in the story City of the Damned, issue #2, where people without emotion are eaten by blood bugs, leaving only skeletons, but again, as I said, no gore.  Doctor Who Classics is meant to be a little scary, so use your own discretion. 

Despite the violence, I still think Doctor Who Classics is a good series for middle school aged kids.  The Doctor makes a good role model for kids.  He respects all forms of life.  Friend or foe, human or alien, he will try to save anyone in danger (though foes will be turned over to the appropriate authorities afterward).  He takes responsibility for his actions.  When he learns of the ruse the Meep has been using, he apologizes to the galactic authorities that were sent to retrieve the Meep and works to help them.  Finally, and most importantly, he abhors the use of weapons.  He doesn’t carry any kind of gun, sword or whip, and scorns the use of them by anyone else.  He prefers to use his brain, not brawn to solve any conflict, and that’s usually what saves the day/world/universe/etc.  I don’t think kids get exposed enough to heroes who use their brain to think their way out of difficult situations. 

The art is realistically rendered, with the drawing of the actor who play the Doctor, Tom Baker, done perfectly.  It looks just like him, down to the toothy grin and curls.  The aliens and strange creatures that populate this title are just as well drawn.  Even though many of the designs are fantastic in concept, they are rendered as if they were real creatures.  IDW has only improved the art with a beautiful coloring job applied to the pages.  These stories were originally published in black and white, but the water color palette used by Charlie Kirchoff really captures the look established by the TV show.

Doctor Who Classics is science fiction at it’s best.  The stories are still as relevant today as they were 30 years ago.  The Doctor is a hero for all times and all ages.  It’s a title kids and parents can read and enjoy together. I highly recommend it for any science fiction collection.

All images copyright © BBC and IDW Publishing

Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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