Four Doctors by Paul Cornell

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A trap is set for the Doctor which entangles three of his incarnations in a continuity bomb explosion.

Paul Cornell returns to Doctor Who comics for the first time his fiftieth anniversary celebration story, The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who. This time with a clever, fast-paced multi-Doctor story on the epic scale of a movie. His Time War-set prologue features the John Hurt incarnation and efficiently gives us a snapshot of that conflict which is far more interesting than most other depictions to date.

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The story zips along at a fast pace, but each frame is dense with detail and characterisation. There are a couple of nice pieces of tidying-up (the Blinovitch Limitation Effect is squared with the Reapers from Cornell’s episode Father’s Day; and a quick explanation of why the TARDIS Translation Circuit doesn’t convert Allons-y). There are also some great character moments, especially between the three different incarnations. Clara is particularly well-written. We saw her capacity for deception develop across series eight, culminating in her apparent betrayal of the Doctor when she takes his TARDIS keys at the beginning of Dark Water. This is set before the end of series eight, and here Clara is herself manipulated into lying to the Doctor so that the trap can be sprung.

Something that this particular combination of Doctors allows Cornell to explore is that the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors are fully aware that they are the penultimate and final incarnations respectively. They have no expectation that there will be an incarnation beyond them. I previously thought about how the Tenth Doctor’s hard-done-by attitude when he reluctantly sacrifices himself in the Naismith mansion in The End of Time Part Two informed the more care-free, pleasure-seeking Eleventh Doctor’s idiom. But the Tennant Doctor’s knowledge that he’s just got one remaining body must also impact this reaction.  He’s used this whole incarnation up in about four years (Russell T Davies seemed to have each series last one year of the Doctor’s life).

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One of the beautiful things about Four Doctors is, having made the reader think about Dark Water and The End of Time in issue one without directly mentioning them, part three sees the characters literally revisit these key scenes when the continuity bomb detonates. This leads to a compelling adventure with the three latest Doctors; along with Clara from the television series, and Gabby and Alice from the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors’ Titan Comics ranges respectively. The alien Voord from The Keys of Marinus also return, along with a surprising and deadly opponent.

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Order The Four Doctors hardback:

Doctor Who Event 2015: Four Doctors

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