Doctor Who is the longest-running science fiction television show of all time, celebrating its 59th anniversary this year on November 23. Throughout its long history, it has morphed into many mediums including novels, audio dramas, a few movies, and of course, comics. With so much content that one person should spend a lifetime consuming, it’s no surprise that the possibilities for stories to tell are endless.
Titan Publishing Group’s Titan Comics began its Doctor Who comic book series in 2014 with a series around the 10th, 11th, and 12th Doctors. This came after IDW Publishing’s contract with the BBC expired, producing content about the Time Lord ever since. Since production began, there has been an increase in stories concerning and borrowing aspects of the show’s history. Here’s why that’s a good thing.
Creating completely original content to expand the series, telling stories that are too big and elaborate for the big screen, is essentially what spin-off media should be doing. Building on the characterization of specific incarnations of the Doctor, taking them to new places, meeting new characters, and fighting new foes is all Titan has done. Even going so far as to introduce new companions for the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th incarnations of the Doctor. Josie Day, Tara Mishra, Gabby Gonzalez, Cindy Wu, Alice Obiefune, John Jones, ARC, The Squire, and Hattie Munroe are all original Titan Comics creations. So first and foremost, Titan did a great job creating original multi-dimensional characters to interact with our fleshed out, contextualized protagonist.
However, with so much history, it’s incredibly easy (especially on a show with Time Travel) to borrow a lot from its past. A quick spoiler warning, in case you want to pick one of these titles, as this article will now discuss plot points from a range of titles. If you’re reading this article as someone who isn’t as familiar with Doctor Who, and even if you are, each plot point will have a quick explanation regarding its meaning.
There have been six multi-doctor events so far. This is when several incarnations of the Doctor team up for an adventure. These included; Four Doctors, Cyberman Supremacy, The Lost Dimension, Alternating Current, The Master Plan, and The Wolf Empire. Even though there have been six in the eight years of the company’s creative control of the franchise, the stories of multiple Doctors are still considered big events. This will appeal to fans of the series who are casual comic book buyers or have no interest in the medium.
It’s a way to get more sales and attention for the comic book series. Especially considering over the past two years, the only Doctor Who content the publisher has released, as of this writing, are multi-Doctor scenarios. With the TV show’s popularity declining over the past eight years, it’s important to air content to intrigue die-hard and casual fans alike to rekindle widespread interest. The latest publication, The Wolf Empire (by Comiccraft’s Jody Houser, Roberta Ingranata, Warnia K. Sahadewa, and Richard Starkings), contained two Doctors, a former companion, and an alternate universe version of said companion.
Even before the recent wave of multi-doctor titles, there were lore-heavy titles. 2017 winter wolves, (by Richard Dinnick, Brian Williamson, Andrew Lueng, Hi-Fi, Comiccraft’s Richard Starkings, and Jimmy Betancourt) included an origin for The Flood; an enemy who first appeared in the Doctor Who special “The Waters of Mars”. He also linked it to the Ice Warriors, a longtime alien species from Doctor Who. Even finding space to include the Doctor’s 7th nemesis, The Fenric, who was revealed to be the main antagonist of the tale.
Most of the 10th Doctor’s four-year comic followed an arc centered on an alien race first created in a 1975 4th Doctor adventure. In his second series, the 11th Doctor traveled with Abslom Daak, a character comic and novel from the 80s. There are other examples of the Doctor fighting with more modern enemies such as the Weeping Angels, Slitheen, The Boneless, Silurians, etc.
It is not an addiction to the past. As mentioned earlier, the Titan comics have created many original aliens, stories, and sidekicks. However, Titan understands that a large percentage of their readers will be fans of the show who have prior knowledge before reading. Nostalgia plays a role, but in any series that features such a roster of interchangeable characters, it’s no surprise that fans want to see these possible combinations. And Titan understands that.
Appealing to the fan base while creating content that includes material that will generate more interest and sales is imperative for the continuation of Doctor Who in this medium. Sometimes it is necessary to deploy certain tactics to ensure the survival of these stories. Just because they may be following a formula doesn’t mean the quality is compromised with many titles featuring beautiful, vibrant artwork and competent creative stories that add something to the lore.
With the TARDIS, the show can access all of time and space and when you have a fictional world with endless storytelling possibilities. As long as the TV show and comics potentially tap into that, they’ll never run out of quality stories to attract audiences new and old.
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