After following a conspicuous temporal energy trail to an alien world, the Doctor and her friends find themselves surrounded by enemies and the person they came to rescue fading out of existence! Why is the Grand Army of the Just determined to arrest them? What happened to Dr. Leon Perkins and his partner? When is someone going to realize that Graham is one of the best companions ever? All of these questions (and more!) in this month’s Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor!
This was another fun issue from Jody Houser and company. The mystery of why Leon is lying about his predicament is interesting and we get another glimpse at the wild designs of this arc’s Big Bad. The jokes work and the Doc is as adorable as always, being very sweet even as she makes it clear she’s literally always going to be the smartest person in the room. Houser has an excellent grasp on these characters’ individual voices and I can actually hear the actors delivering these lines while I read.
I absolutely love the Doctor’s inherent faith in her team. She has no problem trusting them to utilize their strengths, such as when she asks Yaz to draw on her experience as a police officer to appeal to the Grand Army soldiers. This complete trust and ability to let go of being a total control freak is a great facet of the Thirteenth Doctor and I’m happy to see that Houser is tapping into it.
My only real gripe is the reliance on the sonic screwdriver in this issue, which unfortunately breaks some of the plot for me. Too often, Doctor Who writers use it as the Doc’s “Get Out of Jail Free” card. This happens twice in this issue: once when the Doctor is trying to stabilize Leon’s time-suit and again when the gang has to escape from their captors. The first one, I can excuse. Plot-wise, I think the screwdriver works best when it is used as a tool to fix or open things. It’s not quite explained what the Doctor is doing, but it fixes Leon’s suit and the plot can move forward.
The second use of the screwdriver is a little more frustrating and will require me spoil the resolution of the issue, so feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph if you want to go in fresh. Okay, here goes: after watching the gang attempting to sneak out of their prison and being chased by some soldiers, briefly stopping in the armory to debate using weapons against their enemies, the group is cornered and the Doctor simply uses the screwdriver to call the TARDIS and they make their escape. If that were an option, why not just do it several pages ago and skip breaking out of their cell and running halfway across this ship? It makes those last several pages, as fun as they are, feel like padding. I hope this won’t be a trend in later issues, since the screwdriver has had a tendency in past Who comics and television stories to act less as a tool and more as a deus ex machina.
That gripe aside, I’m still pretty pleased with the direction of this series. Two issues in, this book continues to make me wish this creative team was contributing to the writing on the current television season, which has been mostly fun, but ultimately low-stakes.
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