Doctor Who: Land Of The Blind by Scott Gray, Dan Abnett, Lee Sullivan, Martin Geraghty, Graten Roberts & Nick Briggs (graphic novel review).

July 17, 2018 | By | Reply More

After being off the air for four years, ‘Doctor Who Monthly’ changed its approach to its traditional comic-strip which, at the time, were continuing the adventures of the Seventh Doctor and often tied into the range of Virgin ‘New Adventures’ stories. With Virgin about to debut the ‘Missing Adventures’, it was time to dip the toes into a series of stories all focusing on Doctors past. This latest collection showcases a set of adventures from the first five incarnations of our favourite Time Lord.

We kick off with Dan Abnett’s ‘Victims’ in which the Fourth Doctor and Romana find themselves on the planet of Kolpasha, a place housing some of the best fashion designers that the world has to offer. Despite being famous for having some of the worst fashion sense in the universe and, this story adds in a little dig at the Sixth Doctor’s ‘sartorial elegance’, the Doctor finds himself drifting amongst the fashionable elite, trying to discover who has offed a famous fashion designer and what a new ‘revitalising’ cosmetic has to do with it all.

Abnett provides a knockabout caper, capturing the Fourth Doctor’s insouciance quite well whilst also having fun playing with genres. As Abnett himself reveals in the commentary for the story, it’s nice to visit an alien world that, for once, isn’t a ‘mining colony’. It does suffer from being slightly too busy with Abnett trying to fit a lot into a story that spanned over two issues and the ending feels a little rushed. But it captures that sense of menace and ridiculousness that typified many stories of the Tom Baker era and that alone makes it a worthwhile read.

Speaking of ridiculousness, if you’ve ever wanted to see evil cows be a ‘Doctor Who’ villain then you can breathe a sigh of relief as Gareth Roberts provides them in ‘The Lunar Strangers’. In the far off year of 2015, human colonists on the Moon meet with a couple of sentient cows. A couple of very polite sentient cows. Enter the Fifth Doctor, Turlough and Tegan who think there is something not quite right about the bovine pair and, as usual, there’s a good chance their hunch will be proved correct.

Much of this is predicated on the initial outré appearance of the villains. Whilst with a bit of CGI, you’d probably be able to pull them off nowadays, indeed, there’s more than a hint of the Judoon about them, it would be a lot harder in the early 90s. So there’s a sense of being able to do things in the comic-strip that you’d never be able to do on TV. But as fun as it can be, it never always hangs together with the motivation of the bad guys a bit muddled and the Fifth Doctor’s characterisation being slightly off thanks to a suspicious nature that sees at odds with his usual more open demeanour. But Roberts does provide some entertaining moments and it never outstays its welcome.

Nick Briggs, now ensconced in ‘Doctor Who’ history as the voice of the Daleks and numerous other creatures, a ‘Doctor Who’ historian and one of the bods behind Big Finish, makes his only sojourn into ‘Doctor Who’ comics with ‘Food For Thought’, an adventure with Ben, Polly and the First Doctor. Landing on planet Apresar IV, the Doctor and his companions immediately find themselves the lunch of a giant mollusc. Whilst avoiding being digested, they find a strange conspiracy on a space station orbiting the planet and must get to the bottom of things.

This story is a bit up and down. Briggs manages to get the First Doctor’s character right, a mixture between doddery old man and fiercely clever Time Lord, but the story gets the tone between silly and dark a bit wrong. The characterisation of Polly is also woefully sexist, with her being described as a ‘…Swinging Sixties Fashion Accessory’ at one point. Briggs admits to this in his commentary and it’s clear that he feels a bit embarrassed about it looking back on it now. The artwork is good, but it’s clear that some of the same Hartnell stills have been used as photo references and there are a few poses that will strike fans as more than a little familiar. It’s entertaining in its own way but some of the flaws are glaring.

Kate Orman gets the perfect UNIT era Pertwee vibe with her story ‘Change Of Mind’ during which the Third Doctor and Liz Shaw must find the source of some mysterious psychic shenanigans. It has that strange mix of mundanity and the weird that made this era of ‘Doctor Who’ so enjoyable. The Third Doctor is in full action man persona while Liz is given a bit of bite as she’s the rather cynical ying to his swaggering, vaguely egocentric yang. While the plot does seem a bit uneven, there a number a good set pieces, including a delightfully grizzly ending.

The titular ‘Land Of The Blind’ has the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe find themselves in a space port that is guarded over by mysterious ‘Vortexians’, actually designed by a DWM reader in a competition. Scott Gray’s story wouldn’t be out of place on the modern day series with a fine balance of wit, action and more than a hint of darkness. The Second Doctor is well characterised and Jamie and Victoria are also given plenty to do. It’s a very fun and well-plotted ride and is perhaps the best of the bunch in this collection. Though, as Gray mentions in the commentary, he perhaps should have done a little bit more research into what a ‘speculum’ is.

The collection is rounded out with the one-shot story ‘Bringer Of Darkness’, as the Second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria discover a crashed Dalek spaceship and decide to stop them signalling their compatriots. Another story that wouldn’t be out of place in contemporary era ‘Doctor Who’, the story explores the darkness at the heart(s) of the Doctor, especially when it comes to his old enemies. Another winner from Scott Gray, it’s a great way to end this compilation.

It may be a mixed bag, but ‘Land Of The Blind’ has enough to appeal to the casual readers and hardcore fans to make this another worthwhile collection.

Laurence Boyce

July 2018

(pub: Marvel/Panini. 132 page graphic novel softcover. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84653-886-5)

check out website: www.paninicomics.co.uk/

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Category: Comics, Doctor Who

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Laurence Boyce is a film journalist who likes Bond, Batman and Doctor Who (just to prove the things he enjoys things that don't just start with a 'B'). He is also a film programmer for various film festivals in the UK and abroad.

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