Doctor Who: The Third Doctor # 1 – 5
Written by: Paul Cornell
Art by: Christopher Jones
Chronology Placement: Between “The Three Doctors” and “Carnival of Monsters”
The Third Doctor’s era was a groundbreaking period in Doctor Who’s history – not only did it see the transition from black and white to colour, but it also saw our time-travelling hero exiled to Earth and forced to fight invasions alongside UNIT. Despite placing these restrictions on the series, the Doctor’s days working with the Brigadier, Yates and Sgt. Benton were charged with excitement and action, spinning Doctor Who off into an entirely different direction. So, I was naturally excited to see Titan Comics had chosen to focus on this distinctive era of the show for its Third Doctor miniseries, “Heralds of Destruction”.
Series writer Paul Cornell is no stranger to the Doctor Who universe, having written fan-favourite episodes “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood” for the television series, as well as a bevy of novels released during the series’ hiatus in the nineties. As an established writer for the franchise, it comes as no surprise that Cornell manages to accurately recreate the Third Doctor era with such authenticity that you’d think this was an old script from the seventies dusted off for adaptation. All of the key supporting characters from the Doctor’s UNIT times make an appearance, sounding exactly how you remembered them.
However, Cornell isn’t content on replicating the tone of those UNIT adventures, he also develops the characters and fills in some of the blanks in those original stories. For example, Mike Yates’ betrayal in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” is foreshadowed throughout the five issues and Cornell even provides some motivation for his turn, remedying what seemed to be an out-of-character moment back then. You have to admire a writer who is able to fix plot holes from decades-old stories and make them even better in retrospect.
Cornell plays with every toy in the Third Doctor toy-box, setting his tale after “The Three Doctors” so he can deal with the emotional ramifications of the Doctor’s newfound ability to leave Earth. Again, Cornell adds in some more character development and rationalises the Doctor’s decision to remain anchored to the seventies once he regains the ability to travel in the TARDIS. He also gets the opportunity to write some glorious scenes featuring Roger Delgado’s Master, one of the highlights of the Third Doctor’s run. As expected, he nails the “frenemy” rivalry between the two time lords and their constant attempts to one-up each other. It’s just like watching Pertwee and Delgado bickering on-screen!
Another key component of this series is the wonderful artwork from Christopher Jones, who manages to recreate the tone of 1970s Doctor Who perfectly in his panels. Each one of the characters is brought to life on the page with amazing accuracy and realism, yet there is a degree of fluidity in Jones’ artwork that ensures the panels don’t feel static. He also captures the facial tics and mannerisms of the key cast perfectly, giving the series a real sense of movement throughout. There’s plenty of opportunities for Jones to cut loose with some wonderfully psychedelic set-pieces that allow the artist to step away from the bland warehouses of UNIT and create some truly bewitching moments.
This storyline is a complete love letter to the Third Doctor and UNIT, and fans of that particular period in Doctor Who timeline will absolutely adore the way Cornell slips this adventure seamlessly into the existing continuity. He also revitalises a forgotten Doctor Who villain, whose identity will remain a surprise until that full-page reveal midway through the adventure. While fans steeped in the history of the series will absolutely love this series, it remains an accessible and well-written adventure for all Whovians, old and new. With pitch-perfect artwork and dialogue that feels ripped from the cutting room floor, this is probably the most authentic feeling Doctor Who comic that Titan has published and one that definitely deserves to be considered as canon. The ultimate tribute to the Third Doctor’s era – I cannot imagine any Doctor Who fan being unhappy with this story at all.