Written by: Jody Houser
Art by: Roberta Ingranata & Rachael Stott
Chronology Placement: Set after “Hidden Human History”
This Graphic Novel collects the following stories:
- Doctor Who: The 13th Doctor (Vol. 1) # 9 – 12
Aside from a Dalek appearance in “Resolution”, Jodie Whittaker’s era as the Doctor has actively distanced itself from familiar enemies and overt references to the series’ past in an effort to reboot the show. While this does help make the show more accessible for new audiences, it also feels a bit disconnected from the previous seasons. With her third volume of comic book adventures, Jody Houser remedies this disconnect by picking up on an obscure character from the show’s history: the once-referenced, but never-before-seen Corsair from “The Doctor’s Wife”.
Created by Neil Gaiman for the episode, the Corsair was presented as an old friend of the Doctor with a mischievous streak, who ultimately met their end in House’s bubble universe and was harvested for body parts. Gaiman subsequently produced some backstory for the rebellious time lord for The Brilliant Book of Doctor Who 2012, offering some minor teases about previous incarnations of the Corsair. Seemingly consigned to the footnotes of Doctor Who Encyclopedias forever, Houser has rescued the character and developed her beyond a series of reference points into a fully-fledged member of the cast.
While the script has fun with the similarities between Missy and the Corsair, the actual storyline of the Corsair mirrors that of River Song. In both cases, the Doctor knows the fate of these characters and is powerless to change it. Houser gently touches upon this struggle by having the Thirteenth Doctor retrieve the Corsair’s Hyper-cube from her storage and recalling his eventual fate in “The Doctor’s Wife”, but never makes the story about preventing this fate and instead has the Doctor indulge in a light-hearted adventure with an old friend. There is also the sense that as the Doctor imparts more of her personality and heroic nature to the Corsair, she is in fact pushing her closer towards her inevitable demise.
While the majority of the story revolves around the Doctor helping the Corsair out with a benevolent heist – one that features another neat call-back to another Eleventh Doctor Adventure – it also ties into the previous two volumes of the comic book series. I have really enjoyed the loose story-arc that Houser has curated with the Hoarder and Perkins & Schulz, and to see it reappear here in this volume created a lovely sense of internal continuity between volumes. Much like the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s significant meetings with the Face of Boe, the Thirteenth Doctor seems destined to meet with Perkins & Schulz at key moments throughout their timeline with a fourth meeting cryptically teased for the future. It is an effective bit of foreshadowing, and has me looking forward to the next volume of stories.
Roberta Ingranata leads art duties for the bulk of this volume, accompanied by an issue from Rachael Stott. The pair’s art styles complement each other, and it wasn’t until I looked carefully that I noticed where Stott had stepped in. As with her work in “Hidden Human History”, Ingranata captures the essence of the characters rather than opting for an ultra-detailed portrayal of the actors/actresses involved and I think that definitely works for this series. Her interpretation of the Doctor and her “Fam” is terrific and exudes an energy and excitement that matches the script. I also loved her design of the Corsair, presented to audiences as a swashbuckling female pirate with a roguish side. She reminded me of Jessica Brown Findlay, and I could see her playing the role if the character ever reappeared in the TV show itself.
As a formal introduction to the Corsair, “Old Friends” is a resounding success and brings the character to life instantly. While she is unlikely to reappear in any televised episodes, Houser and Ingranata have given her enough personality to warrant further exploration in future comic stories or even a Big Finish spin-off! This series has been a welcome oasis during a drought of Doctor Who stories this year, maintaining the same level of quality and the accessibility seen from Season Eleven. Houser and Ingranata work brilliantly together, infusing the series with a genuine sense of fun. You can tell both writer and artist love the source material and are committed to producing essential expanded universe content to sit alongside it.