Our good friend Tony Lee returns with another healthy helping of Doctor Who goodness from IDW that’ll keep us busy until the next special. Here’s John’s review of Doctor Who: The Time Machinations.
Written by Tony Lee
Art by Paul Grist
Colors by Phil Elliott
SYNOPSIS: The Doctor returns to Victorian London intending to be as discreet as possible. He knocks on the door of an old acquaintance, Herbert George Wells, asking for his assistance in finding someone to help The Doctor repair the TARDIS. In doing so he has to remain one step ahead of Torchwood, considering he is still considered an enemy of the crown.
ANALYSIS: It’s no secret that I was totally over the moon about Tony Lee’s previous offering to Doctor Who comics. Of course I refer to the six-part nostalgia romp The Forgotten. Lee (in collaboration with artist Pia Guerra) told a story that sought to link Old Who and NuWho in a totally seamless fashion. The Time Machinations follows the trend in its own wonderfully loopy way.
As if he took a cue from the new Star Trek movie, Lee decided to tell a story that is one part sequel and one part prequel. The only difference here is that it does so for two very notorious stories from classic who, from two different eras. I found it to be particularly bold of Lee to write a sequel to “Timelash,” a classic era story from the Colin Baker era, which is widely considered to be one of the worst episodes of all time. In doing so he helped fully realize what that episode failed to do. Specifically, for The Doctor to have an adventure with H. G. Wells and inevitably inspire him to start writing.
Meanwhile this story is a roundabout prequel to the Tom Baker era classic “The Talons of Weng Chiang,” a story that widely considered to be a definitive classic by many a fan (and even we here at Fandomania). Once could accuse The Time Machinations of catering only to hardcore fans, but aren’t they the target audience anyway? It does make a veteran Whovian laugh with joy from how well Lee integrates the new with old. He even reminds us that The Doctor is not welcome in Victorian London because of his adventures in “Tooth and Claw,” and thus enter Torchwood with their advanced steampunk gadgetry as they chase The Doctor all over London.
Lee uses the nostalgia tour as a distraction as he hits us over the head with an outstanding plot twist that shows how in tune Lee is with The Doctor and his grace under fire. You just can’t pry the smile off your face as you witness the way The Doctor and H.G. Wells cunningly dodge Torchwood and smoke out the real menace in the story. All of this fuels my hopes to see Tony Lee write a huge anniversary episode for Doctor Who when it turns 50. He has an impeccable gift for utilizing every nook and cranny of the constantly expanding Who-niverse and for creating stories that provide NuWho fans with a little bit of edification regarding their recently embraced fandom. At the same time, he rewards Old Who fans for their unwavering devotion to the series through thick and thin.
As for the artwork, I must definitely salute Grist and Elliott on this issue because of the way their art evokes the vintage style of classic strips from the early twentieth century, possibly earlier. Though the story is definitely not as epic as the TV series, that doesn’t stop the artists from wanting to resurrect a long lost era through their superb artwork.
If you’re going through withdrawal from the lengthy absence of the TARDIS, pick this issue up, and then go buy and/or watch “Timelash” and “The Talons of Weng-Chiang.” Then you can stop twitching for a week or two.
ESSENTIALLY: Another healthy dose of Doctor Who nostalgia from a fantastic writer, paired with outstanding artwork from a talented pair of atrists.