Monday, 3 June 2013

Review: Doctor Who - Prisoners of Time #5

Written by Scott & David Tipton
Art by Philip Bond
Published by IDW

Landing on an alien planet to recharge the Tardis, the Fifth Doctor and his companions find themselves caught in the middle of a thousand year old war between the Rutan Host and the Sontaran Empire!

What better time to review an issue of Doctor Who than after the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, announces his departure from the long-running serial! The structure of this mini-series has always been somewhat puzzling, having eleven Doctors and yet needing twelve issues. The final issue had been theorised to simply be a multiple Doctor story with all his many incarnations teaming up to defeat the as-yet-unknown villain. Nevertheless, come December, could we be treated with an appearance of the newly minted Twelfth?

But that's ages away and we're not even halfway through the Doctors yet, so let's focus on Peter Davison's installment of this yearlong epic. I'm not terribly familiar with the original series Doctors, so you'll have to forgive me for any glaring misconceptions. However, I know Davison's Fifth Doctor was the closest in spirit to his modern day counterparts, bringing a youthful vigor to adventures, rather than the craggy old man that'd come before. Instead of scalding companions, he'd run and bound and play cricket. A little outdated maybe, but an incarnation I can certainly relate to.

Caught up in the alien war, the Doctor and his companions find themselves in both enemy camps at various points of the issue. Firstly, the Rutan Host, who can only be described as floating jellyfish. Lastly, the potato-headed Sontarans. While the Rutan most definitely hold a grudge against the Doctor for his foiling of a previous scheme of theirs, the Sontarans can surprisingly see the funny side and despite having butted heads with the Timelord before, at the very least respect him as a warrior.

Asked to look over their battle plans, the Doctor quickly surmises that the Sontarans are caught in a no-win situation. Their only choice is to charge the enemy in a frontal assault and die trying i.e. a suicide mission. Ever the diplomat, the Doctor tries to broker peace between the bitter enemies and even offers to evacuate one of the armies in his Tardis. Unfortunately, their true natures win out and they can't resist the allure of a warrior's death, running toward their own demise.

The plot itself hinged entirely upon the old 'Frog and Scorpion crossing a river' metaphor, which even featured as narrative over the resulting battle. I've heard this story so many times over the years, it's almost as if every good (and bad) science fiction series has to make that point at some time or another. Heavy-handed doesn't even begin to describe it. Having seen the Sontarans in action in the television series over the past few years, I'm honestly not surprised to see them charge into danger without a care for their own well being. Even so, it's hard not to view their behaviour as idiotic. How their war lasted a thousand years with strategy like this, we'll never know.

Meanwhile, the overarching threat of the series continues to lurk in the background, periodically popping up to abduct the Doctor's companions for his nefarious scheme. Whoever this is, they're clearly a disgruntled Time Agent ala Jack Harkness. Hell, I wouldn't even be surprised if this IS Jack Harkness. Albeit, his grumpy old man equivalent. The thing I don't understand about the villain's scheme is that shouldn't removing such important pieces of the Doctor's life have had catastrophic effects on the timeline by now? Are we to assume that five Doctors' lives have proceeded exactly as before, only their companions mysteriously disappear each time? That's a hole so big, you could fly the Tardis through it.

6 out of 10

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