Halfway through her inaugural series on television, the Thirteenth Doctor has proven to be something of an enigma, even to herself. She’s still figuring out her own personality after a particularly destructive regeneration. As an audience, we know the Doctor will always make the right choice for the greater good, but her exact personality has proven to be a trickier thing to pin down. She’s light and airy in all the best ways and has a strong appreciation of friendship. She loves to geek out over science and explain things to her companions in a way that many previous incarnations of the Time Lord would have brushed off with a “no time to worry about that now.” But in the season’s commitment (so far) to favoring episodic missions over long arcs, it has been a little difficult to see any major growth on the part of her character, especially when she’s been surrounded by a larger regular supporting cast than the show usually has.
This is why I’m actually excited by the idea of reading long-form stories featuring this iteration of the Doctor, so I can continue to get to know her in a way that the show hasn’t quite done for me yet. However, it’s also why writer Jody Houser (Mother Panic) has her work cut out for her: how do you tell stories about a character that is still developing on-screen without stepping on the toes of the TV writers?
It’s a tricky balancing act, but I’m pleased to say that it mostly works in this first issue. The book opens with a quick recap of the characters and their relationship to one another and builds off of those initial impressions. So far, the story fits in nicely between the first two or three episodes of the current season of Who, with the characters bouncing from one planet to another, doing some intergalactic sightseeing.
Houser takes the “science nerd” aspect that has made Jodie Whittaker’s performance as the title character so endearing and runs with it in the first few pages as the Doctor explains a cosmic phenomenon of sentient nebulae to her companions in a way that feels more high-concept and poetic than many of the scripts of the current season. It’s a lovely moment that gets interrupted by a timey-wimey hole in space that kickstarts our heroes’ involvement in the story proper. The rest of the issue is split between a montage of the Doctor and her companions searching several planets for leads and a high-tech robbery involving two seemingly-reluctant thieves. It’s a fairly simple start, but I found myself having a fun time with this book. I’m excited to see Thirteen get a little more development and for the usual perk of watching the Doctor encounter places and things in a comic book that would be outside the realm of a television budget.
Speaking of, Rachael Stott’s artwork deserves particular praise. The creatures and otherworldly landscapes look interesting without feeling overdesigned and the likenesses of the actors from the show are pretty spot-on. I especially love the panels where Thirteen scrunches her nose in thought — one of my favorite quirks of the current Doctor. It’s a minutely small detail, but I enjoyed seeing it and it should let fans know that this book is in the correct hands. I should also mention that I adore the main cover art by Babs Tarr, which perfectly integrates the look of the series’ new opening credits sequence and features the Doctor extending a hand to the reader, inviting them along for the journey.
The first issue feels very short, but it also sets several different threads in motion that should be interesting to see play out. There are a few hints to the Doctor’s past that may be of interest to fans of the show. The storyline here also seems to be doing some interesting things with time travel and the progression of events from a traveler’s perspective, a concept that this season of the television series has approached a little more straightforwardly.
The Thirteenth Doctor is off to fun, breezy start! Check it out if, like me, you’re hungry for more long-form adventures from the lady in the box.