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Comic Book Review
A supremely strange cosmic bounty hunter is tracking the TARDIS anywhere in time and space – which should be impossible. The Squire is starting to remember things… things about the Time War… and so is Alice – which should be impossible. The Squire’s very existence… should be impossible. The Doctor does ten impossible things before breakfast… but other people doing the same? That’s just cheating…!
When the transtemporal bounty hunter The Then and The Now catches up with the Doctor at the start of this episode, Outrun, its touch briefly causes the Time Lord to revert through his previous incarnations. Until it gets to the War Doctor, that is. That part of his timeline is, as the Doctor puts it, “X-rated, shall we say. Banned and, fortunately for me at this exact moment… unavailable.”
On one level, this is an acknowledgement of the problem inherent in tackling the War Doctor in a story that is set before The Name of the Doctor and The Day of the Doctor. In narrative terms, anyone attempting a chronological reading and viewing of Eleventh Doctor stories would have the surprise of the Time War Doctor’s identity spoiled for them. It would be like watching the Star Wars prequels before the original trilogy. Being realistic, of course, surely every Who fan knows who the War Doctor is by now, and I’m glad of any opportunity to find out more about his activities. In the context of the story, the “X-rated” nature of this point in the Doctor’s life is that he now has difficulty remembering it.
Another barrier is the fact that the Time War is time-locked, which means that our heroes cannot simply go back and find out what they want to know. This is demonstrated graphically, Pyramids of Mars style, when the Doctor shows his companions what happens when a TARDIS tries to access that period – they literally come up against a wall. In his version of the Fourth Doctor’s line, “1980, Sarah, if you want to get off”, we witness Eleven at his most angry and frustrated: “All aboard the Time War bus, eh? This season’s hot destination. OK. Fine. Fine! You want the Time War… You’ve got it! Roll up, Roll up! Get your ticket and a two-for-one offer on emotional trauma! Popcorn’s a bit burnt and smells of Time Lord flesh, but what can you do… Here’s the Time War!” The fact that multiple Doctors managed to breach the time lock in The Day of the Doctor is immaterial, because on that occasion the Moment let them through.
But, the Doctor wants to know, how did the Squire get out of it? How did she survive the Time War? That’s a question that cannot be answered yet (providing a very poignant moment), but let’s not forget that the Doctor also survived the conflict… as did the Master… and several Daleks, so it’s not really as strange as he is making out.
Abslom Daak is impressed by the Doctor’s actions in the war. “I knew there was a reason I liked you more this time around!” he says, “It’s ’cos we’re the same now. We’re like… brothers. So, tell me… Who’s killed more of ’em, Doctor? Me or you?” The Time Lord is far from pleased by the comparison.
Alice, on the other hand, is impressed by Daak, in spite of her better judgement. “I know it’s wrong, and I’m ashamed to admit this, but… he’s quite dishy. For a man with a chainsaw.” The Doctor reminds Alice that before he became a Dalek Killer, Daak was a mass murderer. In a private moment, however, we get a glimpse of Daak’s soft underbelly…
I like where this story is going. Long may it run.