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Comic Book Review
“Look at this, Josie! The opulence. The grandeur!” “Sickening, isn’t it?” The Doctor and his companion set off for the last set of co-ordinates on their enigmatic to-do list: a Bakri Resurrection Barge, where the super-rich are ‘remade’ into luxurious artificial bodies after corporeal death. But the resurrectees are dying, their bodies rebelling against their implanted minds! Will this final stop enable the duo to piece together the truth about Josie’s paintings and find the answers they seek? And what is the shocking secret that Josie has been hiding from the Doctor…?
Even more than last issue, the mini-series finale A Matter of Life and Death feels constrained by its page count. Writer George Mann packs in establishing the futuristic premise of the Resurrection Barge, “Where the richest 0.0001% of the Vast and Bountiful Human Empire come to be reborn” (which he does within two pages), introducing a mysterious death (which happens on page 3), having the Doctor and Josie accused of the crime (page 4), imprisoned (page 5) and quickly escaping to investigate (page 6). Our heroes soon discover the flaw in the Bakri’s immortalisation process, and there is precious little time to explore the menace and the mystery before it’s time to get down to the moralising.
I suppose it’s entirely possible for the Doctor to reach his conclusions as quickly as he does (and for the reader to keep up with his reasoning) because the Time Lord has encountered this kind of situation before – the trope of ‘artificial life forms have human rights, too’ – for example, in The Companion Chronicles audio book Echoes of Grey. Fans will probably be more familiar with the subject from the television two-parter The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People, but of course that happens later in the Doctor’s lifetime. During the final confrontation, we see the Eighth Doctor at his most compassionate – and his most ruthless.
However, the ethical discussion is merely the set-up for another twist, one that pays off on developments from all four previous issues of this mini-series, in particular the opening page of #4. You’ll probably want to revisit that auction scene – I, for one, was certainly wrong-footed by the ingenious misdirection of Mann and artist Emma Vieceli. Talk about hiding things in plain sight!
I do hope that the Eighth Doctor and Josie will return (encouragingly, the closing panel of the strip says “THE END… FOR NOW!”) but with more room to breathe in a more permanent series.
In the meantime, Titan is turning its attention towards another classic series Doctor – the Fourth – whose own mini-series launches on 23 March. There’s a three-page sneak preview of it at the end of this issue...