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Comic Book Review
The Doctor, River, Abslom, Alice and the Squire take refuge in an insalubrious watering hole when things look at their worst. Abslom confesses a Daak secret. Alice develops a bond. The Squire recovers a memory. The Doctor discovers the horrific truth about how The Then and The Now has been tracking them… and he doesn’t like it one bit. At his lowest ebb, and with none of the answers, is the Doctor deliberately pushing Alice and the Squire away? And as the universe closes in around them… is escape even possible…?!
As this issue opens, the ‘story so far’ bit points out that the Doctor hasn’t really needed River Song so far in order to break into the prison planet Shada, so why did he bring her along? Because now they need to break out again! It stands to reason, of course, that a prison should be at least as hard to break out of as it is to break into, but I had managed to overlook that obstacle until it was pointed out to me, having assumed that the Doctor and co would simply make off in the TARDIS. It’s probably an after-effect of The Name of the Doctor, and the fact that writer Steven Moffat saw no need to explain how the Doctor and Clara got out of the Doctor’s time stream at the end.
Here we do get an explanation for the escape from the prison planet, though it is told in flashback, with a lot of technobabble from River – or technojunk, as Daak calls it. Daak hates technojunk, as he amusingly reminds us throughout the episode. It’s an escape that involves positioning two TARDISes inside each other, a brain-aching dimensional absurdity that first occurred in The Time Monster.
Writer Si Spurrier makes River a decidedly unlikeable character. She smugly liberates the TARDIS crew from Shada, only to then casually suggest sacrificing one of their number. “She was teasing,” the Doctor tries to explain. “I wasn’t teasing,” she insists. Does Spurrier dislike the character? Is River trying to push people away, just as the Doctor is? If so, she’s going the right way about it…!
Spurrier doesn’t shy away from the Eleventh Doctor’s less pleasant qualities, either, as the Time Lord quietly reveals that he has known all along about a problem surrounding one of his companions – just like he did with Amy and the crack in her wall, just like he did with Rory’s disappearance into the crack, just like he did with Amy’s pregnancy, and just like he did with the impossible girl Clara. “Ah, that,” he says. “When were you going to tell me?” demands the companion in question, to which he replies, coming across as very cowardly: “I was sort of hoping you’d work it out for yourself.” Defying expectations, however, when the Doctor walks into a Mos Eisley style bar with his posse, he is surprised to find that, for once, he is not the most dreaded bringer of darkness in the room.
References to the Daleks being extinct sit rather oddly in a story that is set after Victory of the Daleks, in which the pepperpots were released back into the universe en masse, but perhaps we should simply assume that the creatures have not been seen in this particular part of space and time.
With the TARDIS team taking a break to have a drink, this is a less riveting instalment than we have come to expect from this title of late, but there is every indication that the chase will soon be on again…
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