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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Ninth Doctor
Official Secrets (Hardback)


Writer: Cavan Scott
Artists: Adriana Melo and Cris Bolson
Colourist: Marco Lesko
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £17.99, US $22.99, Cdn $25.99
Age: 12+
ISBN: 978 1 78586 111 6
128 pages
Publication Date: 07 June 2017

Team TARDIS are in hot pursuit of a monster they accidentally sent back to the 1970s (or is it the 1980s?) – only to find colossal kaiju tearing up the Bristol Channel, and UNIT out of their depth! A face from the Doctor’s past may have all the answers. Next, the search for Jack’s missing memories takes the TARDIS to 17th century Brazil, and into the grip of slavers both alien and all-too-human! Will Jack find what he seeks – or lose the trust of his friends? Writer Cavan Scott (Tekken, Vikings, Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen) and artists Adriana Melo (Star Wars: Empire, Birds of Prey) and Cris Bolson (The Shadow) continue to explore the Ninth Doctor’s hidden depths…!

This graphic novel compiles #6–10 of Titan’s ongoing Ninth Doctor series, retaining the same script and art team as last time. In common with the previous volume, it comprises a three-part story and a two-part story, beginning with…

Welcome back to the 20th century! Alien invasion and internecine intrigue combine as the Doctor becomes entangled with the forces of UNIT once more, when a cache of potentially devastating top-secret material is leaked to the media. But does the whistleblower have a point? While Jack infiltrates the UNIT barracks in search of the truth, Rose gets an idea of the Doctor’s life before she met him, and the Doctor is overwhelmed by a glimpse back into an era when he didn’t have the weight of the Time War on his shoulders…

Following a flash-forward from the Doctor’s future, in the form of an older Mickey Smith and his wife Martha in the previous story, The Transformed, we get a blast from the past in Official Secrets, with the more than welcome return of UNIT! This is not the Unified Intelligence Taskforce of the revived television series, but the original United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, circa 1975. For UNIT, this adventure appears to take place shortly before or after The Android Invasion, while the Fourth Doctor is off “swanning about the universe”, as Harry Sullivan rather bitterly puts it. The Ninth Doctor’s team cross UNIT’s path while pursuing a mutant gargoyle through time, and, with the Time Lord’s former self absent, he makes himself at home in his old role as scientific advisor.

It’s a delight to have Harry, Benton and (eventually) the Brigadier back again (at the start of the story, the Brig is away in Geneva – not for the first time, as the Doctor remarks). The likeness of Benton is not very good, by either of this book’s artists. The Brigadier is better, while Harry – all square jaw, curly hair and sideburns – is the most recognisable. Of the returning UNIT personnel, this is really Harry’s story, though the Brig steals his thunder a bit when he returns (there’s a poignant moment when Lethbridge-Stewart recognises a fellow commanding officer in the Doctor’s post-Time War mindset). Prior to that point, Harry is carrying on as best he can as ranking officer.

The reason why I specified “Of the returning UNIT personnel” is because we are introduced to a new staff member, the brave young Tara Mishra, who has an even larger role to play.

With a man-sized gargoyle on the scene, writer Cavan Scott misses a trick by not having anyone say, “Chap with wings, there…” However, he ensures that an officious government minister, typical of the UNIT era, is present and correct. This one wants to shut the taskforce down and causes Harry no end of grief, until… As you may or may not know, Harry Sullivan was originally written into the show in order to deal with fight scenes and other action in the event that an older actor was cast as the Fourth Doctor (an eventuality that did not in fact arise). He certainly gets to use his fists at a dramatic point in this story, but not in a way that any of his colleagues would have wished. Altogether now: “Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!”

The middle section of this adventure is drawn by Cris Bolson, the rest by Adriana Melo, which makes for a slightly inconsistent result. As I suggested in my previous review, it would have been better to put Bolson on one complete story (such as the previous two-parter The Transformed), rather than to alternate artists within the same narrative. From that point on, though, it’s Melo all the way for the remainder of the book. Fortunately, both artists are good at doing monsters and property damage – there’s quite a bit of both in this thrilling tale!



The Ninth Doctor, Rose and Jack head to Brazil in 1682 on the next leg of their transtemporal mystery tour. The Iara have long been thought a Brazilian myth, but when these unearthly mercreatures prove to be aquatic aliens making an unscheduled stop on planet Earth, the TARDIS team must establish their intentions and broker peace across the water barrier! Meanwhile, Jack’s past has finally come back to haunt him! Will he ever be able to recover his friends’ trust? Plus: there’s a new companion aboard the TARDIS…!

It turns out that this graphic novel is all about Tara Mishra, who stows away at the end of the first story and accompanies the Doctor, Rose and Jack during the second one, Slaver’s Song. We experience the wonders and dangers of TARDIS travel anew through her eyes (and hugely beaming smile), with several text panels written from her point of view.

The Doctor is very pleased to have Tara as his eager new companion. Rose is decidedly less so. Cavan Scott foreshadows her jealousy of Sarah Jane Smith in her reaction to the presence of this dark-haired rival for the Time Lord’s affections.

Artist Adriana Melo also contributes to the plot. She co-devised the story with Scott, bringing aspects of her own Brazilian culture to the table, in the curvaceous shape of a fish-woman, Yiara, and a more frightening male monster, Lpupiara. The former is inspired by Iara (alternatively spelled Uiara or Yara), a siren or mermaid-type figure from the legends of Brazil based on indigenous Tupi and Guaraní mythology. Another aspect of the myth is an aggressive, monstrous merman known as Ipupiara (meaning freshwater monster). Melo is, of course, well qualified to draw the sexy siren, though Lpupiara occasionally looks unintentionally comical.

Meanwhile, after languishing in the background since the ongoing Ninth Doctor series was launched, the mystery of Captain Jack’s missing memories comes to the fore here, occupying a significant proportion of the narrative. His plot arc takes a decisive step forward, in a way that will have lasting consequences for the TARDIS crew…

This is a fast-moving tale, seeming almost like a condensed three-parter at times. The 16th page of the strip feels as though it could be the end of the first episode – and perhaps, in an earlier draft, it had been. The whole affair concludes with an excitingly out of the blue cliffhanger / teaser that will have you counting the days until the release of the next volume.



The book also includes cover galleries, creator biographies and a handy chronology of the ever-expanding library of Doctor Who titles that are available from Titan. It’s no secret that this is an excellent collection!

Richard McGinlay

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