Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #5

4

Poor

FourthDoctor5-minLong-term fans of actor Tom Baker’s tenure as the British Broadcasting Company’s travelling Time Lord probably experienced a disconcerting sinking feeling of déjà vu whilst reading Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby’s narrative for Issue Five of “Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor”. For despite the twenty-two page periodical bringing the murderous exploits of an extra-terrestrial Medusa skulking in the catacombs of Ancient Greece to a somewhat satisfying conclusion, the similarities between the collaborative team’s treatment and the resolution to David Fisher’s screenplay for the 1978 broadcast serial “The Stones Of Blood” are disappointingly alike.

These ‘parallel proceedings’ sadly start straight from the comic’s opening, as the Gallifreyan is quickly teleported away from a claustrophobically atmospheric underground cavern aboard a jarringly gleaming alien spacecraft and discovers from the partially-defunct ship’s data banks that, as with the on-screen Justice Machines and Cessair of Diplos, the crashed craft’s crew are in fact intergalactic guardians who were about to begin “the long journey home” ferrying back a criminal when disaster struck their vessel. Regrettably, such dissatisfying resemblances don’t stop there either, as the scarf-wearing bohemian is forced to literally argue with the alien Zeus for his very life, to the point where some readers were probably half-expecting artist Brian Williamson to suddenly pencil the titular character donning the barrister’s wig which he wore whilst out-witting the Megara during the ‘Key To Time’ broadcast; “Sorry to interrupt, but don’t you think it seems terribly unfair that my friend and I are being included in this all must fall solution of yours?”

Disappointingly, what innovation this fifth instalment to “Gaze Of The Medusa” does contain arguably struggles to withstand much scrutiny either, with “poor Lady Carstairs” suddenly becoming a supposedly “specially prepared” vessel within which the Medusa can conveniently relocate her consciousness just as “the ship’s generators are being overloaded”. Precisely why the snake-like gorgon hasn’t previously attained such a “full bodily transmogrification to go with the mental transference” using one of the dozens of victims littering her lair is never properly addressed, and resultantly this transformation appears to be used as a contrived plot device so as to give both the partially-petrified widower her just desserts for the cold-blooded murder of Professor Odysseus James, as well as provide the pair’s increasingly paper-thin plot with a reason as to why the scaly-skinned villainess reaches the Doctor’s time portal back to Victorian London somewhat simultaneously with the time traveller and Athena.

Of course, such shenanigans aren’t entirely without their entertainment as the comic ends with a rather enjoyable tongue-in-cheek conclusion involving Harry Sullivan’s great grandparents. Wonderfully sketched by Williamson, with Lieutenant Albert Sullivan, “a ship’s surgeon in the Royal Navy”, bearing a strikingly good resemblance to the late actor Ian Marter, this humorous eleven-panel long encounter is by far the highlight of the book, and it’s clear why Sarah Jane Smith much prefers an invitation to the loving couple’s wedding over visiting a Draconian coronation.

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4

Poor

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For the past forty or so years I have been collecting American comics… To begin with they were predominantly black and white British reprints of “Marvel Comics Group” titles such as “Spider-Man Comics Weekly”, “The Mighty World of Marvel” and “Star Wars Weekly”; all six to ten pence editions I could store away under my bed in a large cardboard box. As a result though I was introduced to the teenage angst of Peter Parker, the discovery of a frozen Captain America by Earth's Mightiest Heroes, witnessed the dreadful rage of Doctor Bruce Banner, and even travelled to a galaxy far far away... Later I would be able to afford actual America colour comic books and supplemented my collection of “Marvel” titles such as “Conan the Barbarian”, “Howard the Duck” and “Captain America” with some “DC Comics” issues of “Batman”, “Green Lantern” and “Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew”. There would even be time for Independent publications such as “Wildcats”, “Spawn” and “The Authority”. These days however I must admit to yearning back to the simpler times of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, back to when both artwork and storylines were straightforward, easy to follow and super-heroes were just starting out on their adventures. A time when no-one had yet to be resurrected from the dead for the fourth time. I've written over seven hundred comic book reviews on my blog over the past few years, with them usually following my latest purchases, all wrapped up in a large brown paper bag, as well as occasional ‘flashbacks’ to some of the classic "Golden Age" issues I already own…

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