Paul Cornell (Writer), Christopher Jones (Artist), Hi-Fi (Colors)
November 30th, 2016
Have you been reading The Third Doctor? Now is the perfect time to dive in and get caught up. If the first three issues don’t get you hooked, the big reveal at the end of this issue will surely keep you glued to your local comic book store’s counter until issue #4 comes out in January.
The Doctor is still struggling to understand the mysterious micro-machines that are invading Bedfordshire. The unexpected arrival of his second incarnation provided a temporary distraction, but the situation becomes especially urgent when the micro-machines infest Jo and the Doctor’s bodies. Meanwhile, the Doctor’s old nemesis the Master has been lurking around UNIT’s operations. Whether he’s genuinely here to help or has ulterior motives is anyone’s guess.
Paul Cornell’s engrossing story has been perfectly matched with Christopher Jones’ art. The characters are gorgeously realized, and Jones has the opportunity to draw some stunning confrontations. It’s worth it to buy a physical copy of issue #3 just to fully appreciate the two-page spread of the Doctor and the Master fighting with various martial arts.
I’ve also been enjoying how Cornell has been exploring the characters. A big focus of this story arc so far has been on identity. Jo and the Doctor have spent the majority of the past two issues trapped in Jo’s mind. Of all the characters in the comic, Jo is the most secure in her own identity. She has no inner demons, and her inner personality exactly reflects how she presents herself to others. And (bless him) Paul Cornell deftly avoids even inadvertently implying that this is because Jo is dim or ditzy. This is Jo exactly as I always saw her—gleeful and fun while being confident and self-assured. Jo knows who she is and what she wants in life. And glam rockers and feminist writers can mingle comfortably together in her subconscious.
It’s the Doctor who’s really struggling with his own identity. Though it’s been some time since the Time Lords forced him to regenerate and exiled him to Earth, his bitterness at his situation has been re-visited now that his exile has been lifted. The Time Lords didn’t just force him to physically change his body for his exile—they forcefully changed his personality as well. And now that he’s free to leave Earth, he finds he doesn’t actually want to go. Cornell gives us that moment of introspection we needed after “The Three Doctors” to explain why he stays. The Doctor has grown to like the person he is when he’s around the UNIT family, even if he has held onto a few “petty illusions” like gentlemen’s clubs and a general air of pretentiousness.
And then there’s the Master. He slips in and out of multiple identities as he disguises himself behind his hyper-realistic masks. And though he says he’s only trying to help the Doctor and UNIT, it’s hard to be certain of his intentions while he’s still resorting to his old tricks. It’s hard to trust an old enemy who arrives quite literally disguised as an old friend (while said friend has been tied up and locked in a cupboard).
As a consequence of the Master’s methods, no one at UNIT ever seems to trust that anyone is who they say they are. But even the Doctor and UNIT can be fooled sometimes. Which brings us to the big reveal at the end of issue #3.
FINAL PAGE SPOILER
It turns out that the man we thought was the Second Doctor was really an old nemesis all along—the stunningly identical Ramón Salamander!
This revelation is an absolute treat for fans of the Troughton era. As far as I know—and I’m sure the internet will correct me immediately if I’ve missed something—Salamander hasn’t been seriously revisited in any medium since his appearance in “The Enemy of the World,” where Troughton played both him and the Second Doctor at the same time.
Salamander seems to have been practicing his Second Doctor impersonation since we last saw him. He—and Cornell—kept us fooled for quite some time by dropping in all the little quirks and catchphrases that would make Troughton fans absolutely giddy. Who’s going to question that the Second Doctor isn’t quite who he seems to be when we would rather be giggling over him and the Third Doctor arguing about his recorder?
And Christopher Jones deserves a lot of praise for the subtle but important ways he visually shows the differences between Troughton as the Doctor and Troughton as Salamander. Even though I didn’t realize who he was until the final page, Troughton’s suddenly hardened expression as Salamander sheds his disguise was enough to make me realize that something was seriously wrong.
So fans do get a Troughton appearance, but not in the identity that we would expect. I personally find Salamander to be one of the most compelling villains of Troughton’s era, so I’m excited to see what he—and Cornell and Jones—have planned for us next.