REVIEW: Doctor Who: Alternating Current is a Memorable Jaunt Through Time

Doctor Who Comics Vol. 1: Alternating Current Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colours), Shari Chankhamma (Flatter), Comicraft’s Sarah Hedrick (Letters), Jody Houser (Writer), Roberta Ingranata (Artist), Richard Starkings (Letters) Titan Comics, BBC May 12, 2021

The Tenth and Thirteenth Doctors team up in a brand new timey-wimey adventure in Doctor Who: Alternating Current. Having crossed paths with each other, the two Doctors have accidentally broken time. Now, it’s up to them and their companions to return Earth to its former glory.

Doctor Who: Alternating Current

Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colours), Shari Chankhamma (Flatter), Comicraft’s Sarah Hedrick (Letters), Jody Houser (Writer), Roberta Ingranata (Artist), Richard Starkings (Letters)
Titan Comics, BBC
May 12, 2021

Doctor Who Comics Vol. 1: Alternating Current Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colours), Shari Chankhamma (Flatter), Comicraft’s Sarah Hedrick (Letters), Jody Houser (Writer), Roberta Ingranata (Artist), Richard Starkings (Letters) Titan Comics, BBC May 12, 2021

I’m a simple person, I see a book featuring Thirteen, and I want to read it. So, when the opportunity to review Doctor Who: Alternating Current came up, I volunteered immediately. As someone who adores time travel, alternate realities, and time paradoxes, I got everything I wanted in this book.

Following their run-in with the Weeping Angels, the two Doctors have to deal with the fallout of causing a paradox. Rarely does a time paradox make things better, and Doctor Who: Alternating Current is no different. When Thirteen and her fam, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham, return to their timeline, they find Earth an apocalyptic mess. But it’s been this way for a while now, so Thirteen and her fam can’t simply go back to their previous stop to fix it. They need to find the source of the change in this new timeline.

Every time the Doctor travels through time, there’s a possibility of massive time shifts taking place. Earth’s past is now different, but so is the Doctor’s. This sets up a series of events that sees Thirteen and her fam revisit one of their greatest adventures—saving Nikola Tesla.

Meanwhile, Ten also finds himself in the alternate future, and comes face-to-face with a fan-favourite companion—Rose Tyler. I have seen bits and pieces of Rose Tyler’s runs as the Doctor’s companion, and it was fun to see her in this book. Of course, this is a very different version of Rose than fans are used to seeing. This Rose has only ever known a conquered and beleaguered Earth. She’s fought her whole life to protect her parents and her people from the conquerors. This is a Rose Tyler who wouldn’t be caught anywhere without a gun.

Doctor Who Comics Vol. 1: Alternating Current 12-13. Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colours), Shari Chankhamma (Flatter), Comicraft’s Sarah Hedrick (Letters), Jody Houser (Writer), Roberta Ingranata (Artist), Richard Starkings (Letters) Titan Comics, BBC May 12, 2021
An alternate version of Rose Tyler with her crew. Thirteen and her fam consider time paradoxes.

But Doctor Who: Alternating Current still manages to capture some of Rose’s personality that is so quintessentially her. Even though I don’t know that much about Rose, I do know how fiercely loyal she is to the people she loves and that her bond with Ten changed him. I love the little moments between them in this book. You get a sense of how eerie it must be for the Doctor to see a different version of a person he knows and loves. The shoe is usually on the other foot; so many companions have had to adjust to a whole new Doctor throughout the series.

What I loved about this book was the Doctors’ stance on violence—that they can’t abide by it. Ten frequently comments about being disconcerted that this version of Rose always has a gun at hand. Thirteen opts for the diplomatic option every time and only allows for violence if it’s to defend people. There’s a reason why the Doctor’s handiest tool is a sonic screwdriver instead of a weapon and we’re reminded of that brilliantly throughout this book.

For a four-issue series, I was surprised at how quickly it flew by. We meet the current overlords of Earth, the Sea Devils, only to learn that they aren’t the masterminds behind Earth’s invasion. The true conquerors of Earth are revealed to be a threat that Thirteen and her fam know intimately. I love a good throwback, and I did enjoy the Tesla episode, so being able to revisit those characters and events gave me a lot of joy.

I also love that the Doctors and their companions gain an unlikely ally in Doctor Who: Alternating Current, who ends up being the key to a significant victory. I think it’s quite easy to paint an entire alien species as the villains, especially in genre fiction. But this book allows room for nuance and gives readers a touching moment near the end of the story.

Doctor Who: Alternating Current doesn’t try to push the envelope too far in terms of narrative or scope. It’s self-contained, allowing audiences with past knowledge of the characters and their stories to fill in the gaps. But the book also takes a moment to share key details that will make the characters’ journeys more impactful. For instance, I knew nothing of Rose’s parents, and learning about their stories added gravitas to the Doctors’ decisions and actions.

Of course, the book also reminded me how much I’m going to miss Ryan and Graham, who left Doctor Who at the end of the previous season. They were a delightful pair, and I adore their complete confidence in the Doctor. Yaz being the level-headed go-getter has made me love her since the first time I saw her on the show, and this book does justice to her personality.

Writer Jody Houser clearly knows this universe inside and out. The way she includes little details about events and characters from the Doctor Who series helps to flesh out the reading experience. And since I haven’t seen much of the series before Jodie Whittaker’s run, Houser’s ability to sprinkle details about Ten’s run was helpful in me understanding his and Rose’s motivations and personalities.

When it comes to art, Roberta Ingranata nails the backgrounds and interiors. The level of detail is astounding. The interiors of the Tardis with all the wires and gears, and the cityscapes of post-apocalyptic Earth and New York in the past, are all stunning to look at. She also does a great job of showing movement. On one page, the two Tardises are shaking about the time stream, and you can practically feel the ships vibrate even on the two-dimensional page.

Doctor Who Comics Vol. 1: Alternating Current Pages 8-9. Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colours), Shari Chankhamma (Flatter), Comicraft’s Sarah Hedrick (Letters), Jody Houser (Writer), Roberta Ingranata (Artist), Richard Starkings (Letters) Titan Comics, BBC May 12, 2021
The Thirteenth Doctor realises the time stream has been altered and relays the news to her companions, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham.

However, I’m still not the biggest fan of Ingranata’s character work. I like the whimsical look she gives the cast, but the faces are often too pared-back, their skin so smooth, they’re almost expressionless. Ingranata’s creature art, by contrast, is fantastic. In Doctor Who: Alternating Current, some aliens are so expressive and intriguing to look at that I actually prefer their designs in this book to the live-action series. But her humans are a bit too goofy and inconsistent for my liking.

I loved reading Doctor Who: Alternating Current. It was a surprisingly quick read, with lots of action, and most importantly, it let me spend a little time (pun unintended) with characters I adore. What an enjoyable book!

Louis Skye

Louis Skye

A writer at heart with a fondness for well-told stories, Louis Skye is always looking for a way to escape the planet, whether through comic books, films, television, books, or video games. E always has an eye out for the subversive and champions diversity in media. Louis' podcast, Stereo Geeks, is available on all major platforms. Pronouns: E/ Er/ Eir

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