Unlike the majority of the other reviews on Goodreads for this book, I did not receive this as a NetGalley preview, so I did read 400 pages of adventure following the Tenth Doctor and the mysterious adversary the Advocate. As with my recent experience with a tie-in novel, I don’t ordinarily go for tie-in graphic novels. This was, again, a Christmas present.
I enjoyed Winter’s Dawn, Season’s End more than Engines of War. Maybe it’s the fact that, with pictures, we get to see more of the physicality of the Doctor come to life. This is a collection of 16 issues told over 6 chapters, the upshot being that it’s a hodgepodge of artists and writers. I liked a couple of the renditions of David Tennant but not all of them. However, the layout is extremely nice across every issue. The artists and writers make full use of the way the comic medium can draw attention to certain details or minimize others. Each page is carefully balanced; each panel conveys just the right amount of information. At times the speech bubbles struggle to contain the Doctor’s verbosity.
The first three chapters comprise the majority of the book. The Tenth Doctor is fresh from saving all the universes with the help of Donna—and fresh from the pain of losing her. (Donna is one of my favourite companions, and to me her loss is harsher even than death … because it’s like she never even got to travel with the Doctor. I’m still upset with RTD for doing that to her.) He stumbles onto a mysterious device in 1926, ends up on “trial” before the Shadow Proclamation, does lots and lots of running, takes on some companions, and bounces around time and space trying to foil the plans of the Advocate.
As far as Doctor Who stories go, it is fairly standard—almost slavishly so, one might say. The writers seem hellbent on paying tribute to any number of past stories and situations. The Advocate is a manipulator bent on playing mind games with the Doctor in the same vein as the Master or the Black Guardian. Matthew is overtly likened to Turlough numerous times. We get to revisit Martha and UNIT (which is a lot of fun), various weak-willed humans betray their species to sweet-talking aliens only to discover a change of heart and sacrifice themselves for the Doctor, and generally we get reminded that the Doctor inspires a lot of people to get hurt. And he’s very, very sorry about that.
Coming to this now, just as Peter Capaldi is about to start his second season as the Twelfth Doctor, evokes a certain nostalgia. This story is very much Tenth Doctor, in that it has his characteristic softness as well as his characteristic anger at injustice. He delivers some passionate invective against the use of weapons and force, and he shows us that almost irresponsible, joyful appreciation of the chaotic wonders of the cosmos. And underlying it all is the tragedy of the Tenth Doctor’s companions. He just can’t catch a break with them, and it’s really damaging his relationship with people in general.
(Just as I resent the way RTD wrote out Donna, what’s up in general with the way companions in the new series get written out so … dramatically? Martha is the only companion who has really just walked away, and not without considerable psychic baggage of her own. But the whole thing with Amy and Rory was just stupid. Anyway, I digress.)
So as a reader who considers the Tenth Doctor my Doctor, Winter’s Dawn, Season’s End creates all sorts of warm, bubbly feelings inside me. I appreciated and cherished every moment with this book … even though, objectively, the story is derivative and fairly lacklustre. I think this will not be a surprising sentiment to my fellow fans: Doctor Who has had some excellent storytelling, but fandom has never been about appreciating the show for its stories. We have stuck with Doctor Who through good and bad and terrible; we muddle along when the show does because we love the Doctor and the TARDIS and all the amazing companions who make those two even more amazing. The stories, really, are just there to give the characters something to do.
The back end of the collection is the 2010 Annual, which seems to be three very short, somewhat whimsical stories with little in the way of plot. I sped through them, shrugged, and flipped back through the earlier chapters quickly before sitting down to the write this review.
While I’m not going to become a collector or a regular reader of Doctor Who comics or graphic novels, this collection was a nice change of pace from what I usually read, and some welcome time with the Tenth Doctor. It’s more fun than good, if you know what I mean—and if you don’t, just move along. You have plenty other Doctors and adventures to enjoy.