Friday, 29 June 2007

Grand Finale

This week’s episode of Doctor Who brings the current year’s run to an end. It will be interesting to see what head writer and executive producer Russell T Davies does to try to match the emotional impact of Rose’s exile last year or the Doctor’s death and regeneration before that.

Ah, yes. That regeneration.

Over the last three years, several Doctor Who episodes have drawn on bits of ancillary fiction. This year, the two-part “Human Nature/The Family of Blood” was adapted from a novel, and “Blink” was expanded from a short story. In previous years, “Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel” and “Dalek” used elements of a couple of CD audio plays.

But there’s another that I’ve never seen acknowledged (though that could be my lack of observation): “The Parting of the Ways” and the Doctor’s regeneration.

Doctor Who Magazine’s final comic strip story about the eighth (Paul McGann) Doctor, “The Flood”, concerned an invasion of present-day Earth by vastly advanced Cybermen from the future. At the climax of the story, the Doctor merges with a fragment of the Time Vortex, which the Cybermen have been using to power their time machine, and ages the Cybermen to dust in seconds. The story ends with a postscript showing the Doctor and his comics-only travelling companion, Destrii, heading off in search of new adventures.

“The Flood” has recently been reprinted by Panini as part of their paperback collections of Doctor Who strips. The endnotes to that collection reveal that Russell T Davies had originally offered the Magazine the opportunity to show the regeneration of the eighth Doctor into the ninth (Christopher Eccleston) Doctor. Comics writer Scott Gray and editor Clayton Hickman eventually turned down this offer, as Davies also insisted that all ninth Doctor comic strips should feature Rose. Gray and Hickman thought that to jump straight from a regeneration, with Destrii still in the TARDIS, to a Doctor-and-Rose setup would have created too many unanswerable questions about what happened in between.

So, to summarise. The last eighth Doctor comic strip, which Russell T Davies discussed extensively with the Magazine staff, would have ended like this: the Doctor merges with the Time Vortex, ages his enemies to dust, but is destroyed by the Vortex energy and has to regenerate.

The last ninth Doctor TV episode, written by Russell T Davies, ended like this: Rose merges with the Time Vortex and ages her enemies to dust; the Doctor absorbs the Vortex energy from Rose, but is destroyed by it and has to regenerate.

Quite a coincidence. Davies has, generally speaking, been quite open about his borrowings, so I suspect this was an unconscious echo. But perhaps it’s for the best that Gray and Hickman backed off from showing the regeneration, after all.

It’s the end …

This is the last post (until next year, anyway) in a series improvising around the themes of upcoming Doctor Who episodes. So to conclude, I’d like to share with you my favourite Doctor Who comic strip ever, by Richard A Starkings, from the fanzine TARDIS.

(Click to enlarge)

Doctor Who “The Flood” part 8, by Scott Gray (story), Martin Geraghty (pencil art), David A Roach (inking), Adrian Salmon (colours), Roger Langridge (lettering), Clayton Hickman (editor), Doctor Who Magazine issue 353, 2005, reprinted in Doctor Who: The Flood, Panini Books, 2007

Doctor Who by Richard A Starkings, TARDIS: The Quarterly Magazine of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society Volume 8 Number 4, January 1984

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