Comics: Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension Book 1

These days, Doctor Who is such a massive industry all its own that you pretty much need your own TARDIS to make the time necessary to explore all the media that the series produces. In addition to the TV series itself there's the spin-off series, the Big Finish Productions audio adventures, the novels, and of course the comics, which are among the most prolific of all Doctor Who content. But since we don't have TARDISes, most of us have to pick and choose which adventures with The Doctor we tag along on, making the extended universe of this show a pretty daunting one to fully explore. I must admit that I have not read many of the Doctor Who comics, despite being an enormous fan of the series itself, simply due to that time factor. But the newly-released graphic novel Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension (Book 1 of 2) offers something that no Whovian can resist: an epic multi-Doctor event. This is something that only happens every once in a rare while within the series, usually for special events like landmark anniversaries of the show's release: a reality-bending crisis happens within the world of the show which puts the normal laws of time on hold and brings various incarnations of The Doctor together. This has happened for the series' tenth anniversary (The Three Doctors), twentieth anniversary (The Five Doctors), fortieth anniversary (the Big Finish audio serial Zagreus), fiftieth anniversary (Day of the Doctor), and most recently the ten-season anniversary of the new series (Twice Upon A Time), as well as a small handful of other times outside of special occasions (The Two Doctors, Timecrash, etc). The Lost Dimension brings the multi-Doctor story concept to comic book form, taking advantage of the possibilities the medium provides – namely, not having to worry about a television budget, or the realities that not all of the past Doctors are still alive, and most of the original-series Doctors look too old to easily step back into their un-aging rolls – to give us a sprawling and ambitious arc that hops across huge swaths of time and space.

The graphic novel takes a scattered, multi-story approach to spinning its epic yarn, using a narrative technique that works well in a long-form comic context, but wouldn't work on TV: it cross-cuts between stories involving many of the past and present Doctors, most of which don't directly intersect, but all of which involve a common threat, and all of which are clearly building towards a grand reunion of most (if not all) of our hero's past incarnations. There is a mysterious energy spreading throughout the universe: a “white hole” sending out tendrils that devour anything they come in contact with. As several of The Doctor's incarnations get sucked into the white hole, they begin a process which brings his other incarnations into the struggle to figure out exactly what this energy is, what lies on the other side, and how to stop it before it devours everything. Volume one of The Lost Dimension is mostly spent laying the groundwork of this struggle, and focuses on the adventures of several of the Doctors which bring them into contact with the energy. It is, in a sense, an anthology series, offering a bunch of smaller adventures that add up to one big one. Various past companions and side-characters likewise appear, making this quite the nostalgia trip for long-time Doctor Who fans; although it should be noted that it mostly focuses on the new series, with Doctors 9-12 and their companions getting most of the narrative attention.

All the stories are pretty good, but what is most impressive about the book is how well it channels the storytelling sensibilities of each of these eras, with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor plot threads in particular genuinely capturing the personality of those bygone incarnations of the TV show. David Tennant's Doctor gets a space-exploration story with a wild setting, a bunch of aliens, and some tense action, all of which would make Russell T. Davies proud, while Matt Smith's Doctor gets a very Moffat-y high-concept dive into Gallifreyan mythology. Christopher Eccleston and Peter Capaldi's Doctors similarly get plot threads very much in the vein of their era's styles, though it is Tennant and Smith's incarnations who largely steal the show this time around. Given the anthology format, however, it is unsurprising that the various stories are a bit uneven, with some working quite a bit better than others. Overall they add up into a very enjoyable book, though.

The biggest issue with The Lost Dimension is the same one that the vast majority of multi-Doctor stories have had to some degree or another: by juggling multiple incarnations of our main character at the same time (all but one of whom we haven't seen in a while and need to get re-acquainted with), the plot takes on so many storytelling tasks that some of them inevitably end up feeling rushed, and the set-ups in particular don't have enough room to breathe. Several moments early on, as we're thrown into story-starting moments of disaster with various Doctors, clearly should have dramatic weight and a certain amount of shock to them, but everything happens so fast, without enough panels to really build suspense or tension, that they don't have much weight at all. As much as the story does take its time in revealing how some of the threads connect, it really should have taken its time a bit more; as it is, it isn't always as epic in practice as it sounds in theory. Once it gets going, and moves past these initial moments of awkwardness, it fairs a bit better though.

The other area of The Lost Dimension which is a bit uneven is the artwork: the visuals across the book swing peculiarly from impressively detailed sometimes to rushed-looking other times. Many of the settings and landscapes are very detailed, and have a great, appropriately otherworldly quality to them, with the Tenth Doctor story and the crumbling-planet opening pages being probably the most impressive in this regard. Likewise, many of the characters look great, and are given plenty of strong detail to their facial features that really convey their personality. But at other times, settings and characters' faces alike look hastily filled in with a vaguely defined, airbrush-looking lack of detail. When the book is at its best, it looks great, so it is truly a shame when some panels look so noticeably subpar.

Unevenness in art style, pacing, and tension aside, The Lost Dimension is nonetheless a very fun and enjoyable read. It isn't perfect, but then again, very few (if any) of the multi-Doctor specials actually are. This is, at the very least, much better than The Five Doctors or The Two Doctors (though let's be honest, there are very few episodes of Doctor Who worse than The Two Doctors), and it is great to have so many past iterations of our favorite Time Lord back all at once. Fans of the series – especially long-time fans of the old and new show, or at least those who have been watching since the Christopher Eccleston days – will find a lot to enjoy, both in the numerous appearances by returning favorite characters, and in how well the book captures the feeling of the various eras of Doctor Who in which it is set. Given how much of book one is spent laying the groundwork of this sprawling arc, I can't wait for book two to come out later this month, to see how it all connects up. If, like me, you are a long-time fan of the TV series but a relative newcomer to the comics, The Lost Dimension is a pretty solid, if somewhat flawed, place to start.

- Christopher S. Jordan

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