The latest collection of Doctor Who comics, this time featuring the Seventh Doctor

(Panini Books)

ALTHOUGH the television series was coming to the end of its classic run at the time these comics were originally published, Doctor Who Magazine was thriving, and after a sustained period of strips which featured amateurish artwork, a complete lack of understanding about the Doctor’s character and motives, hamfisted cameo slots and childish plotting (collected in A Cold Day In Hell), we get a return to form with the epic Nemesis of the Daleks.

Featuring the long-overdue return of comic creation Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer, but the unwelcome slaughter of his cohorts the Star Tigers, it at least felt like Doctor Who, rather than a random strip which just so happened to include a character who travelled through time and space in a police box. The continuity references are a bit overwhelming after a while, and Daak and the Doctor make for an unlikely partnership, but after the dross of preceding instalments it at least feels as though somebody is making an effort to do something with the strip.

After all, one of the luxuries of a Doctor Who comic is its freedom to incorporate ideas and concepts without the restrictions of a television budget, something which should have been all the more evident during the dying years of the original run. Instead, it had felt as cheap and superficial as the worst TV stories of the Sylvester McCoy era, and was in danger of bringing down the whole tone of the magazine.

Unfortunately some of the stories included here for the sake of completeness were originally published in the more juvenile Incredible Hulk Presents comic, an anthology title which featured a mish-mash of strips which also included the likes of Indiana Jones and GI Joe. The quality of artwork and script fluctuates wildly, although Who’s That Girl and Nineveh! are worth checking out.

Back in DWM the strip finally moved beyond the lifetime of the television series, but instead of looking forward took a step back into its past with a tale reuniting the Doctor with much-loved companion Sarah Jane Smith in Train-Flight.

Many of the ideas featured here would later be explored (and, indeed, contradicted) in the 2006 episode School Reunion, and mark the beginning of a return to form for the Who comic which really takes off in the next volume, and has never looked back since.

A curious collection of comics which serve to illustrate the problems which plagued the strip at the time, as a succession of lacklustre artists and writers struggled to get to grips with the demands of a monthly series. Fortunately a few stories save this volume from being a complete nadir, and it can just about warrant a place on completists’ bookshelves as a result.

It was always going to be a hard sell to those fans who had grown up with these stories, even with the inclusion of some of the better tales from the period, but Panini do the best they can with the material available. Thankfully the next volume will contain a wealth of classic strips, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.