Doctor Who II, Vol. 1: The Ripper
written by Tony Lee
illustrated by Andrew Currie and Richard Piers Rayner
Disregard the confusing numbering: This is a stand-alone graphic novel that any reader can jump into with a minimum of knowledge about Doctor Who. There’s a blurb in the beginning with the basics: The Doctor is an alien, a Time Lord, who travels through space and time in a telephone box called the Tardis (which is, famously, bigger inside than outside). He picks up humans to travel with him, and he has a sonic screwdriver that can repair anything. That’s all you need to know to enjoy this delightful graphic novel; everything else is supplied as part of the story, making it both an enjoyable read on its own and a great introduction to the series for first-timers.
This graphic novel collects four issues of the monthly Doctor Who comic, so it has two stories. The first, shorter one is absolutely hilarious: One of the Doctor’s human companions, Rory, gets hold of a special cell phone that is somehow linked to the Tardis. Never mind about the details—the upshot is that all his spam and social-networking contacts come to life inside and outside the Tardis. On top of that, the Doctor and his human companions, newlyweds Amy and Rory, are transported to a planet where all the beings are holograms. A nasty group of outer-space marauders called the Scroungers planned on enslaving the holograms, but when that didn’t work, they decided to blow the planet up. Doctor Who’s quick thinking and internet savvy not only save the planet but throw in a delightful twist at the end. This story left me laughing, and there’s a hidden moral in there about internet privacy and security.
In the longer story, the Doctor and his two companions are transported back to Victorian London just in time to intervene in the case of Jack the Ripper—who turns out to be (spoiler alert!) a space alien. The handling of this is very clever, especially in the way it dovetails with the known historical facts of the case. And it has to be the least bloody Jack the Ripper story ever, as the killer stabs his victims with a Taser-like device that injects them with a paralysis-inducing drug, then eviscerates them offscreen. It’s science fiction, not true crime, so it’s still scary, but in a different way. Both stories are side stories in the universe of the Eleventh Doctor and not adaptations of television episodes.
Lee’s writing is witty, and there are lots of clever allusions for well-read readers to pick up on (for instance, Rory and Amy identify themselves to the Victorian police as Inspector Clouseau and Miss Marple). The stories move quickly, interspersing action with conversations. Doctor Who’s universe is a complicated one, so he often has to pause to explain things to Rory and Amy, but this exposition is handled with a light touch. The art, by Currie in the first story and Rayner in the second, is straightforward and atmospheric, and fans of the series will recognize the stars with no problem. Even better, new readers will be able to jump right in to this intriguing series.