27 January 2015

AFT: Circles of Trust

review by Tom Newsom (Twitter | Flickr | Blog)

Readers used to their Doctor Who separated into nice little eras might experience a shock when reading this. Because of action figures, we’re able to see all sorts of characters returning: here, the Seventh Doctor is cleverly inserted into an otherwise fairly traditional Pertwee-era story.

This set-up works rather well - there’s a contained prison setting reminiscent of The Mind of Evil or The Sea Devils, obviously with the Master appearing undercover (Roger Delgado naturally) and the Brigadier acting as our guide. There’s also the surprise inclusion of Hex, the audio companion to the Seventh Doctor, somebody who rarely if at all appears in comics like these! The character of the Doctor is recognisably the incarnation played by Sylvester McCoy, not just in appearance - like in the show, he knows more than the reader at the start, and is always aware of when to trick his enemies.

Which is just as well, as it’s quite a short comic - about twelve pages, but suited to the two part structure. The writer says himself in the notes afterwards that the plot is ‘pretty thin’, but I don’t think it drags, nor is it particularly rushed. The fast pace covers some of the gaps in the plot anyway, but the story has a couple of good twists built into both parts that make it enjoyable to read. Particularly striking is the two opening pages, featuring the Brigadier without the Doctor. Although he doesn’t get time on his own later on, this sets up the grounded setting, and it’s nicely filmed too!

With the surprise appearance at the end of part one of - spoilers! - the Sontarans, the story picks up pace. Their handling is great (a few classic shots recreated!) and they manage to retain their dignity even when it’s revealed at the end - spoilers! - that they’re helping the Doctor. The fight scenes with the Sontarans are pulled off better than the ones between the human characters - it’s tricky to depict action in something this, and the couple of scenes that are included aren’t always clear. There’s also a rather abrupt ending after the Master leaves the scene, but the writer has that covered, making up for it with a mysterious and spooky epilogue!

In terms of high points, as well as the story I’d point towards the touches of character. The Doctor sometimes breaks out into a grin (with the help of a second head), the Brigadier has a military manner, and the Sontarans unmask themselves. Even the Master seems to have a glint in his eye. One of the best moments for me was the Doctor meeting the Brigadier again in the first part - walking past him out the door, then stopping and turning back to recognise him - and the comedy isn’t not wasted on the page. This grasp on character is clear throughout the dialogue - this is definitely the characters from TV, even if it’s the Seventh Doctor with the Brigadier this time around.

many thanks to
Tom Newsom (Twitter | Flickr | Blog)

You can read Circles of Trust here.

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