Monday, 5 October 2020

It was a dark time for the... Daleks!



John Rivers, our chief Dalek operator, emerges from the Jungles of Mechanus to guide us through Time Lord Victorious, a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey transmedia stuff, over the autumn and winter months in the northern hemisphere.

Guest post by John Rivers

SPOILER ALERT - There's spoilers here for Time Lord Victorious. So, if you don't want to know, then activate your Project Indigo teleport button now.

If you're a Doctor Who fan it's been pretty hard to escape Time Lord Victorious for the past few months. Billed as a 'multi-platform Doctor Who story told across [deep breath] audio, novels, comics, vinyl, digital, immersive theatre, escape rooms and games, basically anything you might enjoy that isn't a movie or, god forbid, a TV programme.

The artwork has been pretty impactful too, David Tennant's ever-popular Tenth incarnation dressed in ruined Time Lord robes surrounded by Daleks - what's not to love?! And the appearance of both McGann and Eccleston's Doctors has guaranteed a lot of interest from fans, particularly those who enjoy Big Finish audios or the comics series.

It all seems very ambitious and the story has kicked off with some initial releases in September. I'm going to cover those off here and then post updates every month as the story unfolds and more media is released.

Here's the September releases:

A Dalek Awakens - an Escape Hunt escape room experience currently running in Reading. I haven't been able to get to this yet...

Defender of the Daleks - issue 1. The Tenth Doctor has fallen through a hole in spacetime. He is pursued by the Daleks, who, worryingly, need his help. A comics series written by Jody Houser, art by Roberta Ingranata featuring the Tenth Doctor being pursued by the Dalek Empire

The Dark Dark Times - a section of the Doctor Who Annual 2021 by Paul Lang

The Dawn of the Kotturuh - a short story by James Goss which was an exclusive to subscribers of the official Doctor Who site newsletter

Monstrous Beauty - part 1 - A three part story, given away with Doctor Who Magazine featuring the Ninth Doctor and Rose set in the Dark Times as ancient Gallifreyans battle the Great Vampire. Story by Scott Gray, art by John Ross

It's also worth mentioning the extensive coverage in this month's Doctor Who Magazine (DWM) which has interviews with some of the creators, including James Goss who instigated the whole project. There's also a handy guide for fans so that you can follow your favourite Doctor (that's not for us, we're completists!). This introduction is also covered in the 'The Dark Dark Times' from the Doctor Who Annual 2021. Occupying the final seven pages of the annual (in, frankly, a tacked-on-the-end sort of way) 'The Dark Dark Times' is a couple of articles from River Song, in her Melody Malone guise, detailing the threat posed by a race called the Kotturuh, who appear to be the Big Bad of Time Lord Victorious.

The set-up is simple. In the ancient times, before the Time Lords or the Daleks, there were many races, all of whom were immortal. There are many that fans will be familiar with and are detailed for younger readers in the Doctor Who Annual 2021 - the Eternals, the Daemons, the Osirans, the Vampires - and now the Kotturuh. The Kotturuh have emerged from the Dark Times of ancient history and enjoy hopping from planet-to-planet, judging a race's worth, its contribution to the entire history of the universe and then deciding when it will die. As a race you could die instantly, or it could take months or years, but essentially Kotturuh will bring death and if you encounter them, you die.

An encounter with these terrifying creatures is detailed in James Goss' online only story 'Dawn of the Kotturuh'. The Kotturuh, robed, masked, bundles of tentacles, in the best Lovecraftian traditions of ancient evils, turn up at a planet and judge it. It doesn't go well for the inhabitants.

On then to our two introductory stories with the Doctors. First up is the Tenth Doctor in 'Defender of the Daleks', the first time Titan Comics has had permission to use the Skarosians in their publishing. The Tenth Doctor is flying solo, following an encounter with his Thirteenth self. Given that the universe doesn't like that sort of temporal anomaly, it would appear that the Tenth Doctor's TARDIS has been flung through a fissure in the vortex. Everywhere he lands, Daleks surround him and eventually he's taken to Skaro to meet with the Emperor, gloriously presented in full round-domed TV Century 21 glory. The Daleks are desperate for the Doctor's help, and want him to infiltrate an ancient building on Skaro, just as a race called the Hond have rocked-up, fully intent on wiping the Daleks out for good. They send the Doctor into this building with the Dalek Strategist, an elderly-looking, battle-scarred Dalek who appears to have come straight out of the Doctor's first encounter with them in 'The Mutants'. Jody Houser does an excellent job of detailing the Tenth Doctor's thoughts, especially when he only has the Daleks to play off, while Roberta Ingranata captures the Doctor's cockiness and the metallic, brutal beauty of Skaro. I should also mention the colouring work of Enrica Eren Angiolini, for capturing the ambers and greens of RTD era Doctor Who so well.

It's worth noting that the Doctor at this point is travelling alone and this is where the Time Lord Victorious name comes from. It's the title the Tenth Doctor gives himself after rescuing Adelaide Brook (Lindsay Duncan) from a water-infested Bowie Base One in 'The Waters of Mars'. The Doctor at this point thinks he should be using his powers in a more direct and impactful way, not shying away from intervention like the other Time Lords did. This will, of course, lead to an unhealthy dose of hubris, only resolved by regeneration in the 'End of Time'. We have a very confident and cocky Tenth Doctor presented here and it will be interesting to see if this is retained throughout the run of Time Lord Victorious.

The Ninth Doctor meanwhile, everyone's favourite leather-jacketed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) survivor, has found himself with Rose immersed in a battle between the ancient Gallifreyans and the Vampires, a conflict which was recounted to viewers in the season 18 story 'State of Decay'. This is excellent fun from Scott Grey, who not only manages to capture the breathless run-about nature of series 1 Doctor Who, but is clearly delighting in being able to play with show's myths and legends, including a pre-Time Lord Rassilon. Even more tantalising is Rose's encounters with the Vampires themselves. Creepy and camp, presented wonderfully in the art from John Ross, just like vampires should be, this story is great fun and I look forward to seeing how it progresses.

Overall, it's an exciting set-up for Time Lord Victorious with two past Doctors finding themselves having to help both sides of the previous Time War which cost our hero so much. During October, it's on to a book from veteran Who writer Steve Cole, The Master and the Eighth Doctor enter the fray and the first toys show up! Allons-y!

Are you enjoying Time Lord Victorious? Let me know in the comments below.

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