By Steve Morris
Have to be honest here, and I know you’re wondering: I’ve not seen the Doctor Who TV movie which gave life to Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor. I’m working purely off having seen him in the short “The Night of The Doctor”, which brought him back only to show us how he died. So I’m admittedly working a little limited here, and any references to other adventures he’s had in audio, novel or comic form are going to bounce right off me. Still, though! This’ll be a learning experience, then, and we’ll have to see what we make of this regeneration based solely on the strength of the comic itself.
And we start in the countryside, it seems, as the Tardis materialises next to a rather nice house with a blue roof. Inside there’s a lady painting, who hears the floorboards creak as the Doctor enters/trespasses inside. “Who’s there?” she asks, providing us with our court-mandated “who” related pun for the series. Nice to keep up the old traditions! The Doctor swoons his way inside, Emma Vieceli undoing at least one extra button on his shirt for extra rakish effect. Leaning on the doorframe, he asks what the girl is doing here – claiming that this is his house, not hers.
The girl immediately admits to squatting in the house, which is dreadfully honest of her. If I got caught squatting by an errant time-traveller I’d have grabbed a cricket bat by this point – but enough of my past exploits. She tells the Doctor that she’s called Josie Day, and that she’s been not just been living in the cottage, but fixing it up as well. From what we can tell she’s done a better job than the Doctor ever could have, with paintings on every wall and, well, a beanbag stool that she sits on while she paints. Is that good for posture?
The Doctor is immediately okay with everything she’s done, though, which immediately gives you an idea of the kind of mindset he has. He moves across to what appears to be a huge pile of scattered machinery and robot parts, which Josie’s just… left there. If I’m squatting in a cottage filled with robot parts, I’m throwing them out before they can develop sentience and try to strangle me in my sleep. But again, enough about my 2013. The Doctor’s come back to try and find something that was left by one of his other selves, “white hair and frills”. I think that refers to Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor. How long have you had this house, Doctor? Wonder if he’s paid off the mortgage. Also, how he got solid references.
He starts going through the bookcase, complaining that Josie has reorganised all the books. He’s looking for Jane Eyre – brilliantly, when Josie asks him “why” he says because it’s one of the greatest books of the nineteenth century. Very literal, minded, this Doctor. I also like that he’s a reader. Probably spends a lot of time in the Lake District too. His inability to find the book distracts him towards Josie’s paintings, which all seem to be of alien monsters of varying sorts. “They’re a bit of an acquired taste”, she says. Yeah, no kidding Josie.
There’s a knock on the door from one of the other villagers, who says that there’s been an attack at the local pub. Josie immediately asks if she needs to beat up someone and y’know, I like Josie. She doesn’t mess around. But no, this isn’t a drunk causing problem or local toughs – it was monsters. The Doctor immediately perks up and joins the conversation. It sounds a lot like Josie’s paintings are coming to life and attacking people, which begs the question: why couldn’t you just have painted bunnies, Josie? Everyone likes bunnies.
The Doctor somewhat rudely makes Josie put the kettle on so they can all three of them have a chat about what’s going on. Again, that’s a very different approach from other Doctors, who’d have raced off to the pub by now.
They do eventually head over though, and make a beeline straight for where one of Josie’s paintings was hanging over the mantelpiece. It’s a proper pub, by the way, the sort they dreamed about in The World’s End. No chain gastro-experience, this. The painting is still up, but the creatures that were in it have been blurred out, which Josie suspects as being vandalism. The Doctor, however, is more concerned by the fact that nobody is in the pub for Sunday Lunch. Again, Doc – this is contemporary Britain, we’re all getting our drinks from Aldi nowadays.
Mrs Fellowes, the lady who led them to the pub, spots giant green footprints leading out the back door. The Doctor quotes Lewis Carroll as he prepares to head off down the rabbithole, noting that the footprints are made of oilpaint just like Josie’s art. She’s still suspicious, but this is definitely a “monsters leaping out of paintings” situation here. As they head outside that theory is confirmed, because the villagers have been cornered in the centre of the village green by monsters including ice warriors and Cybermen, I think. The Doctor refers to this as a “brouhaha”, which is not a word I think I’ve ever seen written down before. Good verbiage, Doctor.
Hiding behind a two foot wall, the Doctor explains that the creatures are Witherkin, creatures made of starlight who possess… things… and bring them to life, I guess. Mrs Fellowes describes them as magic, which the Doctor puts down because he hasn’t yet realised that magic exists. It looks like the creatures are just acting out the paintings, so they’re not really doing anything particularly except wandering about – although they do chase the trio back into the pub. And that’s when the Sonic Screwdriver first comes out.
The Doctor scans Josie, and finds out she’s covered in “animae particles”. Okay, yes, I see what you’re doing there, Titan, very clever. The official explanation is that “animae” means “animated illusions”, although I’m not sure what Miyazaki would make of that. Seems that those particles, activated by the Tardis, are the reason for the paintings to come to life. Josie doesn’t have any psychic powers herself – but the Tardis does, which is why everybody around it can always understand each other despite speaking different languages.
As the monsters break in, Mrs Fellowes starts trying to fend them off with a hatstand. I’m coming round on you, Mrs Fellowes. The Doctor asks her not to hurt them, suggesting he feels the same as I do, and then willingly lets himself (and her as well, callously) get arrested. The rock monsters actually cuff them both, which is amazing. Josie is left behind, and is forced to run off before she gets arrested before. I’d happily buy an issue of this series which was just stardust rock monsters holding a full trial for whatever it is they think the Doctor has done wrong.
Unsure what to do, Josie turns to painting – painting a portrait of the Doctor. As she does so we get a look at the back of her shirt, which I only just realised is the Image logo. Crossover! As expected, her painting comes to life, like a more fully-formed version of the Doctor in “Fear Her”. Painting Doctor picks up a gadget from the pile of space junk he has lying around in the cottage and smashes it, which apparently undoes everything and returns all the painting-monsters back to their frames. Painting Doctor does a little bow and vanishes back to his portrait too, which is cute.
Outside, Josie returns to the village green where the Doctor congratulates her and gives her a hug. Aw. She’s still holding her paintbrush, which kinda makes me hope the it’ll get upgraded into a Sonic Paintbrush later on. Monster-based distraction over, they link arms and head back over to the cottage to try and get to the bottom of Josie’s alphabetising system. Turns out she went by book title rather than author, and plucks the book straight off the shelf. Flicking through, the Doctor finds a piece of paper with four addresses on it for four events through space and time.
The note isn’t from Pertwee, though, as the handwriting doesn’t match. A mystery! And a cute idea for the rest of the series, which is going to be made up of one-short stories from here onwards. The Doctor invites Josie to travel with him, but she errs until he promises to buy her some art equipment at the end. Once he does that? She is TOTALLY in. Typical painter, always after something. They head off into the Tardis, and we’ll never know if she notices that it’s bigger on the inside because that’s where the issue ends.
To be Continued!
Writer: George Mann
Artist: Emma Vieceli
Colorist: Hi-Fi Studios
Letters: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.