By Steve Morris
Edinburgh! That’s in Scotland, which is a bit like a slightly more expensive, damper Wales, and so can’t be depicted onscreen in Doctor Who unless you have the infinite budget afforded to the comics medium. We’re in 1866, which is in that dark bit of Scottish history between Hadrian building the wall and, let’s say, the debut of The Proclaimers in 1987 in terms of nobody being quite sure what was going on in the country during the time. And I have a C in my history A-Level so I would know if anything HAD been going on.
Josie and The Doctor are going for a stroll down to a local theatre, with Josie having dressed for the part with a rather nice hat and The Doctor having tightened his tie by maybe almost half a centimetre. Sitting down for whatever the show is, a young woman called Agnes introduces herself, and her brother Jack. They won tickets for the show via a selective lottery, which is all very exciting. Nowadays the only lottery we have is the Postcode Lottery, where a selected family gets house-invaded by Fiona Phillips once a month.
The Doctor shushes them, because it’s a magic show – and it turns out there’s nothing this Doctor loves more than a good magic show. The magician does all the classics – doves out a hat, charming a rope into life, and so on. If this were any other Doctor I bet they’d be explaining how every trick was done, but Eight just sits, hand on chin, watching in awe. He is one of the most relatable Doctors, after all.
The final trick from the magician, who calls himself ‘Silversmith’ as though he were created by Rob Liefeld or Whilce Portacio, is a mirror trick. He walks into one mirror and steps out another one across the other end of the stage.
Both The Doctor and Josie are hugely impressed by this act, and Silversmith (who by the way wears a loose tie and has a tight moustache, which may or may not be important later) invites three volunteers to the stage so they can each try the mirrors themselves and see if they can work out how the trick is done. Agnes is the first to put her hand up, the wee excitable bairn she is. Can women be bairns? I don’t know what a bairn is, I just assume it’s a catchall for all short Scottish folk.
Sure enough, Agnes is chosen, mainly on account of how nice her lilac shawl is. And, to be fair, it is a very nice shawl.
Jack tries to stop her, but she heads onstage anyway. When The Doctor asks why Jack would try and hold her back, the bairn says that people who walk through the mirrors are never the same again. They lose their reflection. Regardless, the trick goes on ahead, with all three people walking through one mirror and coming out the other. I also notice that the two assistants onstage perform the wondrous magic trick of changing the colour of their dresses between panels, showing that Hi-Fi Studios are just as capable of performing sleight of hand as anyone else.
When Agnes returns to her seat, sure enough, she’s as dead-eyed as an Emma Vieceli character is capable of being and grumpy. For the first time, The Doctor starts to question that what he’s seen on stage may have been some kind of illusion. After the end of the show he and Josie decide to break into the backstage area to go take a better look at the mirror, describing the level of wrongliness in this situation as “baked beans and peas” level. Just you wait till you become Matt Smith – bet you’re going to love beans and peas then.
The Doctor explains Clarke’s third law to Josie, which is that advanced technology looks like magic to people. He also describes Clarke as having gone a bit mad after “the Rama incident”, which I think refers to the time Newsarama removed the blog section from their website. There are also references to a “homunculus” and a “giant rat”, which I think are references to past Who adventures. Pulling off the curtain on the mirrors, The Doctor confirms that it must be some kind of portal, although he isn’t sure where it leads to, exactly. Luckily, Silversmith then shows up to explain.
Turns out that what he’s doing isn’t teleporting someone from one mirror to the other – he’s swapping people. A person walks through one mirror, their reflection escapes out the other. As he describes it, it’s a bit like being a travel agent – he takes an order from a reflection, and helps them escape by inviting their real life counterpart to a show and stepping them through the mirrors. As a professional, Silversmith follows up the explanation of his evil plan by setting loose his ‘flock’ on the heroic pair – bits and pieces of reflections, which chase the Doctor and Josie through one of the mirrors. They also snatch Josie’s nice hat, which is uncalled for.
It turns out the other side of the mirror is a prison – a dark reflection of the real world, which is currently within a theatre. As a theatre is a place of joy, so a prison is a place of sorrow, which Josie pieces together whilst the Doctor smiles admiringly. Luckily he still has the sonic, so they can stroll out the door. Sneaking past the guards, who are Dali-esque monsters of messed up human proportions, they manage to find and save Agnes from her cell. She’s wearing some kind of weird helmet thing which they take off – and find has Spherion crystals in it. From the last story! Continuity!
The crystals are being used to draw psychic power out the prisoners and power the portals in the first place, so The Doctor decides to whizz himself through a quick rescue montage and get everyone out their cells. They escape back out the mirror and have a… weird… fight against Silversmith’s flock. A “flutter” sound effect is used at one point, bless Richard Starkings. The Doctor, however, stays behind, because he’s just found the most secure and padlocked cell in the building. He figures that must be where the real Silversmith is.
Breaking in, he finds an old guy with a beard, which rather puts paid to the theory I was developing that Silversmith was The Doctor’s reflection. They must just share a taste in loose ties, I guess. They both burst out one mirror, which means Silversmith gets drawn back through the other. Before he can run back in, The Doctor sonics the mirror and smashes it, trapping all the mirror images back in their parallel prison world.
As they sit onstage amongst the shattered glass, The Doctor pauses, thinks, and then offers a pun to close the issue. My dad would love this comic. Sadly, there’s no closure on the whereabouts of Josie’s hat, which appears to tragically have been the sole victim of this particular adventure.
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.