Review by Frank Plowright
For the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who American licence holders IDW commissioned a twelve chapter story featuring every version of the Doctor, and the result was Prisoners of Time. It had previously been available as three separate volumes in North America, but licensing complications prevented those being widely available to British readers, despite the majority of artists being British.
Scott and David Tipton have a dozen chapters to tell their story and eleven Doctors to spotlight, so that falls conveniently into place with an episode left over for a finale. Chapters one to eleven are more or less all satisfying. The writers define the mood of their stories via the approach of the actor playing the Doctor at the time, so the third Doctor’s tale is more serious than that of the sixth. Within that they revive a good selection of enemies, some really obscure, and use most of them well, with the Ice Warriors playing a great role early on. Only one villain appears more than once, tying into the bigger picture, and the master villain plotting behind the scenes is a good choice, someone credibly able to take on the Doctor and with the means to do so. Somewhat less considered is their plan that separating each Doctor from his companions will isolate him and render him more susceptible to defeat. Is it wishful thinking?
There’s a great variance in the art, and this didn’t sit well with some readers of the original editions, but editorially IDW’s choices are eminently logical. For the adventures of any Doctor that preceded their publications they’ve selected artists who worked on British Doctor Who stories, including some nostalgic returns for the likes of John Ridgway, again drawing the Colin Baker version. The sample pages show the great variation in the art from the psuedo-realism of Mike Collins to the bright cartooning of Roger Langridge, with the style switching to modern era full process colour with the cinematic approach of the final four artists. Oddly, although they’re all good to varying degrees, David Messina, Elena Casagrande and Matthew Dow Smith’s pages aren’t as memorable, although Smith having to use his full name rather than his usual Matt Smith credit to avoid confusion with the actor he draws is funny. Lee Sullivan’s work on the Patrick Troughton Doctor is another standout, and the other artists involved are Philip Bond, Gary Erskine, Simon Fraser, Kev Hopgood, none of them disappointing.
The only real disappointment comes in a final chapter not long enough to accommodate eleven Doctors meaningfully, never mind all their companions as well. Several only have a line or two commenting on events, and some don’t even have that. As he’s had the most direct involvement with the story, and was the TV Doctor at the time of the story, it’s the Smith Doctor who sees the plot through, with his two predecessors taking supporting roles. Artist Kelly Yates also struggles. The likenesses, at which he’s good, obviously took time, and it didn’t leave much for anything else but basic layouts and backgrounds.
Overall, however, Prisoners of Time is a lot of fun, a cohesive story with time for every Doctor and a well perpetuated mystery threading through resulting in a good pay-off. There are two different releases. The UK edition is part of Titan’s Doctor Who Archives series, and IDW’s single volume version is just titled Prisoners of Time (as were the three serialised earlier editions, distinguished by their covers).