Review by Frank Plowright
Mystiscism and science clash in the opening ‘Terror of the Cabinet Noir’. Although they’ve both been mainstays working on stories of the twelfth Doctor, Robbie Morrison and Mariano Laclaustra haven’t previously collaborated, which provides a treat to begin with. Morrison further rises to the occasion by crafting events around conniving 17th century French statesman Cardinal Richlieu living long after his historical death, and throwing in the remarkable 18th century free spirit Julie D’Aubigny. The period setting of Notre Dame and its gargoyles enables Laclaustra to provide a wealth of distinctive visual treats, while switching styles entirely from his lush naturalism to provide the required historical interludes, nicely shaded and sketchy, presented as if on sepia paper.
Morrison’s mastery of the character Peter Capaldi exudes on television episodes has been apparent from his first work on the series, and he’s also quite capable of mimicking the way the TV writers lead into situations. A favourite has been the Doctor advising someone not to do what they’re already in the process of doing, so complicating matters, and he also has a neat way with the Doctor’s grumpy rants.
In The School of Death Morrison introduced the meta idea of comics based on the Doctor’s adventures, except in those he’s known as the Time Surgeon. The Doctor was none too pleased at the caricature, and for ‘Invasion of the Mindmorphs’ decides it’s time bickering creators Sonny Robinson and Val Kent were shown what his life’s really like. It’s perhaps also a joke on superb artist Rachael Stott as Morrison’s scripts tend to have a need for her to put in a lot of time designing locations and creations before even starting to lay out a story. Here for example, she needs to draw gloppy brain aliens, a tyrannosaurus rex and a comic convention to single out three diverse items. A simple satire would have been entertaining enough, but for the concluding part of the story Morrison includes a clever relevance for his avatars, and takes a sideswipe at critics, themselves unable to create. Ahem.
Let’s just say, then, that the second story is more trivial than the first, but both are very enjoyable, making this an ideal twelfth Doctor sampler. Unless you’re a big fan of the absent Clara Oswald, in which case it’s The School of Death for you. This Doctor’s adventures continue with Ghost Stories.