So, I wasn’t exactly enthralled by the Third Doctor when I first encountered him. To be fair, the Second is still my all-time favorite Doctor, so anyone after him would become a step down by default. But the tone of the series changed so much with the Third Doctor, taking a sillier, more comedic sci-fi show and making it a lot more serious. Yeah, it was still campy, but the Third Doctor’s idea of comedy was more along the lines of ironic sarcasm if anything. The few times he did anything broadly silly were more exceptions than anything else. Over time, the Third did grow on me. It was just a very different show that tried to mask its terrible fight choreography with limited success.
That said, I really liked this trade paperback from Titan Comics of a one-off mini-series featuring the Third Doctor.
It helps that writer Paul Cornell seems to have set the story in a rather specific time and place in that Doctor’s tenure. He’s still UNIT’s scientific advisor, but he has regained control of the ability to travel through time and space by his own choice and not because the Time Lords are forcing him to go somewhere. There are hints that companion Jo Grant is itching to be somewhere else, and Captain Yates has some suggestions of his own dalliance with some bad guys is not too far in the future. And there’s still the Brigadier, Sergeant Benton, and the Master pretending to be helpful when he really is being more self-serving.
That’s OK. This comic seems to have really captured the flavor of the Third Doctor, and it does so by making the main villain a leftover from the Second Doctor’s era, namely Ramon Salamander, the evil dictator from the future from the serial “The Enemy of the World” who just so happens to look exactly like the Second Doctor. Last seen falling out of the TARDIS as it slipped through time and space, Salamander was presumed lost forever.
“Heralds of Destruction” asks the question “What if he wasn’t?”
It helps that he knows he looks like the Doctor, and his tumble through time and space allows him to land on Earth long enough in advance before the Third Doctor’s exile there to set himself up with a company that is looking to build its own time travel machines and with some future tech to make both the Doctor and UNIT pause. That’s enough to provoke the Master’s jealousy, hence his entry to the story, and Salamander isn’t above posing as the Second Doctor to get past both UNIT and the Third Doctor, whose return to his full Time Lord power hasn’t quite allowed him to recognize someone who isn’t a Time Lord but is still pretending to be one.
And since the reader doesn’t know it’s Salamander right away, it sure does look like the Second Doctor just happened to come back and cause a little mischief. It isn’t, though; it’s Salamander causing trouble.
So, really, the big treat here was seeing an old foe of one Doctor take on another Doctor that, even though they are supposed to be the same person deep down, is in many ways the exact opposite of the one the bad guy knew. The Second Doctor hated to use violence and was a rather gentle person all told. The Third? Nah. He knew all kinds of alien martial arts and had no problem using them. It made for a fun story with some neat twists that budgetary restraints from that era would have never allowed.
So, fun times here.
Tomorrow, back to the First Doctor.