September 28, 2023

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Doctor Who “Gaze Of The Medusa”

The Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane dodge alien figures that inspired Greek myth in Victorian-era London.

So far, most of these Doctor Who comics have been at best passable.  They aren’t as good as actually watching pretty much any era of Doctor Who, but this Fourth Doctor adventure subtitled Gaze of the Medusa may come the closest.

It’s 1887, and a mysterious veiled woman sends her two giant cyclopean henchmen out to find a disturbance in this small device she has.  Said device can detect time travelers, and it turns out there’s a good reason for that:  the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith are in town, London to be precise, watching  Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

The Doctor doesn’t seem to object to that, but it does seem a little weird that the Doctor would enjoy a show with a lot of guns and trick shooting.

Eh, that may just be more modern Doctors who have lived through the Time War.

Regardless, the story gets somewhere as the brutes manage to kidnap Sarah Jane, but the Doctor is rescued by a gentleman scientist and his adult daughter.  Said scientist was working on, of all things, time travel, and actually knows what the veiled woman wants.  In a nice turn, the Doctor and Sarah Jane are told the entire backstory to these people by their respective hosts with their respective points of view more or less at the same time.  The woman had lost her husband and children, and she wanted to see them again.  She managed to get a time window of some kind, and she asked the scientist to work it until she could see her family.  The device only ever showed ancient Greece until the woman took it back, fiddled with it some more, turning it into a gate, and met a being locked up somewhere.  In exchange for the occasional victim, the being would eventually once freed give the veiled woman what she wanted.  Turns out the victims are turned to stone, and the veiled woman has collected all of them in a special art gallery.

One of them, thousands of years old, is of Sarah Jane.

Now, the thing is no matter how supernatural something looks in any era of Doctor Who, it’s always aliens.  The Doctor even knows what kind.  The brutes are a race that can use their single eyes to see somewhat through time, and the one in the past is basically a Gorgon type of thing that turns living beings to stone so it can slowly feed off their life energies.  In the meantime, the victims are basically fine and the Doctor can probably revive them with the TARDIS.  Yes, Sarah Jane is turned to stone in the past, but the Doctor knows he just has to get back to 1887 and she won’t even notice the passage of time.

The Doctor even makes a passing reference here to the Weeping Angels, though he notes they are more legendary to him as he hasn’t encountered them yet.

So, what made this adventure so good for me?  Basically, it felt most like the sort of story that the show might have done with the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane if they just had the budget to pull it off.  There’s a lightness to this Doctor, the sort that suggests that he doesn’t worry too much about what he encounters, even when he makes small mistakes, because he’ll probably find a way out in the end.  Sarah Jane is pretty resourceful here herself as someone who can think on her feet to delay a bad guy, and the Doctor will give the villain as many outs as possible before doing something rather final, no matter how much that Medusa thing may deserve it.

Oh, and it turned out the scientist’s daughter is Harry Sullivan’s great-great-grandmother, a reveal saved for the last few pages after a lot of teasing about a fiancé who was some kind of navy doctor.  There was the occasional hint she might have been one of Sarah Jane’s ancestors, but having her be Harry’s works out OK, I suppose.

Anyway, that was a nice one.