OK, here we go. A Seventh Doctor trade written by his former showrunner Ben Aaronovitch. This should be something.
Or it won’t.
Honestly, this one starts off pretty well, but the problem is the entire trade covers not only the promised three-part “Operation Volcano” but also three shorter stories.
“Operation Volcano” actually works. The only issue I had is Aaronovitch reuses some UNIT-type characters he had used in one of his old stories, and even when I looked up my write-ups for those episodes, I saw no references that I might have made to the characters at the time. They must not have made much of an impression. If anything, I initially thought the mustachioed military man was the Brigadier and not this Group Captain Gilmore guy.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they originally intended to use the Brigadier and had some issues with getting the actor back or something. He basically is the Brigadier in terms of his job and character, only maybe a little more inclined to use military force than the Brigadier would have been after spending so much time with different incarnations of the Doctor.
Here, aside from some choppy storytelling, the actual tale is pretty straightforward: two woman scientists find an alien spacecraft in the middle of the Australian Outback after a nuclear test. Old cave paintings indicate the ancient Aborigines saw the ship come down into a volcano. Gilmore uses his method to call the Doctor and Ace over to help, and with some quick trips in the TARDIS, the Doctor reveals there are, of course, aliens involved. One is a race that bred themselves to be physically attractive humans. The others were a telepathic worm species that attaches itself to human spines.
Oh, the attractive ones were the villains looking to use the second ship hidden in a volcano to drop a nuke somewhere.
So, the Doctor fixes all that, even helping Gilmore get back to his own time after being trapped in suspended animation on the alien ship for a few decades.
So, that story more or less worked. It was, at worst, a bit short.
But then there were the back-ups.
The first was arguably the worst, another sequel to a TV serial, and this time I remembered the character of Mags the alien werewolf at the space-faring psychic circus. Too bad the story itself, some sort of Casablanca riff, was weak and also had the worst art in the trade.
The second might have worked to show the Seventh Doctor’s more Machiavellian ways, but it came at the end of the story where the Doctor and Ace end an intergalactic war with a bit of bickering along the way over the course of six pages. That one might have worked better as the fleshed out main story.
As for the last one, also kinda so-so, it was a black-and-white First Doctor story showing the Doctor and Susan taking Barbara and Ian around for a very brief tour of the TARDIS. Again, it might have worked better had it had more space.
So, really, this trade was a lot of stuff that would have worked better had it been given more space to develop as a story.
Weekend Trek “Ship In A Bottle”
Noteworthy Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #52 (September, 1967)
The X-Files “Ascension”