Graphic Novel Review: Doctor Who – The Cruel Sea

By Robert Shearman, Gareth Roberts, Scott Gray, Mike Collins, Clayton Hickman, Steven Moffat, John Ross, Martin Geraghty
Publisher: Panini
Release Date: September 2nd, 2014
Genre: Sci-Fi/Media Tie-In
Goodreads

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Related Reviews

Other Doctor Who Comic Collection Reviews: The Iron Legion / The Tides of Time / Voyager / The Flood / The Widow’s Curse
Other Doctor Who Graphic Novel Reviews: The Eleventh Doctor Archives Omnibus Vol. 1 / The Eleventh Doctor Archives Omnibus, Vol 2

Review

This is the last of the Doctor Who Collected Comics we have here, and I can’t say I’m sad about that (though if you saw my previous review for these, you’ll be aware I kind of skipped over this one and went straight to the Tenth Doctor by mistake). Maybe I just got bored of these, but the quality definitely felt like it went downhill once we hit New Who.

The main problem with The Cruel Sea probably comes from a lack of time (who knew that was something the Doctor could suffer from). Eccleston was the Doctor for such a short period, meaning there was a small, limited run in the magazine. The Doctor and Rose in this instalment don’t feel fully ‘there’, and it feels almost too obvious that the writers haven’t really had a chance to get to know them as characters, working only with the small amount they did have.

There are other problems here. Largely, this really isn’t worth picking up if you’ve been watching Doctor Who since its return. A lot of the material here was reused in the show, and done probably better there, including the story at the end written by Steven Moffat, which he would use as a basis for “Blink”, but it’s missing the most crucial element of what makes that episode so bloody good.

As usual there’s some stuff at the back from the editors and artists and writers, detailing the process or what they liked about the story or how they got involved. A few things really do stick out; it’s essentially a long list of male names, which goes some way to explaining why Rose is drawn so bland, except for big boobs and big hips. It just doesn’t look like Billie Piper, and from the ‘behind the scenes’ at the end, they were angling for ‘flattering’ initially with the design for both her and the Doctor. Piper signed off on hers, which is good, but it’s a shame it resulted in a character in the comics unrecognisable for the most part as Rose. Eccleston’s portrayal is much more like the actor himself. They did, again, go for flattering initially, but Eccleston himself pushed them towards a more accurate look, and the comics do capture the Ninth Doctor really well.

The collection starts with “The Love Invasion”, a fun trip back to the 60s, though it just felt like it used a lot of women in the roles without actually making them interesting characters. Despite the futuristic museum vibe, “Art Attack” is very firmly rooted in the early 00’s. Story is okay but forgettable.

“The Cruel Sea” contains the main, longer story here – it’s not too bad, and it felt like a Gothic tale set on a ship on Mars, with an old man trying to preserve his life and his wives – ex and current – serving him. Unfortunately, for having quite a few women characters here, they all feel really flat, including Rose.

 “Mr. Nobody” felt like it had a lot of potential in the story, but overall landed more towards “meh”, especially with a mopey, whiney male character who ended up getting so boring by a few panels in.

“A Groat’s Worth of Wit” was probably much more interesting when this was first released – now it feels like it’s largely overdone, not just because we’ve seen it in Doctor Who, but we’ve seen it there and in other places, done better than here. Robert Greene is taken to the 21st Century to see how he is remembered, only to find he has mostly been forgotten except in relation to Shakespeare. This one feels all over the place, and it’s hard to see Greene as the villain when we actually meet Shakespeare, who comes across…badly. It feels meanspirited and petty, in a way that doesn’t feel like Doctor Who.

When I started reading the collected comics, I felt excited to dive into them, and after the first couple, almost sad I only had so many to go through. Now, I’m kind of glad they came to an end – this volume was almost frustrating to read, and doesn’t feel like it does the Ninth Doctor or Rose much justice in the storylines. I’d say, if you’re a Doctor Who fan who started with the revival, maybe give this one a miss and check out older volumes instead.

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