Saturday, June 11, 2011

Doctor Who and the History Nerds of Death

In the pages of TV Comic, issues 899 through 902, cover dated March 8 through March 29, 1969, the intrepid time- and space- traveller known as "Doctor Who" encountered...The Duellists! Yes, "Doctor Who", not "The Doctor" - that's how he was known fairly consistently throughout TV Comic's long run. And many of the TV Comic strips didn't have titles, so titles were assigned after the fact by obsessive fans like myself, and agreed upon by consensus. Anyway...

Got it? Good, because that's all the set-up you get. Why did they want to recreate the Regency era on another planet? Who cares! It created jobs for the struggling butler and maid sector, that's all that matters. Nice to know that in thirty-three short years we'll be able to ship historical reenactors off to other planets, isn't it? I hear they make a mean mint julep on planet War of Northern Aggression.

Pity their poor quarry - it must be terrifying to have ferocious drooling dogs chasing you yelling "Snap! Snap!" I assume because they want to snap its bones or something. On the other hand, I'm looking forward to having talking dogs in thirty-three years. Oh, future, is there no problem you can't solve?

The Regency-Era Enthusiasts are having a jolly good time hunting one of their own servants, but their game is interrupted by the sudden arrival of the Doctor. I mean, Doctor Who.

This is the Second Doctor, by the way, as played on TV by Patrick Troughton. (The number of the Doctor is always capitalized - always Second Doctor, never second Doctor. I don't know why. We're fans, the way things are done don't need reasons, they just need to be strictly adhered to.) The likeness in the first picture, over the intro, where he's winking like Santa, is pretty good. This...isn't, but you can at least tell it's meant to be the second Second Doctor by the clothes, which fairly closely resemble his TV costume.

The Regency Gentlefolk decide to have some sport with the Doctor - he can be "one of them" if he can snatch up three metal ball bearings from a table before Clive brings an axe down on his hand.

You've got to "hand" it to Clive, don't you, kiddies? He's really "hooked" on these games!
Ah hah hah hah haaaaaaah!!!

Let's take a quick peek back at Clive on the previous page, during the hunt. (It's like we're travelling back in time!)

I assume his horse is faster because he's driving his hook into the poor creature's head.

The Doctor wins the marble game by using a magnet to snatch up the ball bearings without putting his hand in danger. Richard finds the Doctor's clever cheating hilarious, but has one more task for him before he can truly join their ranks.

Richard really wants to get rid of Clive. The Doctor apparently spends the night not bothering to do anything interesting like escape, because in the very next panel...

Oh, no! Watch out, Doctor Who, it''s...wait, what are those things? Oh, right, they're Quarks! Watch out for the Quarks, Doctor!

The Quarks made one and only one appearance in the TV series, in the serial The Dominators. In the series they were just the servants of the titular enemy, and were, in fact, rather pathetic as evil killer robots go. But in the comic strip they made a perfect replacement for the currently unavailable Daleks, and struck out on their own with plans of galactic conquest, chasing their enemy Doctor Who throughout time and space. As you read their dialogue, remember that they sound pretty much like this:

Watching The Dominators means spending five episodes going, "Wait, what did it say?" The Quarks chased the Second Doctor through a good number of comic strips, all of which are more fun to read if you imagine that nobody can understand what the hell the annoying little bastards are saying.

Meanwhile, back at the duel...

The Doctor gets the upper hand! Hah-hah, see what I did there? No, but seriously, the Doctor clearly just shot a bullet straight through Clive's remaining hand. Count yourself lucky, Clive! This is the bloodthirsty comic strip Doctor, not the mamby-pamby TV Doctor! You're lucky you escaped without a bullet in your face!

Seeing the Doctor has survived the duel, the Quarks spring into action!

The Doctor, faster than a beam of light, dodges just in time! "Quarks! Where did they spring from? And what are they saying?"

I included this panel simply for the phrase "murder mission". The Quarks have poetic souls underneath their pointy heads and stubby arms.

The Quarks decide they might as well kill the Regency Enthusiasts while they're there, and the Gentlemen retaliate. With swords. Their devotion to period authenticity is commendable, I suppose, but they're probably wishing they had packed a laser or two on their colony ship just in case right about now. Nevertheless, the swords work our surprisingly well. I particularly like the Quark screaming out in pain, as robots do.

The Doctor does what he does best - run away while his enemies kill each other. Sorry, wait, the Doctor doesn't do that, but Doctor Who does it all the time (when he's not killing them himself).

Our Hero makes for the TARDIS, but is intercepted by a lone Quark. Just as the adorable killer robot is about to blast him to pieces...

Aar! That be me fightin' hand, ye scurvy dog! The Quark is disarmed (like Clive), and the Regency Rockers take both the Doctor and the Quark back to their mansion for more of their merry games. We don't see any of the other Quarks again, so apparently the Regency Reenactors won. Dudes with swords - fencing swords at that - beat the killer robots with lasers. Why exactly is the Doctor always running away from the Quarks?

The gentlefolk pit the Doctor and the Quark against each other in a game that looks both completely insane and frigging amazing...

They stand on a plank above a blazing fire and fight each other with whips. But wait! The Quark doesn't have the kind of mobility needed to use a whip! Its little stubby arms only go in and out of its chest cavity, not up and down!

Not a problem. Never mind.

The Doctor, a dab hand with a whip himself, pulls and knocks the Quark off-balance. It falls face- front-forward onto the plank, and the Regencies are disappointed that they didn't get to see anybody burn to death. Richard takes aim, ready to shoot the Doctor down...

His monocle fell right into his soup. 

Here is where I realized that this whole scene took place indoors - they lit a massive bonfire right in the middle of the ballroom. Then they chase the Doctor through the woods, leaving it unattended.

There's not much to say about the last chapter of the story - they hunt the Doctor, he escapes back to to the TARDIS and leaves them to what I can only assume is the charred remains of their home. Fairly straight-forward. I'd print some panels except I can't think of any jokes.

This would be the end of The Duellists, a fairly standard, unremarkable TV Comic strip. July of 1978, for some reason - to save money, most likely - TV Comic stopped commissioning new material, and instead started reprinting old strips - the first reprint being The Duellists. All well and good, except by this point Tom Baker was playing the Fourth Doctor on TV. With no home video market or Netflix to speak of, and with the BBC not being in the habit or repeating old shows, most of the kids reading the comic would have had no idea who Patrick Troughton was. The solution? Artist John Canning simply drew Tom Baker's face over Patrick Troughton's face whenever it appeared. Simple! Well, that was the idea, at least.

Here are the intro panels of Troughton and Baker, just for comparison.

What's the biggest difference between them? The hair, of course! So just slap some curly hair on Troughton, and the kiddies will never know the difference, right?

See! That looks EXACTLY LIKE Tom Baker!

Ok, so maybe he occasionally forgot he was drawing Doctor Who and thought he was drawing The Black and White Minstrel Show. (Look it up.) (No, on second thought, don't. You get the point.)

Iconic hat and scarf? Who needs 'em! Patrick Troughton plus slightly poofier hair equals Tom Baker! It's math! Take us out, Cryptkeeper...

That's what I call a hair-raising experience!
Ah hah hah hah haaaah!

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