Image Credit: BBC/Titan Comics (Fair Use)
Image Description: The Cover of Defender of the Daleks #2
By John Salway
Name: Defender of the Daleks #2
Current TLV investment: £85.94
This second and final instalment of the Defender of the Daleks comic strip sees the Tenth Doctor working closely with the old and battered Dalek Prime Strategist to save the Daleks (and the universe at large) from the Hond, a legendary race from the Dark Times intent on destroying all life.
In my review of the first issue, which spent a lot of time covering the Doctor’s recruitment by the Daleks, I was concerned that this conclusion might have too much ground to cover, and so end up feeling rushed or cut down. Thankfully, this prediction was quite wrong, and the final product is very well paced, smartly shifting from an up-close-and-personal confrontation with a single Hond to dealing with the greater threat of a full invasion. The escalation here is executed smoothly, with lessons learnt from the first encounter expanded upon in the final conclusion in a satisfying way.
The delayed reveal of the Hond in the first issue left me wondering if there was enough time to flesh out this new threat, and while I think that has been adequately accomplished, I realise now that’s not quite the point. The key is in the title, Defender of the Daleks. While the Hond are a key plot point, they’re mainly here to force the Doctor and the Daleks together, and it’s this relationship which is really what the strip is all about.
It’s a shame, then, that a lot of the ground this plotline covers is familiar. While the recruitment of the Doctor in part one brought to mind Asylum of the Daleks, here the Doctor’s working relationship with the Dalek Prime Strategist brings to mind Into the Dalek and The Witch’s Familiar. It’s a pairing that slowly becomes less and less frosty, but suddenly refreezes when surprise, surprise, the Daleks get what they want and no longer need the Doctor. It’s not a surprise to him, and it surely won’t be a surprise to any readers. So what’s the point in telling the same Dalek story again?
If that comes across a little harsh, my apologies, for I truly did enjoy Defender of the Daleks and this second issue far exceeded my expectations despite winning few points for originality. The artwork continues to be of a high quality, while at the same time never quite setting my heart aflutter. There are some very smart panelling choices – one beautiful moment sees a little memory of the wrecked Gallifreyan Capitol come to the Doctor’s mind when presented with a stash of powerful Dalek weapons; a fannish touch that’s just right.
There’s also a lovely wrinkle near the end that, while slightly unessential to the main plot, made me a very happy reader and directly dealt with one of my main concerns with the Time Lord Victorious range in general – I won’t spoil it, but you should know it when you see it! The final page also provides an interesting hint of what’s next for the Daleks, as their attention shifts to the Eighth Doctor for Big Finish’s The Enemy of My Enemy. But here, my tendency to nitpick demands I speak up for I think I’ve spotted a mistake! The final panel depicts a long-haired and clean Paul McGann that we haven’t seen for a very long time, with Big Finish’s own artwork for this upcoming adventure instead showing the short-cropped, more grungy look for the Eighth Doctor that’s been the norm since their own Dark Eyes box set. But there may be something I’m missing here, and I’m ready to stand corrected…
Defender of the Daleks has defied some of my initial misgivings to present a well-paced adventure that features top-notch characterisation for the Doctor and his greatest foes. It’s a fun little story, but as one that frequently steps in the footsteps of previous Doctor Who adventures, perhaps not a truly essential one.