Guest writer Mark A. Collins – @CPOcollins – has generously contributed his thoughts on the second and final Titan Comics entry to the Time Lord Victorious megaplot – Defender of the Daleks #2 – written by Jody Houser with artwork by Roberta Ingranata.
The Tenth Doctor embraces a new title as Defender of The Daleks concludes. But, as we discover, he’s not the only chosen one…and if you’re going to cheat death, you definitely need a Plan B.
Picking up where we left off, the Doctor and the Dalek Prime Strategist are being pursued by a member of the Hond – “primordial ooze given life,” according to the Doctor. With conventional Dalek weaponry proving useless, our duo continue their journey for deadlier weapons to take down the Hond. Their battles open up the Dalek both literally and emotionally as we learn more about this strange Skarosian. Across the comics and the larger Time Lord Victorious story, there seems to be a theme developing around cheating death and its repercussions. In the comic, this is explored mainly through the Dalek Prime Strategist.
Jody Houser’s writing can make even the most evil of characters multi-faceted and worthy of sympathy, even admiration. With its cracked shell, exposing the mutant inside, Roberta Ingranata has worked very hard to keep it distinctly Dalek but make it highly expressive. Every devious little twitch from this Dalek is realised in the artwork, giving it a very animated and lively feel which perfectly suits the pace of Houser’s script. This is a creative team that should be allowed near Daleks a lot more often.
Also interesting in terms of TLV is the way the Hond are fleshed out as an embodiment of death, the implications of their existence further strengthening the links to Time Lord Victorious as a whole. The project as a whole seems to keep giving the Tenth Doctor – a happy-go-lucky adventurer on television – darker challenges. Not only does the Doctor have to team up with his worst enemies and face a universe in the darkest part of its existence, he has to defeat an foe whose only crime was to be born into suffering.
As the Doctor prepares to defeat the Hond, there are echoes (or perhaps foreshadowing) to the events of The Knight, the Fool and the Dead novel. This two-part comic story stands alone as a complete tale in the Time Lord Victorious saga, but the groundwork for future Tenth Doctor stories is definitely being laid down. It’s unclear if we’ll ever see (or hear) the Hond again, but the thematic link to the Kotturuh is abundantly clear.
Except…dealing with the Hond means the Daleks no longer need this Doctor as an ally and and so he reveals his Plan B. Which doesn’t go according to any plan. Luckily, Plan C comes in the form of an unexpected – and familiar (sort of) – face that rides in to save the day. But, while the Doctor faces his future, the Daleks have designs on his past. Without giving anything away, these are reveals that ties into both the comics and the larger Doctor Who universe without necessarily tying into Time Lord Victorious. Your mileage will vary on how much you appreciate the surprise rescue from someone who has been largely absent from Time Lord Victorious.
In my view, ending Defender of the Daleks on a cliffhanger is a misstep because this story largely lives up to the promise of being standalone. Largely the references and links to other stories have been minor Easter eggs and broader thematic connections. But this adds a big dollop of continuity to resolve the plot. Nevertheless, a top-tier creative team finally given the chance to play with the Tenth Doctor and the Daleks means the results are magnificent. Now I really just want a Dalek Prime Strategist solo series!