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Doctor Who: A Room With a Deja View Review

Doctor Who: A Room With a Deja View is the latest Doctor Who one-shot from IDW.

Keeping with the general trend of British writers on the Doctor (John Ostrander being a notable Yankee exception), Rich “Watchmensch” Johnston and drawn by Eric “Rex Mundi” J.  Now at this point, you might be thinking “I thought IDW killed off Rich Johnston in comic book?”  You are correct.  The murder of Rich Johnston was the mystery in CSI: Dying in the Gutters, a few years back.  Comics bring back dead characters all the time, but dead writers?  That’s a new one.

When doing licensed series, you frequently hear people talking about wanting to do stories that only work for that series.  In theory, you shouldn’t be able to switch a Flash Gordon plot with a Star Trek.  A Room With a Deja View would work as very few things besides a Doctor Who story.  Moreover, while you could film it as a television episode or write it as a short story, it would be exceptionally hard to decipher.

Without running too far into the realm of spoiler, the Doctor encounters two high concepts: a disease that spreads by communication and an alien race that moves backwards in time.  The disease spreading by communication is almost a throwaway concept that could have been explored a bit more, had this been allotted two issues.

The “Darmok” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation involved a meeting with an alien race that speaks in metaphor.  There isn’t a conflict in the episode, so much as the story is about trying to figure out what the aliens are trying to say.  A Room With a Deja View is similar, in that while there is a the matter of a murder to be sorted out, the meat of the tale is about the Doctor braving a time paradox or two to interrogate an alien with a different time stream vector whose statements are a little out of sync.

With time travel stories, you frequently find yourself in paradoxes that don’t make a lot of sense if you stop and think about them.  Here, if you read the comic forward and backwards – yes, you literally stop and change the direction you’re reading in at time and that’s why this would be a very awkward thing to film or do in prose – you can unravel the events and see where it syncs up.  It takes a bit of attention to do, but it took a bit more attention to map it all out and script it and it logic-checks.

On the illustration side, art styles used in Doctor Who comics have been all over the map from John Ridgeway to Paul Grist (who’s surprisingly well-suited to drawing David Tennant’s skinny frame).  Eric J skews more to realism and gets a good likeness of Tennant.

A gimmick story?  Oh, certainly, but this is a well-executed gimmick and also ends up being a nice little meditation on pre-ordained events and alternate perspectives.  If you’re into Doctor Who, this is one of the better adaptations.  If you don’t like time travel stories, stay far away.  And when you get to a certain point, go ahead a start reading backwards.  Things will fall into place.

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