Billed as ‘A Doctor Who Comics Event’, Supremacy of the Cybermen, a five-issue mini-series from Titan, now released as a 130-page collected trade edition, is actually something of a non-event. Despite all its Universe-threatening bombast, its spectacle, its unashamed fan services, it’s really just a rehash of Doctor Who elements Titan have been playing with since they nabbed the comic strip rights to the series a few years ago. So we get a clumsy amalgam of all post-2005 Doctors (although at least they don’t cross timelines here), brief flashbacks to the ‘classic series’ Doctors, a couple of TV companions (Rose Tyler, her mum, Captain Jack), Titan’s own anonymous and interchangeable companions for the tenth and eleventh Doctors (who add virtually nothing to the narrative), yet another plot by the Cybermen to conquer all creation and cameo appearances by the Sontarans and the ‘new series’ Silurians. Throw in some shenanigans on the rediscovered Gallifrey, the return of Rassilon (banished from his home world by the Doctor at the end of series nine on the telly) and the sort of comic book spectacle way beyond the means of the TV show’s budget and we’re delivered a rather sluggish and unimaginative stew almost entirely created out of warmed-up leftovers from the TV series and with precious evidence of the real sense of invention Doctor Who is capable of at is best.
The twelfth Doctor (although you’d be hard-pressed to tell from the often woeful depiction of the striking Peter Capaldi) returns to the storm swept planet Karn (fangasm number one) which leads him back to Gallifrey which he discovers, to his horror, has been taken over by the Cybermen, who have been led there by the exiled Rassilon. But Cybertechnology has been upgraded and the Cybermen are now swarming across all space and time, annihilating everything in their path as they prepare for their final triumph on Gallifrey, harnessing the Time Lord power of regeneration to complete their domination of the universe. No small stakes here.
If you like your Doctor Who impossibly epic and laced with arcane continuity alongside great dollops of the glib humour which characterises the show on TV these days, you’re likely to find much to enjoy in Supremacy of the Cybermen. But there’s really very little new here in a story which is happy to play with well-established series lore and characters without bringing anything original to them beyond the ability to tell a story on a more spectacular canvas than the TV series. As a self-congratulatory exercise in giving the hardcore fans what they think they want, it probably passes muster and yet despite all its gung-ho action sequences and its slavish adherence to the now-stifling body of continuity dragged back into the TV series, it feels lumpy and uninvolving and magnificently fails to capture the very special essence of Doctor Who at its best. There’s not even much fun to be had in seeing the Eccleston/Tennant/Smith/Capaldi Doctors in comic book form as they rarely look anything like their TV counterparts save in the odd panel; Tennant and Smith in particular look like generic square-jawed comic strip heroes and Capaldi is generally just a random collection of facial features with a smudge of grey hair.
Titan has done better work across their other numerous series chronicling ‘unseen’ adventures of both new and old TV Doctors which at least afford the opportunity for new stories, new worlds and new characters. Supremacy of the Cybermen and IDW’s tedious 2012 Star Trek: Next Generation crossover seem to suggest that in comic book form, as on television, Doctor Who is at its strongest when it’s allowing its imaginative potential full reign rather than anchoring itself far too closely to its hopelessly-convoluted history.
DOCTOR WHO – SUPREMACY OF THE CYBERMEN / PUBLISHER: TITAN / WRITERS: CAVAN SCOTT, GEORGE MANN / ARTISTS: IVAN RODRIGUEZ, WALTER GEOVANNI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW