Friday, January 10, 2020

War of the Words by: Steve Moore with art by: Dave Gibbons

War of the Words is written by Steve Moore with art by Dave Gibbons.  It was released in Doctor Who Monthly issue 51 (April 1981) and is reprinted in its original form in Doctor Who: Dragon’s Claw by Panini Books.

Well, the title of this story is clearly a pun of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, an integral novel to the history of science-fiction.  It is kind of fitting then that War of the Words deals with a war taking place over the library planet, Biblios.  Knowing that the comics were popular I can’t help but wonder if this was an inspiration for Steven Moffat when coming up with Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead.  The setting is one of the more interesting settings for a comic strip and Moore does a good job of allowing Gibbons to flesh out the setting so he can focus on getting the story told in only one comic issue.  Yes, like The Life Bringer before it, War of the Words is one of those stories which only occurs in one issue of Doctor Who Monthly.  Moore is able to do this by keeping the story to task with a plot that is incredibly simple.

There are two warring factions hoping to take control of Biblios, which contains all the data in the universe, so would be used as a deadly superweapon in the wrong hands.  It’s of course up to the Doctor to find a way of ending the war.  The two waring factions, the Vromyx and Garynth, are the weakest element of the comic strip as they don’t really have any identity of their own except generic alien species.  Gibbons does give them some fun designs and his art style is really useful for making them at least look interesting.  Where Moore really shines, however, is in the writing of the Fourth Doctor.  The Doctor in this comic strip uses deception and cunning to find a peaceful solution to the war, with some smoke and mirror tactics a la K9, which makes this strip be the first since Dragon’s Claw where the Doctor actually is allowed to show off what makes him the Doctor.  The other stories just had him in the role of almost generic protagonist which isn’t really able to be said about the Doctor.  Sure it isn’t the deepest characterization in this strip, but the solution is at least reminiscent of something the Doctor would in fact do as a character, bringing to mind stories like The Time Warrior.  You can just imagine Tom Baker ending this story with a toothy grin as he goes off back to the TARDIS.

Overall, War of the Words is a story which at least attempts to overcome its limitations with such a short page count.  Moore and Gibbons manage to come together as a team to give a Doctor Who story which at least feels like it is a complete story.  There are still issues with pacing, as the setting still could use some fleshing out, yet it’s still a fun read.  7/10.

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