Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Black Destiny

3 parts (DWM 235 - 237) 14th February to 10th April 1996 Writer: Gary Russell, Art: Martin Geraghty, 
Editors: Gary Gillatt & Scott Gray

En route from Nerva Beacon, the 4th Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan arrive in Takhail, Russia, in 2086, 100 years after the Chernobyl disaster. 
They're mistaken for officials from the World Health Organisation and escorted to the Troika Cultural Centre on the site of Takhail village. 

It's thought that they're there to investigate an increasing number of accidents... 

...and now people are succumbing to a mysterious illness. Harry too is struck down. 

The Doctor tries to convince Project Director Gregor Arkady to delay the opening of the centre... 

...but he refuses, telling him that it is his destiny to realize his great-grandfather's dream... 

...and setting zombified accident victims on him. 
Forced to flee, the Doctor, Sarah escape to Arkady’s office to investigate his background... 

...while a worker they've befriended named Ivan Milov is able to rescue Harry, and escape to the medical centre. 

Harry has noticed that Ivan is immune to the zombification process, and hopes to discover the source of his immunity. 

Sarah discovers papers about nuclear accidents in the 20th Century, but is interrupted by a familiar sound... 

She races to tell the Doctor what she has worked out while the Doctor tries to reason with Arkady. 
Arkady, however, consumes the energy of the plague victims and begins to transform... 

...unleashing a huge explosion. 

Although the Doctor has survived the blast, Arkady has transcended to the form of a cloud of nuclear fallout that houses his intelligence. 

Meanwhile, as Harry identifies something odd in Ivan’s blood cells, a zombie attacks... 

...but is dissolved by Ivan's mere touch. 

Sarah has realised that Takhail was devastated by the Chernobyl disaster and that it is the death of everyone except Arkady's great-grandfather that Arkady is now hellbent on revenging. 

In pursuit of this, the Arkady cloud heads to Moscow to rain down destruction on the descendants of those he blames. 
The Doctor and his friends follow in the TARDIS, with Ivan, who the Doctor has deduced is the key to defeating Arkady...

Arkady is on the verge of killing the Doctor when Ivan is forced to step in and fight back. 

Arkady is destroyed as his energy is cancelled out by Ivan's.

With Russia saved, the Doctor and friends prepare to leave... 

...and are observed by the same unknown party encountered by Peri in The Curse of the Scarab and Susan in Operation Proteus

"Not Exactly the End..."

One of those odd stories where a past Doctor's adventuring is informed by events that happened after his own TV era, here we have a story that sees the 4th Doctor - very much in season 12 mode - face a villain forged in the terrible disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1986 i.e. five years after Tom Baker vacated the lead role. 
What follows is a slightly muddied revenge tale. Seemingly with one foot in a Godzilla/Gojira-like parable of literall nuclear fallout, and the other in a lesson on the futility of revenge, it's still a story that feels thematically strong nonetheless. 

It's pleasingly in-character with that late season 12, early season 13 although unlike other entries in this run, it's the script rather than the art that indulges in the overly obvious era touchstones. The characterisation of the 4th Doctor is on the nose, albeit closer to the portrayal we saw in Robot than the one we might otherwise expect to see in a gap between Revenge of the Cybermen and Terror of the Zygons

Martin Geraghty's artwork is as distinctive as usual and as dynamic as the script allows, but there's nowhere near the level of detail or strong sense of place that became his hallmark from the 8th Doctor era onwards, and as such some of the few action of "effects" beats seem to be trying just a little too hard to compensate with huge thin panels and dramatic (almost) full page cliffhangers that the script doesn't necessarily call for. 

As with the other entries in the run, the story's resolution is a bit last minute and convenient, and this time round not particularly well justified... 

...but by now, it's more obvious that these last three stories are really just parts of something bigger, as it's all the more explicit that the Doctor's companions aren't just having strange meetings, they're being affected in some way. We don't know who's responsible yet, but we'll find out in the very next story... 

As such, it's hard not to view this as a Utopia or The Neutron Knights, that is, something of a lesser prequel to the story really waiting to be told, but in truth Black Destiny is a perfectly enjoyable and well characterised story in its own right, an underrated entry that repays a revisit.

Coming Soon... Ground Zero


  1. sorry guys, didn't ink Black Destiny. But did ink Ground Zero.

  2. Ah, right you are, have edited. Thanks for the correction :-)