Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Curse of the Scarab

3 parts (DWM 228 to 230) 2nd August to 27th September 1995
Writer: Alan Barnes, Art: Martin Geraghty, Editor: Gary Gillatt 

The 5th Doctor and Peri arrive in what appears to be an Egyptian tomb... 

...only to find they are in fact in Hollywood, in the year 1938, on the set of director Seth Rakoff's latest horror opus, "The Curse of the Scarab". 
The Doctor was misdirected by some impressive set-dressing - the genuine 4000-year old sarcophagus of the god Kephri, known as a "Scarabaeus" due to the Osirian's beetle-like form. 
As the film's bullying producer, Monroe Stahr, views the day's rushes... 

...he is killed and disembowelled by an Osirian servo-robot in the familiar form of a Mummy. 

The Doctor and Peri find that an Osirian ship is concealed within the sound stage... 
...inside they find some nasty surprises... 

...and the increasingly decaying Raschid Karnak, who tells them how the director brought the Scarabeus to Hollywood from Egypt and now plans to resurrect Kephri. 

Rakoff shoots Karnak before he can reveal any more... 

...and begins his ceremony. 

Rakoff has not only the cast and crew but also Peri held in a trance like state of obedience, as he opens the Scarabeus... 
...only to find it empty! 

However, opening it has allowed Kephri to possess the corpse of Karnak, and with the scared symbol hanging around his neck removed he can burst forth in his true form. 
Kephri summons a plague of flies, which consume Rakoff... 

...but before they can be unleashed to consume all life on Earth, the Doctor turns on a stage light and casts the shadow of the symbol onto Kephri, which traps him. 
The Doctor is then able to use one of the service robots to destroy Kephri. 
The Doctor and Peri leave, while the Book of Invocation is picked up by a janitor... 
...but who was the mysterious stranger that approached Peri on the back lot. Is she quite herself...?


A satisfying slice of comic strip Doctor Who that acts as a de facto sequel to the Pyramids of Mars without ever aping that well-loved story, this is a great addition to the DWM strips,and keeps up the renaissance of quality adventures for the 'past Doctors' run of the mid-nineties. 

Well observed in script and art both, Alan Barnes and Martin Geraghty capture the 5th Doctor/Peri pairing from an imagined gap between Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani. 

Martin Geraghty balances the dusty sparsity and intricate detail of the "Egyptian" trappings and Hollywood setting with the more visceral elements of the decaying Karnak and Kephri's plague and final bestial form. 

Alan Barnes serves up a deft observance of not only 30s Hollywood (the final panel in particular is a master stroke that tickled the fan bone of this reader at least!) but also of Osirian continuity that raises this above being a mere pastiche. 

At 3 parts, this story doesn't overrun, and in fact if anything the only drawback is the perfunctory hastiness of the denouement which does rather make the victory feel very cheaply run, but by that stage of proceedings we've had a good wallow in 30s horror and Egyptiana, and more importantly, we've sat up and paid attention to a curious panel in the middle instalment that has raised our eyebrows and revealed that this story in isolation might be enjoyed on its' own terms but that a new and deeper mystery is beginning... 

A joy form start to finish and one of the strongest 5th Doctor strips there's been.

Coming Soon... Operation Proteus

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