Monday, 24 August 2015

The World Shapers

3 parts (DWM 127 to 129) August to October 1987

Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: John Ridgway (breakdowns), Tim Perkins (finished art), Editor: Sheila Cranna

The 6th Doctor, Peri and Frobisher follow a distress call to the storm lashed world of Marinus...
The Doctor tells Peri & Frobisher of his last visit here during his first incarnation... 
...and the three come across a twisted TARDIS.
It's owner is nearby, dying. His final words before degenerating into nothing are "Planet 14".
Inside the twisted TARDIS, they discover that the dead Time Lord was on a mission from Gallifrey.

They were sent to investigate disturbances in time, disturbances which begin to affect them inside the twisted TARDIS.
They leave in a hurry, the mention of Planet 14 having rung a bell with the Doctor...
...from his travels with Jamie McCrimmon.
As they depart, the planet has some more visitors...
...terraforming aliens who identify Marinus itself as Planet 14!
Hoping to get the answers he needs from his former companion, the Doctor takes Peri and Frobisher to Scotland.
There he finds Jamie has grown old and is considered mad by the locals.
When the Doctor asks him about Planet 14, Jamie [somehow!] remembers that the Cyber-Controller from The Invasion referred to them having been on "Planet 14." 
Jamie travels with them to Marinus...
...which has been drained of its' oceans since they were last there!
They encounter one of the terraforming aliens...
...who is pursued by some decidely cybernetic looking Voord.

The alien, Maxilla, explains that he is a maintence repair worker tasked with looking after the "Worldshaper" machines, devices built to accelerate time on deserted worlds in order to develop their environments, but that his people made a terrible error when "Planet 14", Marinus, turned out to be inhabited. 
The Voord are now evolving into Cybermen!
The Doctor realizes he must deactivate the Worldshaper device before the Voord/Cybermen become too advanced too quickly...
The Voord/Cybermen intend to use their Worldshaper to devastate the galaxy... 
...but Jamie heroically sacrifices himself to destroy the machine and save the Doctor's life.
An angry Doctor confronts the Time Lords.
When he has left, the Time Lords discuss their true aim... set time on a course that will see the Cybermen evolve into advanced and benevolent beings of pure thought.

The World Shapers keeps up the high standard of art work for the 6th Doctor's era, although on this occasion it's a John Ridgway bedrock that's built on by Tim Perkins.
The story itself flows nicely though in truth is perhaps even more bonkers and continuity-ridden than Attack of the Cybermen!
Whilst the plot is fairly simple in structure, there's a dense script to wade through, one that sags under the weight of its' often mistaken continuity - obviously in 1987 it must have been easier to get away with suggesting Jamie was party to the Cyber-Planner's reference to Planet 14 with no DVD to show you up, but even then the Target novelisation was available, surely?
Speaking of Jamie, everyone's favourite hairy-legged Highlander seems poorly used and abused by Morrison, being aged at first beyond recognition and then quite literally to death.
For something so ostensibly fanwanky, it's a story that also seems to wilfully aim at stitching together the most incongruous elements of the show's past in a way guaranteed to meet with the disapproval of long time viewers.
It's an atmospheric and grandiose story that, taken on its' own terms, is good enough but that ultimately demands perhaps a bit too much goodwill and suspension of disbelief to be truly satisfying.
The beginning, with the twisted, crystalline TARDIS on Marinus, is arguably the best part...
...though Jamie himself aside, the interlude in the Scottish wilds is also a pleasing diversion...
...particularly the very Colin Baker-y exit.
Come for the art, stay for the characterisation of the Doctor and Peri (Frobisher doesn't get much to do other than moult a bit)...
...but disengage fan-brain as much as possible, and take solace from what is at least a decent bit of Time Lord manipulation. 
One that's very much style over substance, and which I've scored higher than the story really deserves because the artwork alone merits it.

(N.B. This strip was originally published in black and white, but the snapshots presented here are from the sympathetically coloured reprints by IDW)


Coming Soon... Planet of the Dead

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