One of the best elements to come out of the current era of Doctor Who is Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor and the clandestine Time Lord agency she works for, Division. Unfortunately, both Division and the Fugitive Doctor also rank among the least explored aspects of the current era of the show, which makes them perfect candidates for further exploration in the Doctor Who audio dramas, comics, and novels. Enter Titan Comics’ latest entry in their ongoing Doctor Who Comic series, this time subtitled “Origins”. One part spy thriller, one part space opera, and endlessly captivating from start to finish, Doctor Who: Origins makes a strong case for the creation of an ongoing Fugitive Doctor series.
A Dive into the Doctor’s Past
Written by Jody Houser and illustrated by Roberta Ingranata, Doctor Who: Origins sheds a light on the Doctor’s time with Division. As the story begins, Division tasks her and her new partner, Taslo, with a mission of the utmost secrecy. They’re to eliminate a cult threatening the very existence of Gallifrey. But something about this mission doesn’t sit right with the Fugitive Doctor. The Time Lords are known for being secretive, sure, but why are they being so secretive this time, if the threat’s as dire as they claim? And on that note, why do her preliminary scans of the cult’s hideout fail to turn up any signs of technology advanced enough to pose much of a threat to anyone? Can the Doctor get to the bottom of this mystery before she’s forced to do something she’ll regret for the rest of her lives?
If you’ve ever found yourself craving a police procedural set in the Doctor Who universe, then Doctor Who: Origins might just scratch that itch. It reads as this lovely combination of Blade Runner, Doctor Who, and James Bond-style spy thrillers. There are conspiracies on top of conspiracies, plenty of delicious subterfuge, a healthy dose of space politics, and plenty of Doctor Who-y action sequences. Ever since Doctor Who: Flux ended, I’ve been craving some Fugitive Doctor stories set during her time at Division, and Doctor Who: Origins makes an excellent case for why those stories would be fun. The Fugitive Doctor comes to life beautifully here, with all of the narrative freedom that comes along with her. All at once, this comic feels like Doctor Who but also like something entirely different, and that’s a very fun thing to be.
Why is the Fugitive Doctor a Fugitive?
Perhaps the biggest selling point for Doctor Who: Origins is the idea of delving deeper into the Fugitive Doctor’s life. At this point, we know little about her. When we first meet her in series 12, we learn she’s on the run from Division, having abandoned her position in the organization. But why? That’s the question Doctor Who: Origins begins answering. What turns a previously faithful agent of Division into a fugitive? I wouldn’t go so far as to say Doctor Who: Origins gives a definitive answer to that question, but it certainly provides a potential catalyst for the Fugitive Doctor’s eventual absconsion. As is often the case with the Titan Comics Doctor Who line, though, Doctor Who: Origins is just a bit too short to fully tell the story it’s trying to tell. And as a result, the Fugitive Doctor’s character arc remains a bit underexplored.
Similar to what happened in the most recent arc, Empire of the Wolf, there’s just not enough time here to give any of the character moments the breathing room they so desperately need. Multiple characters make almost complete 180s with hardly any time spent delving into why they might do that. And for a story so focused on exploring why the Fugitive Doctor decides to become a fugitive, the story hardly devotes any time to actually delving into her mindset. There are hints of it, to be sure. Little throw-away lines here, a few cross facial expressions there. But nothing that feels weighty enough to satisfyingly explore that character arc. And that’s really a shame because there’s a lot of narrative potential there, and the comic comes so close to tapping into it. But it stops just short of going too far down that road.
That being said, Doctor Who: Origins is an undeniably delightful read, in part because of Ingranata’s larger-than-life artwork. Like Houser, Ingranata has been working on Titan’s Doctor Who title for years now, and it shows. Ingranata perfectly balances screen accuracy with the needs (and freedoms) of a comic book. She captures Jo Martin’s essence beautifully, bringing the Fugitive Doctor to life with all of the mannerisms Martin imbues the character with on screen. And if you adored the retro sci-fi vibes Ingranata brought to Empire of the Wolf, then you’ll be over the moon with her work here. This comic, more than most in recent memory, feels like it has one foot in the world of “Classic” Who and one foot in the world of “New” Who. And as a fan of both eras, that just makes me so happy.
Despite its length, Doctor Who: Origins delivers exactly the kind of Fugitive Doctor storyline I’ve been craving. Filled to the brim with action, subterfuge, and political intrigue, it’s a Doctor Who story that doesn’t necessarily feel like a Doctor Who story. Houser does an excellent job bringing the Fugitive Doctor to life here, and while there’s nowhere near enough time to properly delve into her character, the story Houser spins surrounding this period of the Doctor’s life is exactly as exciting as you’d hope it would be. I hope this comic proves successful enough to entice Titan (or Big Finish or BBC Books) to continue telling stories set during the Fugitive Doctor’s time at Division. After all, there’s a lot of history there to explore (especially when it comes to Swarm and Azure).
But for now, Doctor Who: Origins is a must-read for anyone who’s been a fan of the last few seasons of the show. Put simply, it’s a rip-roaringly fun read that you won’t wanna miss.
Doctor Who: Origins is available now in digital formats and will be available in paperback on January 10, 2023.
Disclaimer: A review copy of Doctor Who: Origins was provided by Titan Comics. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
"Doctor Who: Origins" brings the Fugitive Doctor to life in an action-packed sci-fi thrill ride that's packed to the brim with mystique, subterfuge, and political intrigue. It's a great "Doctor Who" story and one that easily makes the case for an ongoing Fugitive Doctor series.
Part-time writer, part-time theatre nerd, full-time dork.