Ever since Doctor Who came back to our screens in 2005, it seems as though past doctors have been sidelined somewhat in prose. Indeed the novel range featuring them disappeared, there have only been sporadic novels since then, and their appearances in multi-Doctor comic arcs. It's only been in the last couple of years that Titan Comics has sought to readdress the balance somewhat with a string of miniseries featuring past Doctors. The latest features the Third Doctor (played on-screen by Jon Pertwee between 1970 and 1974) and sees a return to Who by writer Paul Cornell. Cornell's past Who works include both the novel and later TV adaptation of Human Nature as well as the 2005 episode Father's Day and the groundbreaking 1991 Who novel Timewyrm: Revelation. He was also, back in the day, not a fan of this era at all. Which makes it all the more interesting that what he wrote is essentially something of a blast from the past for this Doctor and Cornell's apparent farewell to Who as a writer.
The Heralds Of Destruction certainly has all the hallmarks of the Third Doctor's era. There's the dandified figure of the Doctor, his long-time assistant Jo Grant, the UNIT team ranging from Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart to Captain Yates and Sergeant Benton, the Master played by Roger Delgado with his usual disguises, and an alien invasion of a small English town are all among the tropes at play. Cornell as a writer captures the voices of everyone pitch perfectly which gives the whole thing an air of authenticity that some works featuring past Doctors have sorely lacked at times.
Cornell though, perhaps unsurprisingly, isn't happy to just let readers indulge in nostalgia. In fact, he does his best to invert some of the potential cliches of the era on their head a bit while also approaching writing early 1970s Doctor Who from a 21st-century perspective. This is especially clear from Cornell's treatment of Jo, a character that is practically the stereotype female companion from all of Classic Who, but which he makes a somewhat stronger character within these pages. Indeed, his choice of setting within the Third Doctor's TV era allows him to retroactively set-up events that took place later in the era, making this an almost pivotal story for fans of this Doctor. Lastly, Cornell also brings in some other pieces of Who lore into play such as a couple of fairly unexpected familiar faces including one that this reader suspects wouldn't have come to play just a few years ago.
That said, Cornell's plotting has some issues. Despite the scope of the story, when one looks at it as a whole, The Heralds Of Destruction seems somewhat lightweight. Perhaps that is in keeping with the era it's emulating as the focus seems to be less on plot and more on getting to the next cliffhanger moment. Indeed, the ending seems rushed and tacked on to an extent as it comes virtually out of nowhere that the entire story should change location in a hurry. While great fun is to be had for fans of the era such as myself of seeing everyone brought back together again, perhaps those less enamored with the Third Doctor era might not be as impressed.
One thing that is not a let down the artwork. Christopher Jones does a superb job across the board capturing the likeness of familiar characters perfectly in a visual equivalent of Cornell's writing with his take on the Delgado Master being a particular highlight. Even when given things we've never seen on TV before, Jones does well such as visualizing the much-talked club the Doctor was a member of during his exile and the fairly psychedelic elements of the middle issue. It's Jones' artwork that also helps with the final portion of the story and the eleventh change in location as well. Combined with the work of colorists Hi-Fi, the results are quite nice.
While not as groundbreaking as some of Cornell's previous Who works, The Heralds Of Destruction makes for nice reading. Cornell does a nice pastiche of the Third Doctor era while also approaching it from a 21st century perspective both with additional characterizations and some nice retroactive foreshadowing of events later in the same era on TV. Combined with Jones' artwork and the result is a nicely done Third Doctor tale though not quite as strong as it could have been. Still, if this does turn out to be Cornell's truly final work involving the Time Lord, it's one he can go out on with pride.