The strip's still recovering from the departure of Steve Parkhouse, who wrote all that awesome Fivey stuff and the utterly batshit Astrolabus plotline where basically he is controlling the Doctor's life because he's writing it and ... yeah. Awesome gonzo stuff, but it only made sense to me in the Voyager collection. (I had a random second hand copy of DWM when I was little that I now realise featured the one from that where they go into Rupert the Bear and stuff, and it just confused the hell out of me. Probably because I assumed the strip was always like that.) The strips collected in World Shapers are by a variety of writers (though they seem to converge on certain tropes, very much like Remembrance and Silly Nemesis on telly a few years later), but this is smoothed over by the fact that the art is completely consistent, all done by John Ridgway. He has a style that relies a lot on shading, which works for the b/w nature of the strip but sometimes feels a bit cluttered on individual panels. It's awesome on splash pages, which he doesn't get to do enough of. His Six is a bit young looking to me, but maybe I'm too used to seeing modern day Colin, but his Peri varies between something fairly close to her telly self and someone more like Nyssa in a suit. Which is a bit disconcerting, but you get used to it. Also, many strips end on a panel containing just the Doctor's face, almost as though they were following JNT's cliffhanger edict.
Anyway there are eight stories in the collection:
Exodus/Revelation/Genesis The TARDIS materialises around a refugee spaceship (leading to a brilliant panel in which the Doctor says "People? In my TARDIS?" which just begs for scanning in and having "IT'S MORE LIKELY THAN YOU THINK" roflbot-ed over it), which turns out to be running away from the Planet of Mad Scientists who have forgotten to feed their peasants, some of whom are also disappearing. The Doctor investigates, and discovers that the missing peasants have been turned into ZOMG!Cybermen by one of the mad scientists who found a crashed Cybership and wants to take over the world. But, in an amazingly Sawardesque ending, he's rubbish at heavy duty electrics and all his Cybermen short out. Seriously. The Doctor needn't have bothered being there at all. There's what feels like a deliberate attempt to soften Six's characterisation and the Six/Peri relationship here, with Peri chewing him out for not being more helpful to the refugees at first and deciding that he's OK after all in the end.
Nature of the Beast This is by Simon Furman, who Transformers fandom seems to adore, but this isn't anything terribly special IMO. The plot pings my Biology Doesn't Work That Way sensors (which given I can accept the whole Peri bird nonsense in Varos is saying something), and seems to rely on the Doctor having read ahead to next month, and there's a moment where he asks to be allowed to know "the background to our execution" by the people who want to kill him, prompting an obliging two page infodump from the head villain. The ending is again Sawardesque, with one of the protagonists having put the bad guys' bomb on the bad guys' spaceship thus rendering all the "we have to stop the countdown" peril moot.
Time Bomb This is by Jamie Delano, who is the biggest single contributor on the writing side to the collection, and it introduces two plot elements that recur later: cryosleep ships on very long journeys and weird ass time travel shenanigans. It's one of those "aliens interfere in the development of humanity" things, though in this case it's unintentional. It does do "time's in flux" properly though, which pleases me given that no one seems to really believe it these days.
Salad Daze Furman again, this time being fairly awesome with a one-issue trippy Alice-in-Wonderland thing. The plot prefigures the "carrot juice" business with Mel, with Peri trying to feed the Doctor salad because he's a bit podgy, but then touching his Personal Reality Warp and ending up in Alice in Wonderland if it was all done with vegetables. The Doctor is the white rabbit (who later reappears dragging a Very Important Date with him -- an anthropomorphic date-as-in-the-fruit with a sign attached to it giving the date of Trial ep 1, which is a nice bit of meta) and when Peri tells the inhabitants she eats vegetables she is sentenced to death. She wakes up and resolves that they should have junk food after all, promising to make the Doctor hamburgers and chips. We end on a big panel of the Doctor winking, suggesting he planned it this way all along.
Changes This is a two parter and the first Morrison story. It's a fairly simple story about a shape shifter getting loose in the TARDIS, and really an excuse to do trippy TARDIS environments and to revisit the secondary control room and make gratuitous Masque of Mandragora references in the first sign that he's really just a huge fanboy. There's a lovely bit for Frobisher here, where the classic "two Peris, which is the real one?" thing is completely undercut by his instant recognition that the shapeshifter's clothes are melded into its skin. (The shapeshifting allows Ridgway some good moments of capturing it in mid-transformation.) The way the shapeshifter snuck aboard is another bit of Six-softening; it turns out that he's running an endangered-species relocation scheme, picking them up across time and space and putting them in a dimensionally transcendental zoo until he finds somewhere they'll be safe. Awwww. And the shapeshifter made itself the cutest thing in all creation (literally) to get taken aboard. Awwwww. Six is lovely really, everyone! And so on.
Profits of Doom This is good fun from Mike Collins, with aliens who are better at being ultra-capitalist bad guy aliens than either the Usurians from old school Who or the Ferengi from Star Trek, mainly because of their dialogue fleshing out the motivation. (They say things like "By the spreadsheets of the ancients!" and stuff; oh shush, it amuses me. Also they have a good non-human design from Ridgway.) It's another cryosleep ship, this time with the Golgafrincham B Ark thrown in -- the guy who sent the ship off wanted to kidnap the high fliers from it and sell everyone else to the aliens. Bit Sawardesque again, though; the Doctor's interference makes the aliens decide their profit margins are being eroded too much so they just bugger off.
The Gift Delano again, with the longest single story in the collection, and one that I didn't enjoy very much. Probably because it's set on '20s Jazz Planet which felt tiresome silly rather than inspired cracky silly to me. I liked the von Neumann machines, though.
The World Shapers Morrison's second effort is only three eight-page strips long, but oh my god the amount of continuity it squeezes in is astonishing. It's basically a chance to fix everything from the black and white era ever, including "Planet 14" from The Invasion. Ready? Here goes. The Doctor, Peri and Frobisher land on Marinus (of The Keys of Marinus) and find it deserted. They find a more up-to-date TARDIS (excellent bit of art from Ridgway) and a dying Time Lord who gasps "Planet 14". The Doctor remembers that during the Invasion the Cyber Controller mentioned having met him and Jamie on Planet 14, even though he doesn't remember that. So they go to find 40-years-later Jamie -- who remembers his adventures with the Doctor, including Two Docs, because the Doctor taught him enough mind tricks to avoid the Time Lords' mind wipe (it's Peri who asks about this, so the Doctor must have told her at some point). YAY! THE TRAGEDY OF THE WAR GAMES IS FIXED! Jamie helps the Doctor to remember The Invasion, and the Doctor realises that Planet 14 is ... Marinus. The planet has had a "World Shaper" installed, a terraforming device that accelerates time to make it happen on useful timescales, and is number 14 on the World Shaper mechanics' maintenance list. It was supposed to only be put on uninhabited planets, but the Voord had taken over Marinus ... and evolved into Cybermen! There's a very brief stopover at this point so that the Cybercontroller can "remember their auras" ready to set up the reference (and with pre-invoked Six isn't Two explanation). They jump forward a bit further in time, when it turns out Planet 14 has come to be known as Mondas! TA DAH! They decide they have to stop the Cybermen having the World Shaper as a potential weapon, so they do that and Jamie sacrifices himself in the process ("I never wanted to die in my bed, Doctor"). Way to undercut your own fixit fic, there, Grant. Then some Time Lords show up and tell us, but not the Doctor, that in the end the Cybermen become peace-loving energy beings destined to save the entire universe, so it's all worth it.
See, I'd heard about this cracky Voord-become-Cybermen thing, and I'd heard about Morrison having written for the strip, but I never realised it was one and the same thing. I really thought Morrison would be a bit more immediately cracktastically format-breaking than this. There are moments where he pushes the envelope, but not as many as I'd expected.
MAIN THING IS, JAMIE DIED, EVERYONE. IT WAS VERY SAD.
Meanwhile, in this week's comics: Booster Gold made me cry