It’s review time again! Today we’re covering…something a little different!
After my recent review of the Defending Earth charity anthology, I received an email from Ginger Hoesly, the host of a charity ‘zine (do we still use the apostrophe? Or is it just “zine” these days?) titled Moon Man, focusing on everyone’s favorite (twelfth) Time Lord, the esteemed Peter Capaldi. Ginger asked me if I would be willing to review the project, which is on sale now (see below for a link!). This corner of the fandom is really something with which I have no experience, and so—partly for the cause, and partly for my own curiosity—I gladly agreed. And, here we are!
This zine (we’ll go with that spelling—take that, punctuation!) is, as I said, focused on Peter Capaldi rather than the Twelfth Doctor. However, the prose portion of the zine is a unique Twelfth Doctor story, and so it fits with the theme of this site. The story is accompanied by forty-one illustrations of various roles from Peter’s career, submitted by many artists in a variety of styles—I’ll be featuring a few as we go. All proceeds from the sale of Moon Man will go to the Glasgow School of Art, Peter Capaldi’s alma mater; sales are open until 29 April, and can be accessed at the link below.
As always when I cover charity projects, there will be spoilers ahead! My reason for including more spoilers in this type of review is that charity projects, unlike licensed work, don’t get the kind of long-term availability, or documentation, that licensed works get. To a very real degree, once it’s over, it’s over. I believe, though, that many charity stories are rich contributions to the greater Whoniverse, and deserve to be recorded in some way—and so I document them here as I can. But, don’t be fooled—no summary is a substitute for actually purchasing and reading the material. Check it out!
When I sit down to summarize the plot of a story, it’s a straightforward—if sometimes tedious—affair. You start at the beginning, point A, and work through points B and C, all the way to point Z, the end. I can’t do that today, though; because the story contained in Moon Man is something different: if I may borrow the term, it’s a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. (I’m sure that term is copyrighted, so let me say that it’s me using it to make a comparison; the term isn’t used anywhere in the zine.) Over the course of about a dozen possible selections, the story builds through various scenes at the discretion of the reader. In the first scene, a quick trip to the shops turns into a disaster in the making for Clara Oswald and the Twelfth Doctor, as the TARDIS tries to pull itself apart. The ship is attempting to land in at least a dozen places and times, all at once! The Doctor is able to narrow it to two, but Clara is forced to make a snap decision as to which they will visit. In each of the scenes that follow, the TARDIS shuts down and refuses to budge—in one case, locking them out—until they do…something. What they must do, remains to be seen.
In one scene, the TARDIS takes them to the Happer Institute, a combined sky-and-sea observatory—but it lands them in the past, shortly before the construction of the observatory, where Clara briefly encounters an oddly familiar young man. In another, while the Doctor constructs a micro-artron detector to help them track their progress, Clara encounters a late-evening office worker named Randall Brown, who has no time for her at all. A third takes them to 1992 Scotland, where the TARDIS promptly locks them out—until they help a stranded motorist named Gavin Bellini. Clara starts to see a pattern in their stops, and snaps a picture of Gavin with the strangely-oblivious Doctor…
Cardiff, 2013: The zombie apocalypse is on, despite the Doctor’s dour insistence that he’s never done this before (a lie, I might add—see my recent review for White Darkness). The TARDIS lands at a World Health Organization facility, where a few survivors wait. The Doctor ultimately leaves Clara secured in the TARDIS while he impersonates a more traditional doctor—a WHO Doctor, one might say (though Clara is having none of that!). Another place, but not far off in time: Windsor Gardens, 2017, the Doctor impersonates a Mr. Curry to get close to a strange, anthropomorphic bear…which is decidedly not of alien origin. A surge of guilt, courtesy of Clara, makes him rethink his plan, and the duo withdraw. Back to Derbyshire, 1988, where they are accosted by a young man in traditional Scottish garb, desperately seeking a set of bagpipes, much to the Doctor’s disgust—and Clara’s astonishment that the young man’s face is not familiar to the Doctor.
The TARDIS seems to be growing tired—if that is possible—as it takes them to Paris, the 1600s. And yet it’s not Paris outside when the door opens; rather, it’s Prague, 2013—but with a rather large number of people in 1600s period dress. Perhaps the TARDIS is confused? As it turns out, it’s a film shoot, for a new version of The Three Musketeers. Clara is distracted by the filming as the Doctor encounters the actor who plays Cardinal Richelieu…and criticizes his appearance. Doctor to the end! But at any rate, the TARDIS pulls itself together for another trip. This time, it travels to Rome, 1st Century A.D., where it lands in a rather colorful villa. The Doctor stays inside to work on the TARDIS while Clara has a look around; but she is stunned to see a man with not only an approximation of the Doctor’s face and voice, but exactly the same face and voice! As soon as she is free, she races back to the TARDIS, but before she can take the Doctor to look, the TARDIS lurches into motion again.
2010 London finds the Doctor sitting in the office of a man who looks just like him…a spin doctor named Malcolm Tucker. He plays the role reasonably well, just oddly enough to confuse Malcolm’s coworkers as he quizzes them on events of the last two weeks. Not coincidentally, that’s how long the TARDIS has been present; but it is not the only alien presence in the area—and why is everyone getting strange headaches? Why are there new security updates on every computer first thing each morning? Still, he only has a little time to work here, as Clara keeps the real (and rather abrasive) Malcolm Tucker busy. He’s nearly successful; but he is found out by one of the coworkers, Sam, who recognizes him for his profound lackof swearing—did I mention that Malcolm could be abrasive? He confides in her that the government—perhaps all the way up to Downing Street, where there is currently an unusually high concentration of artron energy—has a virus, and not only the computers, but the individuals, are being affected. As he prepares to wage war on the virus, Sam throws in her lot with him.
Fans of Capaldi’s long and storied career will have no doubt caught on long ago to what is happening in this story. I was not so lucky; I grew up in the US, and never heard of Peter Capaldi until he was selected to be the Twelfth Doctor. I still am unfamiliar with most of his work (though I’ve picked up a bit of The Thick of It, which is remarkable and fun and too vulgar to watch with the kids, meaning I don’t get to watch it often). As a consequence it took me about three or four scenes to realize what was happening. That’s not a complaint about the presentation; it’s more a lament about my own lack of foreknowledge.
I’ve presented the scenes in a certain order above; but that’s only a concession to the summary format, and it is almost certainly the wrong order. Each “path” through the story is about four scenes long, and some endings can be reached in different ways. Because this story is a tribute to various roles, none of the scenes dig deep in terms of plot; they pass quickly. Likewise, none of the endings seem like traditional endings; rather, every scene and ending feels like the jumping-off point for a new adventure. Indeed, I’d be thrilled to see fanfiction writers (or professional writers, for that matter, in other charity projects) pick up these threads and run with them; some of them, especially the scene with Malcolm Tucker and the “zombie apocalypse” scene, seem especially promising, and I’d love to see where they go!
But, none of that is necessary here, because this is a tribute rather than a single story—and a great tribute it is, as well. The story serves as a tribute not only to the various roles, but also and especially to the Twelfth Doctor. The characterization and dialogue are spot on; Clara, especially, is as witty as ever, the Doctor as socially awkward and overbearing as ever. I’ve been uncharitable to Clara in the past; but this is early-stage Clara (the story, based on descriptions, seems to fit best in early Series 8), when she’s still very likeable, before tragedy strikes in the form of the doomed Danny Pink.
What stands out most of all, though, is the artwork. The range of styles is impressive; the sheer number of artist contributors caught me off guard. I’ve included a few—those connected to the story, and those most relevant to Doctor Who, but the zine is worth picking up simply for the art. (I don’t have room to credit every artist here individually, but I have tried to do so with the selections I’ve featured here.)
Overall: I didn’t know what to expect, this being my first experience with this type of work. I was pleasantly surprised. Moon Man is an entertaining story, accompanied by a phenomenal set of illustrations, and it’s worth adding to anyone’s collection. Check it out!
Moon Man, a charity zine tribute to Peter Capaldi, may be purchased here. All proceeds go to support the Glasgow School of Art. Thanks to Ginger Hoesly and her talented group of artists for putting this project together!