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Comic Book / Doctor Who: Four Doctors

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"We're all going to have some sort of 'Multi-Doctor... Event!' Whether you like it or not!"
The Twelfth Doctor

Four Doctors is a Titan Comics Doctor Who mini-series, featuring the Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, and War Doctors. The series was written by Paul Cornell and drawn by Neil Edwards. It was published in 2015 as a celebration of the tenth anniversary of the revival of Doctor Who as a TV series.

The Tenth Doctor and Gabby, the Eleventh Doctor and Alice, and the Twelfth Doctor and Clara have all arrived in early-twenty-first-century Paris, in what appears to be a coincidence. But when Clara mysteriously gathers all the companions together to ensure that the three Doctors must never meet, fate seems determined to foil her hopes. Who are the villains behind it all?

The Four Doctors miniseries include the following tropes:

  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: The Doctor strokes Clara's cheek, foreshadowing Clara's go-to way of showing the Twelfth Doctor affection in the televised Series 9.
  • Alternate Self: Alternate versions of Ten, Eleven and Twelve appear based on different decisions they made in their lives:
    • Ten: Refused to save Wilfred and became a mad tyrant over time and space.
    • Eleven: Let River save his life and married her, thus letting the universe collapse.
    • Twelve: After Clara betrayed him in some way (possibly her blackmail attempt in "Dark Water"), became a recluse and refused to allow anyone to come close to him again, eventually becoming the leader of the Voord...and the story's Big Bad.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Twelve fights his alternate self by entering the Voord Group Mind. To assist help he pulls the other Doctors and his companions in.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: The mentioned alternates. Ten assumes the Time Lord Victorious persona, Eleven willfully ignores the collapsing timeline, and Twelve becomes the Big Bad.
  • Big Bad: Turns out to be an evil alternate universe Twelfth Doctor.
  • Call-Back: Twelve attempts to take authority by holding his lapels.
    Ten: Don't do the lapels thing. You can't order us around just by doing the lapels thing.
    Twelve: You can't handle the lapels thing!
  • Call-Forward: Events from "The End of Time" and "The Wedding of River Song" are referenced in the alternate timelines. None of the main three Doctors have experienced them yet. It's also possible that the third alternate timeline hinges on diverging from the events of "Dark Water".
  • The Cameo:
    • The War Doctor's appearance is only a brief cameo, despite fan assumptions. (The actual main "Fourth Doctor" of the comic is the Big Bad, an evil Twelfth Doctor from an alternate timeline.)
    • In the final issue, The Ninth Doctor and Rose are happily having a drink together while the other three Doctors look on.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Eleven's comics, which bridge the events of the final two issues.
  • Clock Roaches: Thanks to Never the Selves Shall Meet, Ten and Twelve touching summons the Reapers.
  • Continuity Nod: The cafe is in the 1920s, the same era imitated by the Orient Express spaceship. So naturally Clara wears her hair the same way ('20s Bob Haircut) as on that adventure.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The black-clad Doctor who regards "Slytherin" as a compliment does not do a whole lot to convince the others that he's not, for example, the Valeyard.
  • Dirty Coward: The Twelfth Doctor initially regards his alternate universe self as this, seeing as he decided not only to reject Clara after she betrayed him, but became a hermit unwilling to make emotional connections with anyone else. It turns out that he's become something even worse since then, having joined up with the Voord.
  • Evil Me Scares Me:
    • In another timeline, the Twelfth Doctor became the leader of the Voord.
    • Another timeline is shown where the Tenth Doctor has become a dictator, "the Time Lord Victorious".
    • In a variation, one of the alternate timelines reveals that Clara will betray Twelve at some point in the normal one. She does not actually meet her future self, but she does see what her betrayal does to the alternate Doctor, and is understandably distressed by this. Also counts as Future Me Scares Me.
  • Exact Words: Although the War Doctor only appears in Part One, it was promised there would still be a fourth Doctor in the action, as per the story title of "Four Doctors". Evil version of the Twelfth Doctor, anyone? Also, Nine gets a cameo at the end, so the story ends up including all four numbered Doctors of the revival series.
  • Foreshadowing: Issue 5 was published shortly after Series 9 launched on TV (it was supposed to hit the stands before "The Magician's Apprentice" aired, in fact). Twelve and Clara's conversation in the denouement of this miniseries has him tell her he would never mind wipe her. This turned out to tragically foreshadow the Doctor attempting to wipe all her memories of him, and ultimately losing his memories of her instead, in "Hell Bent". His determination not to live in the past and move towards the future is also sadder in hindsight as his grief after her death triggers an attempt to bring her back from the dead and proves something he can't fully move past without that mind wipe.
  • Future Me Scares Me: Ten doesn't know where Twelve can fit in, given he thinks he only has one life left at the time.
    Ten: Whatever (Twelve) is, this is wrong. This is an abomination.
    Twelve: Dalek word. Nice.
  • Hates Being Alone: The alternate version of Twelve has been alone for a very long time, having severed ties with Clara for an unspecified betrayal. He finally becomes so desperate for companions that he winds up falling in with the Voord.
  • Hive Mind: The Voord, and the alternate 12th Doctor.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Apparently, no matter the timeline, no matter the circumstances, the Ninth Doctor, unlike the Doctors that followed, can only ever be himself. Or, as 10 puts it, he can only ever be fantastic.
  • It's All My Fault: An unusual variant: Clara feels terribly guilty upon realizing that at some point in her future, she will betray the Doctor, and even more so when it turns out that her alternate universe self doing that set that world's Twelfth Doctor on an evil path, resulting in the present crisis. Twelve gently comforts her over this.
  • Loners Are Freaks: The Big Bad is what would happen if the Twelfth Doctor stopped taking on companions.
  • Make Wrong What Once Went Right: The Big Bad, an alternate universe Twelfth Doctor who has realized his timeline isn't meant to be, has a plan to turn Twelve into him by rewriting the real timeline.
  • Near-Villain Victory: The Big Bad is busy memory wiping and/or brainwashing the heroes into setting up the events that will allow their evil scheme to move forward at the end of Part Four, but thanks to what happens in the Cliffhanger of Part Five the meeting of the Doctors at the cafe goes in a completely different direction, meaning the evil plot doesn't even get this far.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Ten and Twelve touching causes the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, allowing the Reapers to attack.
  • Never Trust a Title: The story features four doctors: Ten, Eleven, Twelve, and War... but War is only peripherally involved with the plot (accidentally setting the Voord up as the bad guys). Of course, you might think of the alternate Twelve as the fourth one.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: The Voord have always been one of the franchise's less memorable villains. This story reveals that they became a genuine threat during the Time War and in fact their actions in this story are an attempt to ensure they stay that way.
  • Only Sane Man: Compared to Ten and Twelve, Eleven somehow is the sanest.
    Eleven: I think I might actually win a "least silly Doctor" contest.
    Alice: Weirdly...yeah.
  • The Paragon: Surprisingly enough, the Ninth Doctor is portrayed as this. In the finale of the book, it's mentioned that he wasn't involved in Alternate Twelve and the Voord's plan because the Time War weapon they used couldn't find even a single timeline where Nine was anything except "absolutely fantastic", unlike his successors and their various nightmarish Alternate Selves the weapon could conjure up.
  • Redemption Equals Death: In Part Five, the Doctors and companions — Clara in particular — convince the evil alternate Twelve to give up his existence in a way that saves both the original timeline and the Voord.
  • Ret-Gone: The Voord have removed themselves from the Universe, meaning they cannot be remembered, as they fear the Time Lords will return them to how they were. By the end, they have been regressed to how they were before the Time War.
  • Sadistic Choice: Ten, Eleven and Twelve get caught in the radius of a Time War weapon that rewrites the timeline of anyone caught in it, usually for the worse. However, the device wasn't meant to be used against more than one incarnation of the same Time Lord, so it goes haywire, showing the three Doctors horrible possibilities for their own futures - Ten as the Time Lord Victorious, Eleven placidly ignoring the death of the Universe as long as he can have his personal peace, and Twelve a crazy hermit stewing in Clara's "betrayal". They realize that they can short out the machine by making contact with one of their alternates and joining them, and Twelve reluctantly concedes his own future seems to be the least horrible of the bunch, so he takes everyone with him as he touches him. The crazy Twelfth Doctor counted on this.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Part Five has Gabby sent into the past by a Weeping Angel, allowing her to warn the companions about what will happen at and after the Doctors' cafe meeting. From here, the heroes are able to take events in a different direction.
  • Shout-Out:
    Clara: I know this meeting didn't happen. That even though time can be rewritten-
    Ten: -this is a fixed point in time. One point to the girl from Gryffindor.
    Twelve: Oh, baloney! She's Slytherin all the way.
    • Twelve describes Ten and Eleven as "Baby Doctor" and "Posh Doctor", and says that they think of him as "Scary Doctor" - a reference to the nicknames of the Spice Girls.
    • One of the comedy back-up stories has the Doctors involved in versions of three famous broadcast sketches: the "class sketch" from The Frost Report, Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First", and the "dead parrot sketch" from Monty Python's Flying Circus.
  • Stable Time Loop: At the top of Part Five, Gabby is sent back in time by a Weeping Angel hidden in a package, enabling her to give the companions advice which they relay to the Doctors. After they've defeated the alternate 12, 11 finds the right Weeping Angel and leaves the package for Gabby. Rather oddly, due to this the timeline where Gabby is sent back doesn't occur!
  • Stepford Smiler: The alternate version of Eleven lives in wedded bliss with River Song, willfully ignorant of time and space crumbling around him.
  • The Symbiote: The effects of the Time War have evolved the Voord from basically being people in wet suits to Symbiotes from Marvel in all but name. The only difference is the lack of Shapeshifter Weapons.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Very much so, with a lot of shifting between alternate timelines, and Gabby being able to change history due to something that was done in the timeline she creates via this.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Cornell sets himself the task of reintroducing one of the TV show's most notoriously underwhelming villain cultures, and making them a genuine threat.
  • Victory-Guided Amnesia: As a result of preventing the alternate 12 from coming into being, the Doctors and companions forget this, though 12 and Clara still retain some memories.
  • The Unreveal: The characters and reader do not learn what Clara did to betray the Twelfth Doctor. Given the televised continuity and some of alternate 12's dialogue, it is most likely the TARDIS keys incident in "Dark Water", which takes place after this story's events (alternate Twelve says "I told her to go to Hell...and she did"), but it is not confirmed. Nor do we ever learn what happened to Clara in that alternate timeline.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The alternate version of Ten decides that his capacity to help people justified any cost necessary to keep himself alive. After leaving Wilf to die in that radiation booth, he becomes a tyrant who embraces the title "Time Lord Victorious"
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Big Bad turns out to be an alternate universe's Twelfth Doctor so hurt by Clara betraying him that he stopped taking on companions, and became a lonely hermit. He finally found companionship with the Voord, but then realized his timeline was never meant to be the true one; desperate to live, he decides to find a way to rewrite it.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Clara attempts to prevent the meeting of Doctors from happening by telling Alice and Gabby to convince their Doctors to leave Paris before they can meet. She didn't count on Twelve learning her plan, meeting Ten and Eleven outside, and them all barging in on their meeting!