Monstrous Beauty was a Doctor Who Magazine comic story that served as their entry in the multi-medium Time Lord Victorious story arc, serving as the Ninth Doctor's introduction into the arc. The comic is also notable for introducing a female incarnation of Rassilon.
The strip marked a number of things in an out-of-universe sense: it saw the Ninth Doctor's return to a DWM comic strip since his last regular appearance in A Groatsworth of Wit, and also saw the DWM return of Rose Tyler since her last regular appearance in The Green-Eyed Monster. It was also the first strip in just under two decades to not star the concurrent incarnation of the Doctor (excluding stories where the Doctor does not appear at all). Finally, it marked the end of the main comic strip's first hiatus brought about by the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first chapter of the story is unique in that it was not published within the magazine itself, but in a supplementary publication released alongside it.
As the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler walk across a dark and barren rocky planetoid surface, Rose quips that she assumes they have not visited Rio de Janeiro's first-ever Mardi Gras. As the Doctor admits he is unsure where they are, Rose notices him trembling. The Doctor thinks something about the place is making his skin crawl and that they should just go back to the TARDIS, shocking Rose as she is grateful for the peaceful surroundings.
Meanwhile, on a spaceship above the planet's surface, the pilot focuses on the Doctor and Rose, wondering who they are. A woman standing nearby orders them to head down and investigate. On the surface, the Doctor and Rose discover a huge mining operation, with the Doctor explaining how all the machines are equipped with sonic baffles to make them silent. However, they are interrupted by the ship, which tractor beams them up and keeps them suspended above the ground. The woman from the ship points a gun at them, calling them under arrest for trespassing on a shadow planetoid. The Doctor brandishes his psychic paper, claiming they are mining inspectors, but nothing is displayed to the woman. Instead, she threatens them with her staser, piquing the Doctor's interest.
Back on the planetoid, the woman and two guards lead the Doctor and Rose into a gleaming high-tech lab built into the rock wall, ordering an old man called Medicus Androkan to perform blood tests on the prisoners to see if they are aliens. Although sceptical and apologetic, Androkan does so, confirming that the Doctor and Rose are from two different alien species. Quietly, the Doctor gets a bad feeling and chooses not to tell the truth until he works out what is going on. As the woman and Androkan argue over how they have both changed ways since the war, she starts threatening Rose but is interrupted by red warning lights and the announcement of an imminent aerial attack. As all fighters move out, the woman commander's name is revealed - Rassilon, greatly shocking the Doctor. She leaves and the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to escape, apologising to Androkan.
Escaping into the ensuing chaos, the Doctor realises he was so desperate to leave because he has visited his own history, explaining to Rose how these people in the Dark Times will become Time Lords in the future. Suddenly, the Doctor discovers they are fighting the Cucurbites - millions of living spaceships that can suck entire planets of their blood, just like vampires, although Rose is unconvinced that they could exist even in this era. However, as she talks, she is snatched away by a giant vampire bat, leaving the Doctor alone.
While the Doctor stares in the direction of where Rose was taken, he notices a Gallifreyan ship crash and he rescues the occupant, taking care not to mention his name. Using the ship's tech, he wires up a noise frequency that the echolocating Cucurbites will hate. Giving it a boost with the sonic, it sends them all away, though he is quick to point out he could only do it thanks to his "20-20 hindsight."
Later that night, the Doctor sneaks past security to have a talk directly with Androkan. He notes how his ship and his friend have both been taken and he needs help, but Androkan is more interested in the Doctor's biology. The Doctor criticises this, but Androkan replies that he has seen mountains of his people still and unthinking and is desperate to change it since the Vampire Alliance exposed them to "the Ultimate". Another word for this new phenomenon, Androkan explains, is "death". The Doctor apologises that he cannot fix that, but gives him the chance to save Rose and the others instead.
Meanwhile, Rose wakes up groggy in a gothic four-poster bed in what appears to be a large dark castle, with the vampire bat watching her. As she gets to her feet, she is greeted by a robed, white-skinned figure with pronounced canines, calling himself Friar Grystok. Thanking his bat that he names Hugo for his find, Grystok praises Rose's looks while wondering what exactly she is - he has never heard of humans. Just then, a similar-looking young woman called Centia enters and Grystok instructs her to find a white gown for Rose to change into as he leaves. Although Rose is not interested, Centia begs her to change or she will be disciplined.
Elsewhere, Androkan leads the Doctor to Rassilon's flier, with the Doctor sonicking his way in. However, the two are immediately greeted at gunpoint by Rassilon herself. She calls Androkan a traitor and points out how she is trying to save her race from "alien filth" like the Doctor, forcing him to explain how his box works or she will kill them both.
The newly changed Rose is led off by Hugo to his mistresses, the Three Mad Sisters - supposedly royalty who rule the area and use their madness to "[elevate] their minds to a higher plane". Rose meets them, finding three women - one old, one adult, and one young - with their bodies, hair and clothes entirely in white. Despite being told not to speak unless spoken to, Rose interrupts Grystok's fawning to demand an apology and to put her back with the Doctor, but the sisters are obsessed with seeing a human for the first time. Ganging up on Rose and clutching at her, Grystok gleefully claims that "dinner is served."
Rassilon continues interrogating the Doctor about the TARDIS, but he calls it junk compared to her ship, leaping at the launch controls to demonstrate his point. With the ship accelerating vertically, the Doctor promises to stabilise it but opens up the tractor funnel instead, sending Rassilon and her two guards back to solid ground slowly enough to not kill them.
Androkan worries that Rassilon will execute him when she catches up to them, but the Doctor tells him not to worry. Leaving the planetoid, the Doctor plans to track Rose's phone to find her amidst the vampires' cloaking technology, but they find themselves among a swarm of Cucurbites. However, the Doctor transmits info to confuse them into accepting the ship as one of them. He admits to Androkan that he has had "a scrape" with a Cucurbite once, leaving Androkan suspicious at how much he knows. Realising how close the Doctor's biology is to Gallifreyans, he guesses that the Doctor is the future of their species, and he admits it on the basis that he does not tell anyone else. Androkan laughs that nobody would believe him anyway and takes the Doctor's presence as proof of a good future for Gallifrey. Stoic, the Doctor does not respond.
Soon after, their ship reaches the castle where Rose is held, revealed to be a coffin ship floating in space. While these are only legends in the Doctor's time, Androkan explains how "countless worlds" have been terrorised by them thanks to the Vampire Alliance. Landing in the coffin ship by masking their own ship as a hungry Cucurbite, the Doctor plans to reach some kind of data centre to find Rose. Instead, he and Androkan stumble upon a huge labour camp, with dozens of vampires of many different species being forced to mine for what the Gallifreyans were looking for - thorocite that can power their fusion reactors - while being threatened with a loss of blood if they stop.
Observing this, a guard spots them and they run away. The Doctor slows down to keep up with Androkan, but he is punched out of nowhere by one of three male vampire leaders. Named Drogann, he explains that their life-signs made them easy targets since they stepped on board, but he does not understand how they did, leading the Doctor to realise they need to be kept alive for the answers. Although another of the leaders, named Korsta, attempts to bite into the Doctor's neck, Drogann stops him, and the Doctor thanks him as he and Androkan are led away.
The trio of vampires marches the Doctor and Androkan to Grystok, where the Doctor asks to see Rose. However, Grystok is more interested in finding another new species in the Doctor, though he is much less impressed with Androkan as a "common Gallifreyan". As a result, he sticks his hand on Androkan's neck, killing him almost instantly as he dies in the Doctor's arms. Grystok then leads the Doctor to the Three Mad Sisters, only to find them all collapsed in a heap on the floor, overwhelmed by the strength of Rose. Hearing Rose's voice sounding different from across the room, the Doctor fears the worst. His terrors are confirmed when Rose appears as a blood-stained vampire, lunging at the Doctor, teeth bared, with the threat that he can no longer save her or kill her.
The Doctor desperately attempts to make Rose see sense, but she just says that she is starving and continues to attack him. Although he apologises for everything, she still tackles him to the ground. Meanwhile, Grystok, furious at how Rose has left the Three Mad Sisters "barely unalive", orders Drogann to kill her, but they are all flung into the air as the coffin ship is struck by dozens of lasers from unknown enemy ships.
Inside one of the brand-new bowships are the "Space Lords" of Gallifrey, led by Captain Drusa and Rassilon. However, the attacking Cucurbites are joined by Hugo, flying through space to destroy the ships. With Rose distracted, the Doctor takes his chance to send her to sleep, whereupon he is joined by Centia who wishes to help him as thanks for Rose's kindness. With Hugo making dents in the Gallifreyan forces, Drusa fires "thoracite arrows" at him, killing him and infuriating Grystok. He reiterates to Drogann how he should be killing Rose, but he refuses on the basis that his crew comes first.
Meanwhile, Drusa asks Rassilon how she got past the vampires' shroud technology. She explains that the Doctor's masking of the ship also activated a tracking beacon of hers and that she wants the ship back. On the coffin ship, the Doctor, accompanied by Centia, carries Rose back to Rassilon's ship via a short-cut, but they are interrupted by Drogann who also took one of his own. As the Doctor wonders why Drogann has not used his sword on them yet, guessing that he wants them alive, Drogann claims he does not need it and attacks with his fists instead. The Doctor’s counterattacks are ineffective, however, and he is quickly pinned to the wall, staring at Drogann's dagger while claiming he could help save him and everyone else on the ship. However, Drogann is interrupted by the reappearance of Grystok, urging him to kill the intruders so they can hurry and escape. Upon being called a "witless barbarian", Drogann makes up his mind and throws the dagger at Grystok, hitting him square in the chest and sending him plummeting to his demise. As Drogann claims he has waited 300 years for that, the Doctor thanks him and hands him a phial of purple liquid.
On the bowship, two Gallifreyans inform Rassilon that the Doctor has escaped in her ship again but has also light-jumped so it can no longer be followed. However, the coffin ship and the Cucurbites have also evacuated, leaving the Space Lords the victors. Rassilon, however, is more interested in swearing that one day, she will meet the mysterious traveller again.
Meanwhile, Centia asks the Doctor why Drogann spared them. The Doctor explains that he gave him a synthetic substitute for the plasma-fluid that the slave vampires on the ship were being rationed on, created thanks to Androkan's blood test of Rose. As it can replicate itself, it will only take a few days to provide as much energy to the slaves as they need, allowing them to soon overthrow their captors. It will help Rose as well but on a lot longer time scale. As the Doctor says this, Rose closes her eyes, taking one last look at his worried face.
A long time later, Rose wakes up to see the Doctor looking down at her again, now with a hint of a smile. However, he is also scuffed and bruised, with his hair slightly dishevelled, jumper changed, and leather jacket battered. Weak but back to normal on a synth-blood IV drip, Rose realises they have moved, and the Doctor explains they have hidden away on a small shack on a nearby quiet moon. Although admitting he was briefly worried about Rose, the Doctor does not explain why he looks like he "had a fight with a lawn mower", but he gifts her a present: a tiny potted plant he has named Hector Junior. After jokingly calling him a cheapskate, the two hug. As they do, Centia arrives, carrying laundry. The Doctor and Rose both note how different she looks with her freedom.
With Rose getting her energy back, the trio leaves the shack to see Rassilon's ship and the TARDIS parked outside. Taking Centia's hands, the Doctor says he has programmed directions back to Drogann into the ship, but he recommends her seeing a bit of the universe first. She thanks him and they part. Carrying Hector Junior, Rose apologises for everything, but the Doctor reiterates how it is his fault. Despite this, he promises it will soon feel just like a bad dream. Rose jokes how, now she knows vampires are real, werewolves should be next, as she and the Doctor walk hand in hand back to the TARDIS.
- Ninth Doctor
- Rose Tyler
- Medicus Androkan
- Friar Grystok
- Three Mad Sisters
- The Doctor sarcastically claims to have 20-20 hindsight.
- Both the Space Lords and the vampires are mining for thorocite.
- A vampire guard threatens that the next slave to slow down on the mining will lose a day's worth of plasma ration.
- A dazed Rose calls for her mother.
- The Doctor and Rose were attempting to reach Rio de Janeiro to see the first-ever Mardi Gras.
- Rose once went on a school trip to Derbyshire.
- The mining outfit uses sonic baffles to conceal the noise of the machinery.
- Rassilon traps the Doctor and Rose in a tractor sphere.
- Rassilon threatens the Doctor with a staser.
- The Doctor and Rose are taken to the solace bay.
- The Doctor and Rose are forced to take a blood test.
- The Cucurbite navigate by sound.
- The Doctor believes that the lack of recognition of his DNA indicates that the Time Lords have not yet become genetically connected to time. Indeed, at this time, they're known as Space Lords.
What did you learn, when you
felt the first wind on your face?
When the warmth of the first
dawn touched your skin?
What did you lose, when the first flower
withered and the first sea dried?
What did you take with you
and what did you leave behind?
Original print details
- (Publication with page count and closing captions)
- DWM 556 supplement (20 pages): Continued in DWM #557
- DWM 557 (8 pages): Next: Death in the Stars!
- DWM 558 (8 pages): The end
- Rose knows that the Time Lords are all dead in the present day. (TV: The End of the World)
- The Doctor and Rose were trying to reach Rio de Janeiro. The Ninth Doctor had previously visited Rio alone. (PROSE: Rose)
- The Vampires' arsenal includes Cucurbites, which the Doctor remembers encountering before. (COMIC: Tooth and Claw)
- The Doctor tries to distract Rassilon by claiming he acquired his TARDIS in a junkyard. (TV: An Unearthly Child)
- Drogann says he serves the the Great One. (TV: State of Decay)
- The Doctor remarks about returning home "the long way 'round". (TV: The Day of the Doctor, Heaven Sent)
- As they return to the TARDIS, Rose remarks at how she still cannot believe that vampires are real, before flippantly asking if Werewolves are real too. She would later encounter a Lupine Wavelength Haemovariform, a species that resemble werewolves, with the Tenth Doctor. (TV: Tooth and Claw)