With a new season of “Doctor Who” set to debut April 23 on BBC America and BBC One — the second series to feature Matt Smith in the title role — IDW Publishing has a few shocks and surprises of its own for the Eleventh Doctor’s recently-relaunched ongoing series. Writer Tony Lee is joined by “Fables” and “Miracleman” artist Mark Buckingham for a done-in-one story about great moments in football (soccer) history in May’s “Doctor Who” #5, then regular artist Matthew Dow Smith returns in #6 for a three-issue arc spanning many eras and worlds. CBR News spoke with Lee about his high-energy plans for the Doctor, Amy and Rory.
After the conclusion of the Tenth Doctor’s ongoing series last year, also written by Lee, the series relaunched in January with the new cast in the spotlight. The first issue was a one-off story that saw the TARDIS bring all of Amy and Rory’s spam emails to life, and a three-issue story pitting the Doctor’s wits against Jack the Ripper is now in progress. Continuing this pattern, “Doctor Who” #5 will be another inter-arc tale set during the 1966 World Cup final, at which England defeated West Germany at London’s Wembley Stadium — or at least that’s where the Doctor and company mean to go before things go awry. Lee said the idea to visit the historic match is “very much the Doctor’s. He’s been a fan of football for several of his incarnations — I remember a Fourth Doctor episode where he’s holding a football rattle — and in ‘Doctor Who: The Forgotten’ I even have the Ninth Doctor’s story set during the famous World War I Christmas football match between the English and the German armies,” Lee explained.
“The Doctor at this stage is still showing Amy and Rory everything that he loves about space and time — remember, this ‘season’ of ‘Doctor Who’ is set before the upcoming TV series, so it’s able to bounce around all over the place and we thought it’d be a fun story for the Doctor to take them to Wembley — and then find that there was a problem…”
Though the Doctor eternally goes where he is needed, fans know that he also spends a good amount of his travels as a tourist, and Lee said that is his only angle in taking Amy and Rory to the Cup final. “He wants to watch it. Possibly again. Who knows how many incarnations of him are sitting in the stands?”
Lee said that, far from having the opportunity to enjoy England’s first World Cup victory, the Doctor, Amy and Rory are “completely derailed,” and “only make the match in the final page.” The adventure, though, was inspired by the history of the area, the writer told CBR. “The story came about while I was reading a book on Underground Station names. I have a lot of books like this around the house, anything that might help me somewhere — so this one gave the origins of all the names of stations, and I remember seeing that the name ‘Wembley’ came from ‘Wemba’s Lea’, or ‘The Clearing owned by Wemba.’ Immediately the idea of the Doctor arriving here came to me, and I started playing around with some ideas. The World Cup was on and a lot of the USA were suddenly enjoying ‘Soccer’ and I think this helped me pitch the plan to Denton [Tipton, IDW’s ‘Doctor Who’ editor] about the Doctor taking Rory and Amy to Wembley and finding themselves a thousand years earlier.
“While researching the timezone, I found also that the area which would one day become Wembley was a fiercely contested land between the Mercians under Alfred the Great and the invading Vikings,” Lee continued. “So suddenly I had Vikings in Wembley!
“Suffice to say I pretty much have the Doctor and his gang finding themselves derailed from the very start, finding themselves immediately caught up in a political web of intrigue as an alliance is made between the Anglo Saxons and the Vikings…”
Even in the Doctor’s historical-based adventures, aliens and other mystical creatures sometimes crop up, but Lee said that the challenges the Doctor and his companions confront in the issue will be “very human ones.” “Wemba, the chieftain of the land, is trying his best to keep it from Viking raiders, and as the Doctor arrives the Vikings are arriving to make peace and discuss a truce. Of course, there’s a change in the plan, the Vikings lose their chieftain and as punishment and payment they kidnap Wemba’s wife and Amy, who the chieftain’s son has a bit of a crush on. To get her back, Rory has to challenge the Vikings to a duel, one that the Doctor manages to manipulate…”
Since at least the era of the Ninth Doctor, we know the Doctor can dance, and in Series 5 fans saw his skill at the Beautiful Game, which Lee suggested would play a role in his story, as well. “In last season’s ‘The Lodger,’ we see his knobbly knees in all their glory — and Matt Smith’s quite a good footballer in real life, so it seemed like a nice touch to have the duel become a penalty shootout, with the Vikings cheating and the Doctor screwing with their minds — and in the end more comes out in the duel than expected!”
As to what makes guest artist Mark Buckingham a good fit for this sort of story, Lee said, “Mark’s a good fit for a story of any sort. And we’ve been trying to get this together since ‘Doctor Who: The Forgotten’ came out.”
Lee added, “Mark’s a massive ‘Doctor Who’ fan, and also a longtime acquaintance and friend, so when we heard that he wanted to do this, IDW snapped him up immediately. Unfortunately, his Vertigo work commitments meant that it took years until he could free up enough time to do something with me — and the moment I heard that he was ready, I knew that this had to be the story. He’s as quintessentially English as you can get, even if he lives abroad now. I just know that he had a blast with the football scenes!
“Having seen the pages, Mark has an eye for the characters. The dialogue pages are beautiful, the action vibrant. He really is deserving of every accolade and award he’s achieved, and I’d love to work with him again sometime!”
After the Doctor and his companions escape from the eleventh century, the three-part “When Worlds Collide” arc begins with “Doctor Who” #6. “There’s a talking dinosaur called Kevin. No, really,” Lee told CBR. “Basically, I wanted to do some kind of ‘Westworld’ story and involve Sontarans, and when I heard that this was where Matthew Dow Smith would be jumping back on, I knew that I had to throw as much insanity that I could think of into it, purely to screw with his mind. The Doctor goes to a rift-world pleasure planet called ‘Multiworld’ that is actually four complexes, each one a nanosecond out of phase with each other. While there a Sontaran fighter with about five soldiers crashes, the radiation from their ship affecting the rift, and suddenly all the worlds — Jurassic world, Cowboy world, Nazi France world, Arabian Nights world — all these worlds merge into one hideous mess, and the Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves split apart and hunting the TARDIS while being chased by alternate versions of the Sontarans, now trapped in the system too. So we have Arabian Nights Sontarans, the Western outlaw Sonny Taran, Gestapo soldiers with potato heads… the list goes on.
“I have cowboys riding dinosaurs fighting Nazi Sontarans flying on magic carpets — and it actually links to my 2006 ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ story, ‘F.A.Q.’
“I don’t want to spoil too much but I can honestly say that the end of issue #7 cliffhanger is something I never expected the BBC to allow me to do, and is more insane than anything I’ve done to date — and I had all ten Doctors meeting in ‘The Forgotten,'” Lee continued. “We have a twist at the end of #8 that leads into a four-page Annual story and then #9’s a Ben Templesmith-drawn ‘Space Squid’ story…”
In addition to a new incarnation of the Doctor appearing last season, showrunner Steven Moffat took over from producer Russell T. Davies, who was responsible for relaunching the British sci-fi series in 2005. The Moffat-helmed Who seems particularly interested in fancy dress (costumes), notably Amy’s policewoman outfit and Rory’s Roman garb. Lee’s “When Worlds Collide” arc continues this trend, with the paradise rift-world promising tourists can “Be a cowboy! A Roman! A knight!” “Well, I have them in a lot of costumes in ‘When Worlds Collide,'” Lee said of the Doctor’s companions. “In fact, I use all of those at one point or another.”
However, Lee admitted that the costumes are not a prime motivator for his stories. “I don’t think the costume is important to the story, but it can move it in different directions. For example, if Rory is walking down a 21st Century street dressed as a Roman, he’s going to walk a different path than if he wore his usual clothes. If he wore his nurse scrubs, he’d be treated even differently. Clothes maketh the man — but not their story.
“But we use a lot of fancy dress. And dinosaurs named Kevin.”