Friday at New York Comic Con, IDW Publishing announced that its relaunched “Doctor Who” ongoing series will begin in January, written by longtime “Who” scribe Tony Lee. The current series, which stars the tenth incarnation of the Doctor and takes place just before the 2009 specials that saw popular actor David Tennant wrap up his tenure as a Time Lord, concludes October 13 with issue #16. The January-launching title will feature the Eleventh Doctor, played on television by Matt Smith, and his time-traveling companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams. CBR News spoke with writer Tony Lee about what’s in store for the new series, the artists that will be joining him on the title and what sets Smith’s Doctor apart.
Asked whether the new series takes place in the period after the Eleventh Doctor’s debut season or at some other time, Lee confirmed that events in the comic occur after the Doctor’s time in the Pandorica. “It’s [set] pretty much after the [fifth] series, possibly after the [next] Christmas Special, as it comes out in January. I might have to check that, though,” Lee said. “Rory and Amy are recently married, the Doctor has a whole new universe to examine and a whole new load of problems to solve.
“We discussed setting it during [Eleven’s] first season, but we had the same problem that we encountered when I did the Tenth Doctor comic – that is, putting a story in a set time that everyone knows has been and gone removes any drama. Martha Jones is in trouble! No she’s not – we all know she goes off and marries Mickey Smith. What will Donna do now! Well, actually she’ll go and forget everything. No chance to really build a cliffhanger. We played with this in ‘The Forgotten’ where we had everyone believe we were mid-way through the third season and then bang zoom we were pulling back the curtain and going ‘surprise! It’s right before the specials!’ and we pushed it even further with the ongoing series where we brought in two brand new companions just to screw with the readers – and anyone who’s read the final issue will know just how much leeway we were given there!
“So with this we’re current. As you buy the comic in January, it’s set in the right moment. And, each story is self contained, so you can either class it as ‘Season 5.5’ or scatter them throughout season six.”
On the subject of companions, Lee added, “Just because we have Rory and Amy, don’t think that we won’t remove them or add new characters. The comic gives us a whole playing field to run around on.”
Lee revealed that the first two stories in the new run will be entirely different from each other. “The first story is a one-shot where the Doctor and his companions have to crash land on a planet after Rory accidentally infects the TARDIS with his email spam folder. And with the TARDIS Matrix powering these, we’re talking a ton of spam emails coming to life,” Lee told CBR. “The planet they’ve landed on has an hour to live before it’s destroyed by an invading fleet. It was a chance to play with the characters, get our feet wet and at the same time satirize one of the most annoying things about the internet, and is very much a ‘Trouble With Tribbles’ episode for the Doctor, Amy and Rory.
“But no sooner have we left you with a smile than we go back to Victorian London, where the Doctor faces off against Jack the Ripper. I’d been shocked when I realized that as far as I could see, nobody had really done this tale – the Seventh Doctor met the Valeyard who had become Jack in an alternate world story years back, but here? In this Whoniverse? Nada,” he continued. “So, we have the Doctor, Amy and Rory in 1888 Whitechapel as the final three murders occur – we explain why they happened, who and what the Ripper is and why there were no more after Mary Kelly. More importantly, we explain why Mary Kelly’s murder changed time.
“We have a ton of adventures lined up, both serious and lighthearted, traveling all over the universe.”
Lee also told us that whether the new ongoing will take a “season” format, in which a certain number of story arcs would build to one finale, is yet to be determined, though there will be some larger storylines building. “I believe there will be twelve issues in each ‘season,’ but the arcs will depend on whether we release two or three trades a year. But there will be a good few one issue tales smattering the run.”
The new “Doctor Who” will feature the talents of several artists, some familiar to the series, others returning after some time away and still others tackling the Doctor for the first time. “Matthew Dow Smith was the [artist] we announced in Gallifrey One and in San Diego, but he won’t be starting the run, he’ll be coming on board after the first couple of stories,” Lee said. “Tommy Lee Edwards will be replacing Paul Grist as cover artist, and the other interior artists that I know of include Andrew Currie, Chris Samnee and Richard Piers Rayner. Oh, and some newcomer guy called Mark Buckingham, who’ll be doing a wonderful one-issue story with me where the Doctor, Amy and Rory end up having a penalty shootout duel in Mercian England. Great fun.”
Unlike the previous “Doctor Who” ongoing, for which Lee had some advance knowledge of the Tenth Doctor’s final adventures so his own stories did not conflict, at present the writer does not know what’s in store for the sixth season, which will have just begun just as the new comic launches. “I don’t have a source in the BBC that provides me with insights into what happens, I get the occasional snippet from people involved on the edges, and of course the spoiler sites help me a great deal, but one of the things that we’re hoping now that the contract ink is finally dry is that this will change – the BBC are loathe to give advance help to people unless they’re tied down to the agreement,” Lee told CBR.
“That said, I’d always stated that the Eleventh Doctor series was going to be less tied into the continuity as the Tenth Doctor series was – we always knew we had a specific timeline there, that it would have a very defined moment of ending so that it could leap directly into the final episodes of the series – and because of this, we knew a lot more about the end of Ten than we did about the start of Eleven,” the writer continued. “Of course, I was told how the season ended companion wise, so that I could keep Rory on as a companion – it was very off plotting out stories involving him while the TV show was on showing him to be ‘dead and forgotten.’
“There’s a part of me though, the fan in me that actually likes the fact that I don’t know. I’m very aware now that I’ve proved myself to the BBC that if I needed to know something about a story in next season’s line up I could ask (with of course my reason for asking) and they’d come back to me with an answer. I just don’t want to, in case I spoil a story that I want to see!”
Now that fans (and Lee) have seen a full series of Matt Smith’s Doctor, CBR asked the writer what he feels defines this version as opposed to previous regenerations and which of Smith’s predecessors is he most like. “There’s a lot of Second Doctor, but also a lot of Seventh – by that I mean the brown jacket, dark past one,” Lee said. “This Doctor isn’t afraid to tell the bad guys to sling their hook. He’s come to terms with the fact that he is effectively the most powerful and influential being in the universe, even if the Time Lords are classed as a myth. But at the same time, he has the playful, ‘trickster’ spirit that [Second Doctor, Patrick] Troughton had – running around with a broom and a fez? Definitely a kids show. And dammit if I don’t enjoy it.
“Every Doctor has a lot of the actor that played them in them – having met most of the surviving ones at conventions, I can see where the ‘Doctor’ came from, and with Matt there’s no exception. He’s a bundle of energy that bounces around the room. That’s what we try to capture in the book.”
Outside of the character himself, the fifth television series since the show’s return also saw a new creative direction as Steven Moffat took over as producer from Russell T. Davies. Lee said that he sees Moffat augmenting some aspects that Davies brought to the show, and the new tone will be reflected in the comics. “Russell started the ‘over-arc’ stories back with ‘Bad Wolf,’ but although Moffat continues this, he’s actually raised the bar, making sure that you have to go back and watch the episodes all over again after you’ve seen how it ends just so you can go back and realize how tightly plotted the whole thing is – unlike Russell who in his own ‘The Writer’s Tale’ often spoke about how he’d work out the greatest cliffhanger ever and then go, ‘Oh, bollocks. How do I get out of that?’ while on deadline,” Lee said.
“The ongoing series for the Tenth Doctor was filled with this sort of thing – the over arc with the Advocate, things from previous episodes coming to light later on – and again, anyone who’s read the final issue will see just how tightly we’ve had this plotted from the start. That said, the only thing we’re having to do is raise the bar, so we match Moffat’s stories – well, that and the fact we get to have a lot more fun in this series, we don’t have to take everything so seriously. Don’t get me wrong, we have some dark stories coming – but also some brilliantly funny ones.”
Fans who follow Lee on Twitter (@mrtonylee) will have noticed that the writer has a raft of other works in progress for the coming months and throughout 2011. “I have a whiteboard filled with projects that I’m about to announce!” Lee joked. “However, there are a few things being announced before, during or after NYCC – the biggest is that Dan Boultwood and I have about five things kicking off at the moment. ‘The Gloom,’ our Mel Brooks movie of a comic based on all the 1940s pulp heroes is going to be serialized on MTV GEEK from November, and also ‘Agent Mom,’ the book I’m writing with ‘Stargate Universe’s’ Alaina Huffman (and also drawn by Dan Boultwood) is going to be serialized there from January. These are being announced on the Saturday of NYCC. In addition to that, Dan and I have just signed up ‘Danger Academy’ (think Hogwarts/ Xavier Academy for the children of TV and movie spies) with another publisher and we’re waiting to see if we can announce this also over the convention, we’re writing a children’s comic for Middle Eastern publisher Aranim Publishing called ‘Balloon Girl’ and of course our series of ‘Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Irregulars’ graphic novels come out from Franklin Watts / Hachette Childrens books in May 2011.
“Outside of my work with Dan, I’m working with Anthony Jones and artist Puppeteer Lee on two other Aranim properties, ‘Saladin 2100’ (which is believed to be the first ever sci-fi comic for the Middle Eastern market) and ‘Element Zero,’ and finally I’m working with Noel Clarke, our own ‘Mickey Smith’ from ‘Doctor Who’ on a new ongoing series that we should be talking about later in the year – it’s a super team book, but with Noel writing it, we’re harking back to the ‘more mature’ days of Wildstorm that many people miss,” Lee continued.
“There’s other non-comic stuff, but that’s being held until later in the year.”