Matt Sturges, who was nominated for an Eisner Award for his work as the co-writer of “Jack of Fables,” turns his attention from fables to fairy tales for his latest project — and he’s bringing the Doctor along for the ride.
No, not Bill Willingham. The Doctor. Sturges is writing “Doctor Who: A Fairytale Life,” a four-issue IDW Publishing miniseries featuring the BBC’s Tardis-traveling Time Lord. The series is drawn by Kelly Yates (“Doctor Who: The Forgotten”) and features covers by Mark Buckingham (“Fables”). A long-time fan of the iconic British sci-fi character, Sturges told CBR News he jumped at the chance to write the time-jumping journeyman, accepting the assignment before editor Denton Tipton could finish his pitch.
Not following the pre-existing continuity established in Tony Lee’s ongoing “Doctor Who” series, Sturges will tell his tale with the current incarnation of the Doctor, played on the long-running BBC serial by Matt Smith. Amy Pond, the Doctor’s current companion played by Karen Gillan, will also star in the miniseries.
CBR caught up with Sturges to talk about “Doctor Who: A Fairytale Life.”
CBR News: How does a guy from Austin, Texas become a fan of “Doctor Who?”
Matthew Sturges: Actually, it’s worse that that. When I was a kid, I grew up in a small town in West Virginia and the PBS station there had very little programming. One of the things that they showed over and over again was “Doctor Who.” They played a full episode on Sundays and they played half hour installments on the weeknights. So when I was about 10, I was flipping the channels and I came across possibly the worst episode to start on. It was the last episode of the last serial of the ‘The Key to Time’ story arc with Tom Baker. I saw it and it was some guy lost in time and they were trying to break themselves out of a time loop on a spaceship and I thought, “This is for me. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for my entire life.” I was hooked. Totally hooked.
That doesn’t sound like the worst. It sounds like the best.
Yeah, I guess so. It took me a while to get caught up though.
How do you think the new Doctor, Matt Smith, compares to previous incarnations?
When I was a kid, Tom Baker was always the Doctor and it was always difficult for me to accept a new guy. So when the new series started, I was really skeptical but I immediately took a liking to [Christopher] Eccleston. I thought, “OK. This guy’s OK.” Then when [David] Tennant showed up, I was immediately skeptical again. Then I thought he was brilliant. When they announced that the next Doctor was going to be some 26-year old kid, I thought, “Well, this is never going to work. [Show Runner Steven] Moffat has totally screwed this up.”
Now I think he’s the best Doctor of them all. I’m totally, totally hooked and I think that Steven Moffat is probably the best writer the show has ever had. So I’m thrilled where “Doctor Who” is right now.
I’m sure you’re equally thrilled to be writing the Doctor. How did this project come about?
I was in San Diego and I had a meeting with Denton Tipton, who is my editor at IDW. He was asking me what kind of things I liked and I was telling him, and then he says, “Well, we have this ‘Doctor Who’ thing.” I was like, “Yeah. Give me ‘Doctor Who.'” He said, “Pitch us a miniseries,” and I think I went right back to my hotel room and wrote something up. It moved pretty quickly after that.
It features the new Doctor, correct?
It is with the 11th Doctor, yes. It’s the Doctor and Amy, and there’s no Rory around. The basic setup is that the Doctor is really daring Amy to think of some place where he can take her that is beyond imagining; something that is really good. She tries to flummox him and she says when she was a little girl, before she met him that she had always dreamed of going to a fantasy world with fairies and unicorns and elves and he thinks for a minute and then says, “Yes. I can do that.” So he takes her to the holiday planet of Caligaris Epsilon Six, which is conceived during the height of the third Great and Bountiful Human Empire — which is neither great, nor bountiful, nor overwhelmingly human, as the Doctor explains — in the year 7,704. It is dedicated to being an imaginary re-creation of what a fairy tale world would be like. But the Doctor being the Doctor lands about 500 years too late and this holiday planet has become something else entirely, and something or someone has been kidnapping people and taking them away to a dread tower. It’s the Doctor’s job to find out who or what is causing everything to go wrong.
Does this tie into IDW’s ongoing “Doctor Who” series?
It’s completely out of continuity. They wanted something that could be self-contained that people could read without knowing what’s going on in the ongoing series or on the show. So hopefully any reader, even if they’re not familiar with “Doctor Who” can pick this up out of the box and read it without problem.
Have you had a chance to speak with anyone at BBC or the “Doctor Who” production team about the story you’re telling?
Everything actually goes through IDW, but I do get notes back from the BBC. It’s funny because I’m very intimately acquainted with the characters and the material obviously and so I get very few notes back. They seem really happy with what I’m doing, but they do sometimes send back funny, little notes.
I had specified how the Doctor checks his watch. He wears it with the face on the inside so he has to hold up his wrist in a funny way to look at it. And they said, “Well, he doesn’t check his watch that way.”
So in a huff, I write back, “Look at the episode, ‘The Big Bang’ at 5:12. You’ll see very clearly that he checks his watch in exactly that matter.”
What was their response to that?
I never heard from them again. [Laughs]
And you’ll never be writing the Doctor again. [Laughs]
Exactly. [Laughs.] I won the battle but lost the war. But these things matter. They’re important.
Your creative partner, artist Kelly Yates, does an awesome Doctor Who, doesn’t he?
He’s doing a fantastic job. He really splits the difference between doing a very realistic interpretation, which I think can be troublesome, and a more cartoony thing. He captures the essence of the characters without that weird kind of thing that happens when characters start looking too much like the actors. And he draws the fairy tale stuff really, really well too.
And who is the new guy you have doing covers?
Ah yes, Mark Buckingham. He is phenomenal, and Bucky is as big a “Doctor Who” fan as I am. It’s great to get to work with him on something like this.
Are you hoping this is the start of a beautiful relationship between you, the Doctor and IDW?
I think there is a chance that there will be more “Doctor Who” down the line. At least, I certainly hope so. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Are there any other properties at IDW that tickle your fancy?
I’ve also been a big Trekkie all my life. My uncle Randy introduced me to “Star Trek” when I was about six years old. I have a deep and abiding love for that, so if anybody at IDW is reading this and wants to give me some “Star Trek” work, I’d be perfectly down with that.
I think Russell Davies wanted to do a “Star Trek” crossover in the early goings of the new series. You could write that.
I’m the guy for that. I think I could do it.
“Doctor Who: A Fairy Tale Life” begins in April from IDW Publishing.