Doctor upon Doctor upon Doctor meet this August, as writer Paul Cornell and artist Neil Edwards set up a meeting between the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors. Titan Comics‘ five-issue “Doctor Who” event miniseries marks the first time Peter Capaldi‘s Doctor has shown more than his eyebrows in a multi-Doctor story, and will see the three spun off into a new quest at the behest of The War Doctor.
They won’t be alone, however, as their companions — Gabby Gonzalez, Alice Obiefune and Clara Oswald — will also be flying in to keep things under control. It’s a multi-Companion crossover as much as it is a multi-Doctor one!
To find out more about the series, CBR spoke with Cornell about his return to the Whoniverse (He’s well versed in the ways of the Doctor, having written novels and television episodes featuring the character), how the Doctors interact with one another, and whether there’ll be any sign of Bernard Cribbins. (Spoiler Alert: Yes!)
CBR News: You’re a well-known Doctor Who fan, as well as a writer for the TV series, but how did you get involved here, with Titan, for this particular storyline?
Paul Cornell: They asked me if I’d like to do it, and it was too gorgeous to turn down. I love the Doctor interaction of multi-Doctor stories, and I think they get duller when the Doctors aren’t together, so I said yes, and set about putting Doctors together as much as possible. I also think Titan have done a tremendous job with these comics, so I wanted to be a part of that.
The first question, before anything else — whereabouts in the timeline are we for the three Doctors taking part in the storyline? Who is at which stage?
It’s specific and official: The crossover happens after the end of the first season of the 10th, 11th and 12th Doctor’s comics. For Ten, that’s right after “Planet of the Dead,” for Eleven, that’s while he’s popping off having his own adventures after Amy and Rory’s honeymoon, and for Twelve, we’re in the middle of his first season. Titan are very precise about stuff like that.
What kicks off the story? Does it start with one Doctor, or are all of them pulled in at the same time?
We start with the War Doctor — and that’s all I’m going to say about that!
But the story proper gets underway, as many things do, because something is worrying Clara and she can’t leave it alone. What’s worrying her is an impossible photograph that may mean the end of the universe. She tries very hard to stop a multi-Doctor event happening, so thank goodness she doesn’t succeed.
How is the event structured? Is it going to be one Doctor at a time, or will all three be around throughout the narrative?
All three will be together for as many panels as we can squeeze into an issue. The banter and differences of character between them are what’s most important. And also the peril, the big summer blockbuster, bringing back old monsters, roller coaster peril. (Note: the old monsters aren’t literally on a roller coaster.)
This is your first time working with artist Neil Edwards, I believe — how have you found the collaborative process?
He’s awesome. He can do the body language and the acting, so I can describe a particular bit of business with how the Eleventh Doctor uses his hands, and there it’ll be. His likenesses are great, and he does big action so well. I’m loving seeing the pages. I’m setting him some major challenges, though. Several panels of Bernard Cribbins! I can’t wait to see that. I love Bernard Cribbins.
You’re returning to the Tenth Doctor as part of the event, after you wrote his (best) story “Human Nature” a few years back. Was it easy to get back into the character’s voice and mannerisms?
Ahem, gosh — thank you! I’m sort of steeped in the mannerisms, in speech and gesture, of all the Doctors, having stared at them for such a long time. I suspect most “Who” fans are. I’m trying, now we’ve got some distance on him, to look at the Tenth Doctor from a slightly different angle, because he’s now set beside two future selves, so we can compare him. He’s not vanilla, he’s not the default, he’s got a ton of interesting stuff going on, a lot of it under the surface. He and the Twelfth Doctor don’t get on at all.
What do you think motivates and defines the character most, at this point in his life?
Guilt. But he’d say getting on with stuff, a love of exploring, fun. But it’s guilt. I think each incarnation after the Ninth deals with it a little better, until, with the Twelfth, he’s off the hook when it comes to Gallifrey.
This is also a return to the Eleventh Doctor, whom you wrote in the “Doctor Who Special” at IDW in 2013. How does the Eleventh Doctor differ to the other Doctors, for you? What sets him out especially?
He’s the awkward one, who’s actually in many ways the most grounded underneath. He awards himself the ‘most sensible Doctor’ prize during this series, and in many ways he’s right. You can see wisdom in there.
When the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor were in the same room during “Day of the Doctor,” they got a little giddy together. How do you treat them as a pairing?
This meeting is before that one, which of course opens up a whole bunch of questions which it’s our job to answer. The Eleventh Doctor is basically acting, throughout, as a mediator between the Tenth and the Twelfth, who have big problems with each other. He’s a good peacemaker, and we’ve seen him speak up for his next incarnation on TV. So it’s not a question of schoolboys together this time, but about indicating the differences between all three characters.
And then we have the Twelfth Doctor. He was created by Steven Moffat, I would say, as very much as a reaction to the two younger, livelier Doctors who preceded him. What’s your approach in this series for how he reacts to them both? Is he a bit embarrassed of them, almost?
He definitely sees himself as the finished product, and the two of them as reactions to a life-changing event, as a bit broken. They, on the other hand, are wondering what can have happened to even allow him to exist. They’re also wondering if they want to end up being him, though Eleven is willing to cut him a lot more slack about that than Ten is.
Multi-Doctor stories are like having a conversation inside a character’s head, like being able to pull out the parts of you which you don’t like and don’t own up to and actually talking to them. I love the Twelfth Doctor, I think he’s an amazing, brave creation, and I’m trying to live up to that here by making him absolutely not cosy with his former selves.
He’s the freshest of the Doctors here, but also an older, more towering character, perhaps. What’s the dynamic between the three?
He tries to be in charge, Ten won’t let him be, Eleven tries to bridge that gap. They all get their moments to shine, and that’s very important. The Twelfth Doctor can be spectacularly rude to his former selves, but underneath wants them to get that he’s still them, that he’s just as real, even though he doesn’t want to risk breaking spacetime by telling them how he came to be.
Will the respective companions for the Doctors be appearing in the story?
Yes, namely Gabby, Alice and Clara. It’s important that we continue their stories from where they were in the comics, too, but this is also an ideal jumping-on point if you’re new to the Titan comics. We get to meet them again, with #2 told somewhat from Gabby’s point of view, and #3 from Alice’s.
Do they spend any time together — and if so, how do they function when they’re gathered in the same room together?
That’s how we begin, with Clara trying to have a multi-companion rather than multi-Doctor event. Alice is initially a little suspicious of Clara, but Gabby is amazed at meeting other people who’ve gone through similar experiences. The three of them do a lot of Doctor-herding and Doctor-helping, and get on far better than the Doctors do. It’s like they’re fellow professionals in a very small field.
What made you want to bring the War Doctor to the storyline? What does his presence bring out of the other Doctors, as a wildcard?
He makes for an excellent flashback opening, but he doesn’t meet the other Doctors. Still, his presence is meaningful and vital. There’s also another reason this is called “Four Doctors.” (I’m very keen to drop the “the,” not just because there’s a Big Finish audio called that, but because I think it makes this sound classy and its own thing.)
You’ve written television episodes for Doctors Nine and Ten in the past -how does it differ to write them in comic form?
I think one is tempted to use the comics medium to give the series an infinite budget, and indeed, we do some of that, but I think there are ways of going too far with that that risk chucking the feeling of the series. “Doctor Who” has always been defined by its limitations, and is all the better for that. Still, you’ll see some amazing stuff, thanks to Neil.
What do you think has been the key to the Doctor’s continuing appeal, both in the series and as he adapts into novels, comics, audio dramas and beyond?
It’s that Terrance Dicks quote about him being “never cruel or cowardly.” It’s a show that’s invested in character and in script values. It’s the spine of my own career, and it remains a lot to live up to. I like to think I’ve contributed, and attempt to continue to do so.
“Doctor Who: Four Doctors” arrives in stores August 12.
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