The Timeline Of A Time Lord: Tony Lee talks "Doctor Who"

Thu, June 26th, 2008 at 6:30pm PDT | Updated: June 29th, 2008 at 11:57am

Comic Books
Remy Minnick, Guest Contributor

"Doctor Who: The Forgotten" #1 on sale in August
“Doctor Who” is the longest running science fiction show in the world, with its heritage dating back to 1963. The main character, The Doctor, is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who travels through space in time in the Tardis, a police call box that is much bigger on the inside then it is on the out. When near death, the Doctor can manifest in a new body with a new personality, but with all the same memories. Thus, when an actor portraying the Doctor wishes to move on, the series doesn’t have to end. Earlier this year, thanks to IDW Publishing, the Doctor returned to American comics in the "Doctor Who" miniseries and this August will begin his second miniseries, “Doctor Who: The Forgotten,” by Tony Lee and Pia Guerra (“Y: The Last Man”).

In the popular Doctor Who novel “The Eight Doctors,” writer Terrance Dick, of whom Tony Lee is a great fan, re-visited previous incarnations of the Doctor in the midst of adventures from the original series. In IDW’s “Doctor Who: The Forgotten,” Lee decided to take the alternate route and create all new adventures for the classic Doctors. “Although it's always nice to revisit old friends,” Lee told CBR News, “I think we can give more 'forgotten tales' in these short flashbacks. We have the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan meeting Egyptians; we have the Second, Jamie and Zoe meeting space lizards; the Third, Jo and The Brigadier (and pretty much most of the UNIT regulars) defeating aliens on Dartmoor; the Fourth and Romana (two) in millennium Paris; the Fifth, Tegan and Turlough facing a more recent addition in a Village cricket match; the Sixth and Peri in a courtroom; the Seventh and Ace in an alien war torn city; the Eighth alone in a Count of Monte Cristo setting; and the Ninth and Rose in the trenches of World War I. And every single one of them has been an utter joy to write.

“Oh and of course we have the Tenth and Martha,” Lee added, “in a strange museum being hassled by gun happy waxworks, giant familiar spiders, robots and a mysterious and familiar bearded man.”

Pages from "Doctor Who: The Forgotten"

Fans might be wondering if the Doctor will actually get to meet some of his previous incarnations in “The Forgotten,” or if their appearances will just be contained to flashbacks. Lee kept tight lipped on the matter but he did tease, “Let's just say that there is a two-page double-spread panel in one of the later issues that will make all the fans excited. And by this point you'll also know exactly what's going on. I told the ending to a longtime friend and massive Doctor Who fan and he spent the next hour a gibbering wreck.”

Lee also kept mysterious about when this adventure takes place. “I can't actually answer this without giving away a major plot point,” Lee explained. “Let's just say that to all intents and purposes it's set late in Season Three before Martha learns about regeneration. Maybe. Possibly. You'll have to wait and see.”

Because the Doctor regenerates, fans develop a bond with “their” Doctor, the character who encapsulates everything they love about the series. Tony Lee is no different. “For years it was Tom Baker,” Lee said. “I [am] old enough to remember the final Jon Pertwee tale, but my youth was filled with Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith adventures. That said, in the UK we saw all the episodes on a station called UK Gold every Sunday Morning and so with that, the books, the videos and now DVDs I learned to enjoy all the Doctors.” Lee loves what David Tennant is doing with the current Doctor. “I'd now be hard put to say whether Tennant or Baker is my favorite. And considering that I have one of the original prints of June Hudson's Fourth Doctor costume designs, signed by June and Tom Baker on my wall, that's quite a statement.”

Pages from "Doctor Who: The Forgotten"

Lee admitted getting into the head of every single incarnation of the Time Lords wasn’t always easy. “The Eighth Doctor has been a little difficult, as it's a solo tale,” Lee said. “The First Doctor took a couple of goes and the Sixth is utterly in his element in a courtroom. I watched a lot of Trial of a Time Lord for that one. But in the end, I love writing the Tenth Doctor. I absolutely love the 'You've destroyed us all! Well, about half of us, well, probably a couple here and there, well, maybe not, really...' kind of pacing of Tennant's lines and I've tried to keep that constant throughout the entire story.”

Fans have noticed that the Tenth Doctor shares many qualities with his fifth incarnation. These were even spotlighted in a recent episode that was made for the Children In Need foundation called “Time Crash,” in which those two Doctors crossed paths. In writing “Doctor Who: Forgotten,” Lee also noticed a few other traits from previous Doctors in Tennant’s performance. “He very much has the puckish nature of the Second Doctor, the almost childlike excitement that Troughton brought to the role,” the writer remarked. “And on occasions Tennant has the Third Doctor's haughty tones. But I think that every actor who played The Doctor took the best parts of the previous ones in their research. Tennant was a fan before he became part of the mythos and therefore he took things that he remembered as a child. I think this is why many people class him as the best Doctor, because he took the best parts of so many.”

Pages from "Doctor Who: The Forgotten"

As the actors who portrayed the first three Doctors are no longer with us, Lee was given the unique opportunity to write new stories for some of those classic Doctors, an experience he described as amazing. “The Second Doctor has lines that actually gave me a lump in my throat as I wrote them,” Lee said. “And Jon Pertwee [the Third Doctor] was the first ex-Doctor I ever wrote to as a kid, asking for an autograph when I was about ten-years-old. I used to have signed pictures of both Pertwee and Troughton on my wall, they both wrote back. Troughton, when I mentioned that I wanted to be a writer, even said that perhaps I would write Doctor Who one day. I never expected to be writing his Doctor.”

With IDW’s miniseries taking place in a museum, the opportunities for easter eggs are abundant. “I can say in the first issue we see a Voord's helmet (from ‘The Keys of Marinus’),” he said. “So you can see right there that we're going right back in the fan trivia stakes. And of course there will be rucksacks of Nitro-9, and time traveling wrist bands and Wax figures and costumes and masks and a whole plethora of items that could help or hinder the Doctor in his escape.”

Pages from "Doctor Who: The Forgotten"

But Lee left most of such things to artist Pia Guerra, whose work was most recently seen in the landmark Vertigo series “Y: The Last Man.” Working with Guerra has been an experience for Lee that has been both brilliant and terrifying at the same time. “I mean, this is Pia Guerra, you know?” Lee remarked. “Luckily, she's one of the nicest people ever in comics. Funnily enough, it was a conversation over a year back on a message board where I suggested she contact IDW about drawing Who, and here we are, a year later, and she's drawing my story.”

Lee and Guerra recently met at the Earls Court VIP launch of the Doctor Who Exhibition. In a pub afterwards, they realized they were both similarly geeky and talked about what their favorite episodes were and how they wished certain characters could work great in a story together. “We formed a strong bond that day, I feel” Lee said. “She could totally be a diva due to ‘Y: The Last Man’ and people would allow it, but she's not. And to be the writer of the series that she moved onto from ‘Y: The Last Man’ is incredibly imposing, but at all points she's been an utter sweetheart. In fact, we've worked together on a couple of the scenes to make them visually better and I think this work is some of her best. There are tiles on the floor in the first panel, where we see the Tenth Doctor unconscious on the floor, that are researched to the point that they even have a time traveling meaning to them. She's that much of a consummate professional.”

Pages from "Doctor Who: The Forgotten"

Lee added, “The funniest thing is that in the UK I say I'm writing this book and suddenly everyone's excited. In the US, I talk about the books to nods, and when I mention Pia -- that's when the squeals start.”

Outside of his work on “Doctor Who: The Forgotten,” Tony Lee has a plethora of projects in the works. “In August we have the second part of my ‘Starship Troopers - Triple Threat’ event where myself and Christian Beranek join Cy Dethan and artists Scott James, Jim Boswell and Neil Edwards, for the first Vanauken's Vandals / Tanner's Tigers crossover. I also have the start of my fifteen-part series ‘Stalag #666’ for 2000AD, drawn by Jon Davis-Hunt, and my fourteen-part ‘The Prince Of Baghdad’ story with Dan Boultwood launches in ‘The DFC,’ followed shortly by ‘St Spooky’s’ with Rob Guillory.”

But the list of projects doesn’t stop there. “In addition to that we have ‘MILF Magnet,’ my tongue-in-cheek one-shot for Moonstone and some Captain Action spin-offs involving Lady Action. Next year is a graphic novel year with ‘Robin Hood,’ my ‘Raven's Gate’ adaptation and ‘Dodge & Twist’ all coming out. And finally I've just finished my children's novel ‘King Bill - And The Spirit Of Albion,’ so we'll see what happens there.”

Pages from "Doctor Who: The Forgotten"

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Independents forum.

TAGS:  doctor who, pia guerra, tony lee, idw publishing, y: the last man

 
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