July marks the beginning of the end for the Tenth Doctor at IDW as writer Tony Lee and artist Matthew Dow Smith prepare the "Final Sacrifice" arc. Following a prelude episode in the "Doctor Who Annual 2010," the story continues in "Doctor Who" #13-16, after which the ongoing series will end, to be replaced by a new volume starring the Eleventh Doctor, currently played on the BBC series by Matt Smith. The popular Tenth Doctor, portrayed by David Tennant, concluded his tenure in the role in 2009 with a series of specials culminating in his death and regeneration, but Lee has navigated the time before that Doctor's demise to craft a multi-arced story of grave importance to its characters, even if readers know the Time Lord himself will ultimately escape with his life. Issue #11 is in stores this week, and CBR News spoke with Lee about wrapping up the current "Doctor Who" volume and what he's looking forward to in the next series.
"Well, I can definitely say that the final arc of the Tenth Doctor's series is 'final.' There's no coming back from it and lives will be changed irrevocably, whether for good or bad," Lee told CBR. "At this time I'm pretty much wrapping it up, script wise, but in the shops the comic is halfway through the previous arc and as many of the things in the final story lead on from there, I'm trying to work out what I can get away with saying!
"As for who the big bad is, that I can tell you, as she's pretty much been the villain in the shadows for the entire ongoing. In 'Fugitive' we first see The Advocate, but it's only later, this week's issue in fact, that we discover she's been in the Doctor's life a lot longer, her manipulations even reaching the two Terronites in 'Silver Scream' way back in issues 1 and 2. She has a real issue with the Doctor, and in issue 11 we finally discover what the problem is, why she's [the way] she is and how long she's actually been around - and Gary [Russell, script editor for Doctor Who and liaison on the ongoing] and the BBC were utterly awesome in allowing us to do what we wanted with her, in working out her wibbly wobbly timey wimey origin," the writer continued.
Things get worse for the Doctor by the time "Final Sacrifice" begins, Lee told CBR, noting that when the arc begins the Advocate "has all the cards." "She has a travelling companion of the Doctor on her side and she has all the items she needs to ruin the Doctor's day big time. Whereas the Doctor has travelled only one adventure since the end of the previous issue [the four page 'prequel' in the Doctor Who annual, out in June,] the Advocate has been waiting for two years on this planet - a planet in the grip of a civil war, a planet that holds so many secrets, and so many answers," Lee said. "All the Doctor has on his side is a loyal sidekick, an eccentric Edwardian Professor named Hugh and the two Torchwood agents from 'The Time Machination,' here on an alien planet, thousands of years in the future - and still trying to bring the Doctor to justice. Oh and there are other characters, other twists and turns, characters and races already mentioned in the series appearing once more.
"I can't say any more on that, but as for whether we planned this from the start, we've always known the final pages of the final issue - and not only does this move into 'The Waters Of Mars' in the same way that 'The Forgotten' continued immediately after 'Journey's End,' but the actual final pages don't even show the Doctor, and instead show you just how tightly planned out this whole arc has been. In fact, how tightly planned out it's been since the end of 'The Forgotten,' because this is also tied into the 'Time Machination.' It's been a long time in the planning, this one!"
Lee has established his own set of companions for the Doctor in Matthew and Emily, and, as with companions of recent years - Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, and Donna Noble - this pair will play a significant role in the series finale. "One will turn on the Doctor in issue 12 and much of the final arc is their redemption," Lee said. "I think it's pretty obvious which of the two that is, but I'll still keep quiet in fear of spoilers. In 'Final Sacrifice,' both of them will change more than they ever expected. All of the weird little prophecies given to Emily in 'Tessaract' (issues 7 and 8) by the Tef'Aree will come to pass, but not in the ways that you would expect.
"When IDW first announced that the ongoing was happening back at the New York Comic Con [last year], during the panel I mentioned in passing that having two new travelling chums of the Doctor who had no tie to the series was great, because it brought the danger back," he continued. "You didn't know if they would live or die - and even now I'm not saying how far I've actually gone. I always knew that I couldn't do the last [Tenth] Doctor story as that would happen in the show, but I knew I could make a definite 'end' story - something that shakes the Doctor's very core and explains why he is as he is when he first walks upon Mars. Why is he reluctant to get involved? Is it because of the 'rules' - or because of what has recently happened?"
The fact that Lee's adventures of the Tenth Doctor are being published after fans know how David Tennant's character goes out allows the writer to reference and play in to these final established stories, but, he said, there is a balance. "As I mentioned, ['The Final Sacrifice'] moves directly into 'Waters of Mars,' and we have played around with some of the end episode moments already - the mentioning of the MOMENT is used in 'Don't Step On The Grass' (issues 9 - 12), as well as Joshua Naismith and a whole ton of Time War stuff," Lee said. "If anything we ease back a little on this final arc because we don't need to namedrop the show, as we're namedropping so much of the comic instead.
"I have a very weird relationship with the TV show, in as much as I know most of what happens - I have to, how else can I write a story that works - whilst at the same time trying desperately not to find out. I knew for example that Martha was with Mickey when we wrote it last year, before the show gave us the final scene. I knew about the double Doctor while writing 'The Forgotten,' which allowed us to have a lot of fun with the fans," the writer continued. "To write something set so solidly in canon, you can't just scatterbomb scripts and hope they fit into the mythology. You need to know from the start. The BBC and Gary are great and actually treat us like professionals which might not sound strange, but believe me - some licensees keep their cards so tight to their chests, you can't do anything but write generic scenes and therefore comics. Because Gary and the BBC are so helpful to us, we get to put more in. And I think it shows."
Excitement for Who is high right now, though the focus of late has been on Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor in the current BBC series. "I did a piece for MTV a little while back when I first started scripting this arc - it was indeed very strange, partly because in the last four years I've got quite attached to Tennant's Doctor (I first wrote for Tennant's Doctor in 'Doctor Who Magazine' in 2006) and I've hit my stride with the way he acts and talks. And of course now I have this new chap to learn," Lee said. "Worse than that, as I learn how to work Matt Smith's Doctor out, as I start pitching and also blocking the next 'season' of stories out, I'm still writing the Tennant episodes.
"I've hit a point where all I want to do now is end the series. I've had the final issue planned out since the very beginning, and I want to get it out of my head. I was sad when I started it, but now I'm excited to move onto Smith's Doctor - the TV shows are so full of energy and he's really brought the character to a new level - and as much as I love David Tennant, Matt Smith stepped up to the plate following him and has so far hit a home run."
Following the conclusion of "Final Sacrifice," IDW will relaunch "Doctor Who" with Smith's Eleventh Doctor in the lead and Lee writing once again. "In the comics, we're going to be starting fresh, no looming plot holes, no dangling threads. Just like the TV series, we're starting with a new broom," he said. "There will be less continuity reference with Eleven, mainly by choice - although I've enjoyed them a lot in this series; it feels very 'Russell T.' and the new series is very 'Moffat.' He'll still babble like a loon, but not to the extent that ended up doing under Davies' watch. There'll be a new cast and a new direction.
"At the same time, they'll be similar in style, as I don't want to lose the current readership..."
Beyond the peculiars of the new Doctor's personality, Lee addressed the chronology of the upcoming series. "Current plans are to set the Matt Smith stories at the end of season five, between the end of the series and the Christmas Special, if there is one," he said. "With the show ending four or five months before the comic starts, we didn't want the same problem we've had in earlier issues where the companion has been and gone and come back again by the time the story hits the shelves - we want to have the Doctor and his adventures fitting right in. Will Amy Pond be in it? Well, that depends on how the season finale ends, doesn't it?
"Also, with this sort of 'mid-season within seasons' idea, we can do another, say twelve issues or so, and not have to fit them around the TV show. Which means again that we can play a bit more."
The final tale of the Tenth Doctor begins in July's "Doctor Who Annual 2010" and continues in issue #13 of the ongoing series."