In 2005, few believed that a modern re-launch of the BBC adventure series Doctor Who would be successful. The show broadcast it’s last episode just before Christmas, 1989 after running for 27 years. In reviving the show for a new audience, the casting of Christopher Eccleston was a masterstroke, as the actor was known for his more serious roles in both television and film. Eccleston burst onto the scene as the Ninth Doctor, grabbing former pop-star Billie Piper’s hand and telling her to “run!” Eccleston parted ways with the show after only one season, something never done before or since in Doctor Who history. This left fans of Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor hungry for more. When Titan Comics announced they’d be releasing new Doctor Who comics, fans reportedly stuffed their email inbox with pleas for the release of a Ninth Doctor comic series.
We spoke with Cavan Scott, writer of the new Ninth Doctor Comic series about what it was like to bring Nine back to life in a new story featuring fan favorite companions Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness.
Edie Nugent: So, first question: why did you choose this particular moment in the Ninth Doctor’s timeline for your story?
Cavan Scott: For two reasons. First of all, it seemed the only natural gap in the series. Most of the episodes lead straight into each other, like one continuous story. Here, between The Doctor Dances and Boom Town, we have a definite gap where lots of stories are said to have happened that we never saw. Handy!
Secondly, we wanted Jack in there, mainly because we never saw enough of the three of them in the TV show.
Nugent: I had that thought instantly upon seeing where this story occurred: the fans will be so excited, because this group and moment were so popular.
Scott: Well, I hope so. They’re such a well-oiled machines when we see them in Boom Town too. They’ve obviously been adventuring together for some time.
Nugent: You have a lot of dialogue describing the “science” of the situation up front. Do you have a real interest in the science part of science fiction?
Scott: That question makes me smile because I have an ongoing ‘debate’ with Doctor Who book author Nick Walters where I insist that Doctor Who is fantasy and he throws things at me shouting that its science FICTION!
You know, in this case I didn’t even think about whether there was a lot of pseudo-science in the book. I was just trying to capture the tone of the original series, where they throw a lot of pseudo-science around. I think with Doctor Who, you need to make it sound plausible even if some of the science is dodgy!
Nugent: Nine is showing his most chipper self in this book, is that due to being flanked by the ‘dream team’ of Rose and Jack? Or has he just progressed in his emotional healing from the Time War by this point?
Scott: I honestly think that Doctor number Nine is chipper for the most of the time we see him – or at least he’s trying to give the impression that he is. A lot of people pigeon-hole him as an ‘angry’ Doctor, but he spends a hell of a lot of time smiling and even cracking really, really bad jokes.
Trust me, we’ll see his angry side as the book continues, but I wanted to show the fact that he is enjoying himself again.
Nugent: Sure, but there’s a real difference in tone here from, say, Dalek for instance, which is only 4 episodes earlier.
Scott: Well, the situation in Dalek is pretty grim. Certainly, we see a ‘lighter’ Ninth Doctor in The Empty Child to The Long Game. I think the resolution of The Doctor Dances would have helped as well. There we see the Doctor at his most optimistic. I definitely think he’s enjoying life with Rose and Jack.
Nugent: This story had a real “hitchhiker’s guide” feel to it, was that intentional?
Scott: Not at all! In fact, I didn’t realise it was there! Never a bad thing though, especially as Douglas Adams’ City of Death was apparently one of the templates for 21st Century Who.
I’m intrigued now. Which elements did you think were Hitchhikers-esque? (Is that a word? It is now)
Nugent: The story set up: they’re beamed into the hold of a sluggish and war-like race, scanned repeatedly to determine who they are, then saved from death only to be sentenced to it a moment later. Reminded me of Ford & Arthur’s first stop after hitch hiking off the earth into the Vogon ship. No poetry from your war-bots though.
Scott: I think the Lect would be particularly bad poets. All those ‘Directives’ and ‘Possibilities’ in their speech patterns will never touch the soul!
Nugent: Your credits are so diverse–was it exciting to be able to tell a self-contained, more adult television episode-style story? Was your approach to the material different as a result?
Scott: It was. In a lot of ways writing the comic was similar to writing Doctor Who audio plays, definitely when I was structuring the plot for all five issues, I went about it the same way as my audio work, working out the big set pieces, working out where the cliffhangers sit.
But – and this is a huge but – the fact that it’s a comic has left me giddy with excitement. Writing a long-form American style series has been a dream for me ever since I first picked up a Marvel UK reprint back when I was a kid.
Nugent: And what comic was that, do you remember?
Scott: I do. It was Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars issue one. I knew superheroes from TV and films and, even though I was a massive comic fan, it was largely British humour weekly titles. That first issue of Secret Wars literally changed my life, or at least my interests. It opened my eyes to the Marvel universe, which led me venturing into a comic shop and seeking out US comics, both for Marvel and their Distinguished Competition.
Oh, and it had Alpha Flight as the back up strip which introduced me to John Byrne, who I became obsessed about!
Nugent: That’s a lot of continuity to absorb for a first ever comic experience! Sort of like Doctor Who…
Scott: I think that’s what appealed to me. i like continuity and diving into new universes. It’s why I’ve been enjoying picking up the Valiant books recently.
Marvel’s Transformers comic was another major hook for me. Basically, the UK weekly soon ran out of original US material and so started slipping in extra stories between the US issues – which of course were part of the Marvel Universe too. And the Doctor Who universe for that matter, as Death’s Head first appeared in Transformers and then slipped into Doctor Who and then into the main Marvel U.
You’ll be sorry you asked me about that now! I could talk about this stuff for ages!
Nugent: Well, it is somewhat timely. Are you following the announcements from Marvel about the new Secret Wars? As a comic writer AND fan, you probably have different perspectives on it.
Scott: With a huge amount of nostalgia! I’m certainly intrigued to see what’s coming. The continuity geek in me is having a whale of a time spotting references in what’s been released so far. The writer in me is having heart palpitations about what they’re trying to pull off. I’m looking forward to it. I’m a sucker for these big game-changing events. Again, it’s John Byrne’s fault for Man of Steel!
Nugent: I noticed lots of moments in your story where Rose reaches for the Doctor’s hand & is pulled away. Is this an intentional after-the-fact foreshadowing of the separation from the Tenth Doctor in Doomsday?
Scott: Heh! It might just be. It might not be the last time you see that motif in the series either.
Nugent: So far you’ve written for Doctors: Three, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten and Eleven. What Doctor would be your top choice to write for next?
Scott: Well, I wouldn’t say no for a chance to write for the current model – but really I’ve got a hankering to complete the set. In fact, I’ve written for another incarnation that I can’t mention yet. Spoilers!
Nugent: Speaking of spoilers, are there any tidbits you can give our readers regarding events still to come in your Ninth Doctor story?
Scott: Well, there are going to be suns and romans and floating octopi and dinosaurs and masks coming off. And lots and lots of more great art from Blair!
Ninth Doctor issue 1 is available in comic stores on April 1st.