‘Doctor Who’ Q&A: Why The Tenth Doctor’s ‘Final Sacrifice’ Won’t Be A ‘Regeneration Prequel’

[EDITOR’S NOTE: I exhausted the final segment from my interview with “Doctor Who” stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan last week, but I’m going to continue featuring new “Who” content here every Friday due to the great response the clips received. This time around, it’s an interview with “Doctor Who” comic book writer Tony Lee about his final story arc featuring David Tennant as The Doctor.]

While television audiences bid farewell to former “Doctor Who” star David Tennant late last year, his tenure as The Tenth Doctor has continued in comics form via IDW Publishing’s ongoing “Doctor Who” series. All that comes to an end, however, in a four-issue story arc that kicks off this July.

“Final Sacrifice” kicks off with issue #13 of IDW’s popular “Doctor Who” comics, and promises to bring an end to both Tennant’s time as The Doctor and the current series. While there’s still some uncertainty about the form IDW’s “Doctor Who” comics will take after this final adventure, it’s been confirmed that the time- and space-traveling British hero will return in the likeness of new lead actor Matt Smith when things get rolling again in 2011.

I spoke to series writer Tony Lee to get some insight into “Final Sacrifice” and how it relates to Tennant’s final episodes in the television series, as well as his thoughts on bidding adieu to The Tenth Doctor.

MTV NEWS: Matt Smith’s run as The Eleventh Doctor is in full swing on television, but you’re just getting around to the transition on the comics side. What has it been like to see the new Doctor in action, but keep writing adventures for the previous Doctor?

TONY LEE: It’s been incredibly distracting, actually — because I can’t ignore it. When I was writing “Excalibur: The Legend Of King Arthur” for Walker Books/Candlewick, there was a television series starting on the BBC called “Merlin.” As much as I wanted to sit and watch it, I knew that I couldn’t risk it, or else I’d find myself subconsciously changing my story. And so I held back and, after I finished, I watched the entire series in one go.

But with “Doctor Who,” I can’t do that, because as I write the final Tennant story, I’m also working on the next “series” for IDW, the revamped “Doctor Who” #1 with the Eleventh Doctor. So I’m having to watch the episodes, so that I can be ready to kick into scripting — because the scripts for the Eleventh Doctor start going in before the series ends in the UK. And so I sit down each week and watch the show and try not to let it influence my story, which is complicated enough as it is.

But the hardest thing about this is the fact that, although I love Tennant’s Doctor, as much as I’ve written hundreds upon hundreds of pages of script for him, Steven Moffat’s done such an incredible job with the new series that I keep tapping my foot impatiently for the moment I can walk away from Ten and start Eleven…

MTV: Well, then it must be a relief to finally catch up with the current Doctor…

LEE: I’ve been writing Tennant adventures in one form or another since 2006 so there will be a large amount of reticence and sadness on moving on. But at the same time, being a writer is all about change, and the new possibilities that we have here are endless.

Also, everyone knows what happened to the Tenth Doctor, so it becomes even harder to place drama or tension into a cliffhanger. We have to turn to the supporting cast rather than the man himself. But once we get back into the current, we can start building that again.

MTV: Most fans have already seen the transition to the Eleventh Doctor on the television series, so how much will “Final Sacrifice” overlap with the events told in “The End of Time” season finale?

LEE: Not much, really. We were told from the very beginning that “The Waters Of Mars” would lead straight into the regeneration ending, so we set up the whole season arc to end directly before “The Waters Of Mars,” which worked really well as the mindset The Doctor is in during the start of that episode matches the mindset he has at the end of the series of comics. We even had an idea at one point of having him stagger off, leaving everything broken and knackered, and then have Eleven appear a moment later to fix the mess.

But we decided that we needed to have a solid end, something that would weaken The Doctor, that would push him towards the final song — and then, of course, we saw that between “The Waters Of Mars” and “The End Of Time,” The Doctor went off and had a load of adventures, which meant that this wasn’t right before the regeneration. But, we had tied it so nicely into “Waters Of Mars,” we decided to keep it that way.

So although it’s the final Tenth Doctor comic, it’s not going to be a “regeneration prequel.” But we do perform some amazing timey-wimey endings and pretty much do a similar “farewell” end scene.

MTV: You mentioned where “Final Sacrifice” will fit in the timeline, but without those windows of time to explore with the Tenth Doctor, where will the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures fit?

LEE: Well, currently we at IDW know where we’d like it to be, but it depends on a couple of things. I’d personally like it to be set after series five, as by the time the comic comes out the series will have been over for about four, five months and IDW suffered badly before by doing companions who had already left the show. But of course, by doing this, we can’t talk about it — because the public won’t know whether the Doctor’s with Amy, Amy and Rory, River Song, alone or even regenerated by the time we start. So we have to keep shtumm.

If we can’t put it there (because the end of series goes directly into the Christmas special or something like that) then I’d probably do it around the “Vampires Of Venice” / “Amy’s Choice” episodes, when Rory appears in the TARDIS with them, as I love the Rory/Amy/Doctor dynamic they’ve built on. It’s very similar to the Matthew/Emily/Doctor dynamic I built in the IDW series, although Rory is far more likeable!

MTV: Looking back on your run with the Tenth Doctor, what are some of your favorite moments? What were some of the stories you’re most proud of telling with that Doctor, or had the most fun with?

LEE: I think one of my favorite moments was the entirety of “The Forgotten.” Firstly, I got to write every single Doctor. I got to write companions like Jo Grant, the Brigadier, Turlough and Tegan — it was the inner fanboy in me’s greatest moment. And I got to work with Pia Guerra, who of course is wonderful and awesome and I love her, as well as Stefano Martino and Kelly Yates.

And I still think it’s some of my best work there. I’m proud of the fact that in once speech balloon I ended the whole “Is the Doctor half-Human” debate and managed to explain the Doctor’s role in the Time War before even Russell [T. Davies] knew what he was doing with it.

Apart from that, I still think the silent movie chase that Al Davison and I worked out stands up well on its own. “The Fugitive” story had a variety of Han Solo lines dotted throughout, and I’d love to use Brarshak the Ogron again. He rocked.

Also, the creation of The Advocate — I wanted a classic “Master”-type character, and I really think I nailed it here. She’s fun and evil and at the same time you just can’t help liking her.

But to be honest, my best moments haven’t been seen yet — because the final episodes of “Final Sacrifice” tie in so much of the series, and you see that the final scene is closely connected to the first scene of “Doctor Who” #1 in a variety of ways. I really think it’ll go down as some of my best storytelling.

Oh, and my four-page story in the upcoming “Doctor Who” Annual is a favorite because it’s an idea I had back in 2003 and have always wanted to use — and so far, I have a 50-percent “I cried” rating from people who read it!

“Doctor Who” #13 hits shelves in July, kicking off the “Final Sacrifice” story arc in IDW’s ongoing comic book series. The “Doctor Who” television series airs every Saturday at 9 PM EST on BBC America.

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