Most everyone has a favorite Doctor. In recent years, the 10th Doctor, as played by the always-amazing David Tennant, has proved time and again to be one of Doctor Who’s most popular Doctors. That brings us to Mr. Abadzis. Currently penning the adventures of the Time Lord’s Tenth incarnation, I’ve been constantly impressed by the clever writing and dynamic story arcs. With that in mind, I knew I had to try and talk to Mr. Abadzis about his latest run on Doctor Who for Titan Comics.
Octavio Karbank: Let’s begin with what attracted you to Doctor Who, both then and now.
Nick Abadzis: I was very young when I became a Doctor Who fan. I can recall Jon Pertwee regenerating into Tom Baker; I can recall a lot of the Pertwee era actually. I was reading the books, the Target Novelizations, which back before VCRs and DVDs was the only way you could experience he older stories. So I knew older Doctors existed. What attracted me was safe fear. There’s the old story of hiding behind the sofa and you didn’t know why you were scared as a kid, but you were scared. Often in those times you had the radiophonic workshop supply the effects, you were aware of that as a kid, but there was something else that was telling you that it was scary, which was often great sound effects and music and actors who sincerely believed in the kind of story they were telling you. They all combined to draw me in and I always found Doctor Who to be a very immersive experience as a child; the world of Doctor Who. What attracts me to it now? I don’t think I ever shook it off! It’s still incredibly appealing to me for so many reasons. Now, with a fifty-two year backstory that’s extended into other media, I can consume that stuff over the years. I think it’s fair to say I’m steeped in Doctor Who.
OK: What’s the most difficult part of writing Doctor Who comics?
NA: Probably coming up with new storylines. I mean, I’ve got an excess of ideas anyway and I’m always writing them down in sketchbooks, but truthfully, I like to keep storylines to 2-3 issues. You want to mess around with the story length so as to keep your reader on their toes. It’s the evolution, in my case, of the 10th Doctor and making sure it matches up with the vain and glorious Doctor from The Waters of Mars and The End of Time, because that’s his end. You’ve got to make sure that everything eventually goes in that direction. I spend a lot of time evolving him realistically from the guy we know on TV after Planet of the Dead. His speech patterns have to change, his cadences are the same, but he has to come up with new catch phrases, yet always remain very much the Doctor. It sort of playing a part in a way, a combined performance, you as the writer with whoever happens to be drawing the issue and recently I’ve been working a hell of a lot with George Esposito, who’s wonderful and works really hard.
OK: That leads somewhat into my follow-up question: if you could talk about where the 10th Doctor is psychology at the moment.
NA: The Doctor is a traveller. He loves distracting himself with as much as possible. The wonderful thing about Gabby and Cindy is they’ve provided a realistic distraction for him, from the prophecy of his own song ending. I sort of believe that there are pockets of time in every incarnation of his life, that we simply don’t know about; these huge gaps. None of it is completely mapped out. As for his psychology, I think he’s very, very happy to have this, sort of, parental view of them. Particularly Gabby; I think he feels a little guilty that he’s gotten her into a couple of situations that nearly killed her. He’s also a reckless Doctor, perhaps more so than his other regenerations, so this will play into something eventually. Year Three has some of those issues coming to a head.
OK: Can you say anything about Gabby and Cindy’s eventual departure?
NA: I think at this point I’d almost be speculating myself. I do know Gabby’s endgame, if you like. Cindy’s, not as much. I’m always careful what I say about that because I might contradict myself later, things don’t always unfold in the way you plan. I have an emotional plan and less of a through plotline. I think sometimes if you do that, you can trap yourself as a writer. You have to let it remain fresh for yourself, so that it can remain fresh for the reader. If it’s fun for me to write, I hope that comes across in the finished script. Anyway, I guess they have to stop travelling with him at some point, but there’s still a lot to come.
OK: Let’s talk about Anubis and Sutekh, and bringing back the latter.
NA: The Doctor’s spirit is the same in all his incarnation; his intelligence and memories of all those guys. He’s definitely more circumspect around Anubis, then he was around almost any other character. I wanted to give him a very powerful foe, but Anubis was not a foe, but rather someone who expects to be bowed to. Sutekh on the other hand was far more dangerous and with him coming back, the question was how would the Doctor defeat him? That played out for a couple of issues, but let’s just say that the Doctor’s plan wasn’t 100% successful.
OK: What’s your process like in writing Doctor Who?
NA: I think, as writers go, I’m kind of unusual, because I thumbnail a lot. That’s because I’ve written and drawn my own comics for many years. My writing process is as much ideas and lines of dialogue and doodling it to see what pieces will work. I go for long walks and thing up ideas; I watch old episodes of the show. I draw a big map with arrows and diagrams and thinking about different places I want to take the story, what I want to achieve with the story, and what I want to put the characters through. It’s very easy to write Doctor Who as a fan service to oneself, but I work very hard at writing a coherent story that hopefully shows a side of the Doctor that you’ve never seen before. That side is usually revealed by his relationships with his companions, the characters of the story and sometimes villains. It’s all about revealing different sides to the Doctor, which I guess harkens back to your question about his psychology. I think at this point in his life, he’s a more open-minded individual. He’s worried, because he has this prophecy hanging over him, but he’s also wilfully forgetful of it. He doesn’t want to have to deal with it, so he dives right in into every adventure that comes his way and deals with it in an almost confrontational manner. That’s quite deliberate and true to the 10th Doctor at that time in his life. By the same token, he’s full of life and you want to keep that.
OK: Can we talk about how the 10th Doctor feels about his companions? On the one hand, we have Gabby and Cindy; the Doctor seems to favor one over the other-
NA: Is that how you see it? That’s interesting.
OK: Well, Cindy seemed to tag along with Gabby. Gabby, at least for a little while, felt rather jealous of having to share the Doctor. I suppose I’m wondering whether tagging along with someone who’s already earned their spot on the TARDIS with the Doctor is enough to grant them companion status too.
NA: It’s great that you’re thinking that way, because clearly my writing has provoked it! They are very different kinds of characters. Cindy was always perceived as Gabby’s best friend, but originally she was going to stay in Brooklyn. She almost wrote herself into stories. There’s this dynamic where Gabby isn’t always comfortable to be trapped in this friendship with Cindy. While Gabby is brave and resourceful, Cindy is a self-confessed coward and thinks she isn’t brave and almost doesn’t believe in herself; it’s almost about Cindy’s journey to self-belief and how the Doctor encourages that. At this point, since she’s in the TARDIS, he trusts her implicitly, but it’s Cindy’s own lack of self-belief that makes her think that something else is going on. The Doctor adores all his companions, I think. I don’t think he’d actually come out and say it, because that would be tantamount to admitting to having feelings. The Tenth Doctor has often been characterized as one of the most human of Doctors and I think that’s true. That was true in his reactions to Rose. He’s very mindful of that now. To a certain extent, Cindy distracts Gabby; he’s also aware of his role as a teacher to Gabby and how he might’ve failed her in that regard on some accounts.
OK: We touched on this a little, but can you talk a little about the scientific research required to write Doctor Who?
NA: I’m a big science buff anyway. Also anything you find in the comic is probably rooted in something I’ve read and strained from my own creative process. I read Scientific America and science books by scientists and that goes into the mix somewhere and that brings out some kind of crazy theory that goes into the Doctor’s mouth. Even though Doctor Who is sci-fi-fantasy, I like to try and root it as much as possible in a sense of realism if you like. I like to make sure that to establish that it could be real. Sometimes you go crazy and get alien beings made of song, but equally that’s riffing off something I once read.
OK: Do you think you’d make for a good companion?
NA: Me? No, I’d probably be too scared and run at the first alien I saw! I’d like to take a trip aboard the TARDIS, but I’d probably be likely to ask the Doctor to take me back to a David Bowie show in 1976 or something. I would also like to see the future and see how we turn out. I’d like to think that he’d think that I would be a laugh, at least for a short while.
OK: Finally, what does the Doctor mean to you?
NA: Freedom. I love that the Doctor represents freethinking, free-thought, creativity, and diversity. He thinks that everyone is equal, should be equal, and treat each other with respect. I love that about him and have always loved that about the character. That was something that was imbued in him from the very outset but really came to the fore in the 70s. So if I had to say it in one say, I’d say the spirit of freedom.
OK: Thank you.
NA: Thank you!
Octavio Karbank is a writer and bona fide Whovian. Living in Massachusetts, you can find him on Twitter @TymeHunter and his blog www.cozmicventures.com
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