Interview: Paul Cornell

Back in June, Kate spoke to TV, novel and comics writer, Paul Cornell, primarily about his Doctor Who-related work. During that interview, Paul spoke a little about Titan Comics’ forthcoming Four Doctors comic event. Today — August 12 — the first issue of that mini-series is released and, to mark the occasion, we’re speaking with Paul again. 

Interviewer: Andy @Skaromedia
Interviewee: Paul Cornell

What was the brief you were presented with from Titan for the Four Doctors series?

To bring all three of Titan’s ongoing Doctor Who series together for five issues. Our lovely editor, Andrew James, had a couple of narrative ideas too, based on the old monsters that appear in the story, but I was largely given a free hand.

FourDocs1When writing for Doctor Who a lot of writers say you can give any Doctor the same lines, and the actor adds the essence of their Doctor in their performance. When writing comics, do you have to work harder to put the character of the Doctor across?

I don’t really agree with that about televised Doctor Who. I think it’s maybe true for 80% of dialogue, but there are loads of things you can only imagine one specific Doctor saying. It’s true, though, that in other media, you have to let the dialogue do a lot of the work. In comics, mind you, the artist can also provide the actors’ body language, something Neil Edwards is very good at.

You have four Doctors to write for here. Have you had to study hard to ensure the character traits of each Doctor?

Well, since I’m a Doctor Who fan who’s been immersed in this stuff since I was little, it’s not really about studying, it’s about using all that accumulated observation. This story is all about the interactions of the Doctors, all about their characters and how they relate to each other. The conflict between the Tenth and Twelfth Doctors just seemed obvious to me, the still guilty one and the one who’s been freed of his guilt, with Ten being very suspicious of how Twelve can even exist, and Twelve being unwilling to tell him.

Do you play with the fact that each subsequent Doctor has more knowledge than the previous?

Oh yes, that’s got to be at the heart of what we’re doing.

Day of the Doctor broke the mould of the multi-Doctor story on TV. Did you have a specific list of things you shouldn’t do for this comic, and were there certain things you thought should be in?

I didn’t want to explore the same territory as Day of the Doctor (which hasn’t happened yet for any of our characters except the Twelfth Doctor and Clara), because it’s a staggering masterpiece of plotting I couldn’t hope to live up to. So I’ve gone off in a summer blockbuster adventure direction, with lots of heart and a bit of timey-wimey boggle.

If you could have squeezed more Doctors into the comic would you?

No. This lot were more than enough. I wanted loads of interaction, and you wouldn’t get as much with more of them.

Was this a story you always had in your head if the chance arose, or did you work completely to brief?

I made up something new when I had the idea of a crossover pitched to me. The photograph that could end the universe is a new idea.

The comic is without the effect and location constraints of the TV series – is this a good thing, or are the constraints helpful?

I think the constraints are sometimes helpful, that they help define the nature of the storytelling for a particular Doctor. I wouldn’t write a Troughton story that took advantage of the ‘infinite budget’ of comics, but keep him in enclosed spaces. But with modern Doctors, the BBC could put onscreen just about anything one could write in the comic.

If the opportunity arose for another multi Doctor comic, would you push the boundaries further?

I wouldn’t mind having another go at something like this, with more than one Doctor, but it’d be in another new direction.

Beyond the comic you have written for Doctor Who in all possible formats including two stunning stories for the TV series itself. But just before the series came back, you were responsible for the alternate 9th Doctor as played by Richard E Grant in Scream of the Shalka. Are you proud to have created a new version of the series before the new version of the series?

Yeah, I’ve come to really like Shalka. I’m glad we got a live action show back, though.

Were you frustrated that it didn’t go further, and did you have a plan for further stories?

We had a plan, and there was a sequel in preparation, to be written by Simon Clark. I was into the new live action series by that point, though, and I didn’t share my colleagues’ hopes that there’d be room for both.

What is the proudest moment of your Doctor Who career ?

The night Father’s Day was shown on TV.