If you’re a fan of Doctor Who, you’ve heard the name Paul Cornell at some point. If you’ve watched the new series of Doctor Who, read a Doctor Who novel or a Bernice Summerfield novel, watched the Doctor Who web-series “Scream of the Shalka” or listened to the Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays, chances are very good that some point you have experienced, and most likely loved, the writing of Paul Cornell.
In addition to award-winning episodes of Doctor Who, he has also written for Coronation Street, Primeval, and the most recent BBC series version of Robin Hood.
Comic fans know and love him from his work on “Batman”, “Black Widow”, “Captain Britain and MI-13”, the “Fantastic Four”, “Saucer Country”, “Superman”, and “Wolverine”. And now, he has written a mini-series for Titan Comics that reunites the War Doctor with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, and introduces them to the Twelfth Doctor. “Doctor Who: the Four Doctors” hits the stands on August 12th, and will be a big part of the global event “Doctor Who Day” on August 15th.
He and artist Neil Edwards will join other Titan Doctor Who comics writers, Nick Abadzis, Rob Williams and Al Ewing, at Orbital Comics in London for a podcast that will be available for us here in the States via a live stream.
Paul has very generously taken some time out of his hectic schedule to answer some questions for us.
MJ: Paul, I should admit upfront that I’ve been a fan of your work ever since you made me look at the show in a different light with the new series episode “Father’s Day” and then made me weep uncontrollably with the two-parter “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood”. It was an ugly cry. I’d rather not go into it.
I’ve also really enjoyed your appearances on Radio Free Skaro and Verity, in particular the Verity April Fool’s episode. It is hilarious! And I’m really looking forward to your own podcast, The Cornell Collective!
Paul, thank you very much for taking the time to have a few words with our readers.
Every writer who gets to write for Doctor Who probably fantasizes about writing a story that brings together two or more versions of the Doctor. And here you get to unite four of them! Speaking as a fan of Doctor Who, how was the experience of writing a multi-Doctor story?
PC: Getting the chance to write Doctor interaction is great fun, and that’s what this crossover event is all about. We do as much of that as possible.
MJ: Charming and exuberant, passionate and brilliant, the Tenth Doctor can turn on a dime and be the darkest of all the Doctors. But his is arguably the most heroic incarnation of the Time Lord. How was it to write for him again?
PC: In Four Doctors, he’s deeply suspicious of Twelve, in that the older Doctor won’t say where he came from or how he can even exist.
MJ: At times boyish and goofy, and at times ancient in his deceptively young skin, the Eleventh Doctor can seem a bit schizophrenic. What was it like to write for him?
PC: Eleven spends the miniseries trying to calm the other two down and get them to work together. He awards himself, at one point, a ‘most sensible Doctor’ badge. And he’s right.
MJ: John Hurt as the War Doctor brought the classic series feel of the Doctor to a whole new generation while still giving us something we hadn’t seen yet. What was your take on this mysterious, grizzled, war-weary version of the Doctor?
PC: You’ve already seen, in the preview pages, his appearance in the comic. He contributes to the back story behind this event. But there are several reasons this is called ‘Four Doctors’.
MJ: Writing for the Twelfth Doctor can be a difficult balancing act. I imagine that it can be tough to make him snarky and abrasive without making him unlikable. How was it to write for this challenging character?
PC: I love him. I adore him. The chance to give him surprising and revealing comebacks, especially when challenged by his younger selves, was too exciting to turn down.
MJ: A Doctor without a companion is a sad and lonely thing. Each of the companions in “The Four Doctors” is a strong woman in her own right, Gabby, Alice, and of course, the charming and impossible Clara. Unless I’m quite mistaken, this is your first time writing for any of these companions. Did you have any difficulty in finding room to give each of these characters their due?
PC: No, we start with the three of them meeting, trying to prevent what Clara calls ‘some sort of multi-Doctor… event’. The comic companions get re-introduced for a new audience, and all three of them get to narrate an issue, and to shine in moments of their own. Getting those three right and putting them at the centre was very important to me.
MJ: With all the attention that has been given to this epic assemblage of Time Lords, the bad guys seem to have been overlooked. Obviously, it must be a terrible threat to bring four Doctors together. Without giving away too much, what can you tell us about this menace?
PC: There’s a photo that might mean the end of the universe. There are several old monsters in the pages of this event.
MJ: Giving voice to a character is often the best part of writing. So far you’ve had the rare privilege of giving voice to every Doctor from the Seventh to the Twelfth. I know this is a ridiculous question because they all have their individual strengths and charms, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Of all of the Doctors, is there any one of them who stands out as your favorite to write for?
PC: Right now, it’s Twelve. He’s incredibly fun to write.
MJ: Thanks to his stories in the Big Finish audio dramas, the Eighth Doctor is one of my favorites. And “Seasons of Fear” is one of my favorite Eighth Doctor stories. Are you and Caroline planning on writing anything else for Big Finish at some point?
PC: No, she’s incredibly busy, and if she were to write fiction again, it’d be solo.
Once again, I must say that I’m looking forward to the Cornell Collective, the first episode of which is now available on iTunes. Is there anything else you’ve been working on that you’d like to let our readers know about?
PC: I’ve got four different titles coming out within five weeks: Four Doctors; This Damned Band (my rock horror comedy from Dark Horse comics); A Better Way to Die (my collected short stories) and Witches of Lychford (a novella from Tor.com). Busy!
MJ: Thank you again, Paul, for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. We really appreciate it.
“Doctor Who: the Four Doctors” hits the stands on August 12th, and will be a big part of the global event “Doctor Who Day” on August 15th. And check out The Cornell Collective available on iTunes now.
Readers, as always we welcome your comments. Feel free to take a moment and enter them below.