Jody Houser: Taking the New Doctor Who Through All Time and Space

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All of time and space? Something for your bucket list--especially if you get to travel it in the company of the immortal Doctor Who. Over the show's fifty-plus year history, the regenerating Doctor (a plot device used to cover the change of actors as the show progressed) has gone through a number of unusual and dramatic changes. But none have been more dramatic than when we met the Thirteenth Doctor, when former Doctor, Peter Capaldi, ended his tenure on the show giving way to Jodie Whittaker, the first time we have seen the Doctor regenerate as a woman (even though we knew it was possible, when the Doctor's longtime foe, the Master, regenerated as "Missy").

The Doctor's adventures aren't limited to just the television show, however. The character has been licensed to novels and, of course, comic books. Over at Titan Comics, writer Jody Houser has been given the daunting task of expanding on the cast's journeys. We chatted with Jody about her approach to this new Doctor, and asked about her personal insights into the enigmatic, quirky character.

Obviously a lot of the hype about the latest Doctor is that The Doctor has regenerated as a woman this time. Looking at this from The Doctor's perspective first, how does this affect her outlook and motivations? Does The Doctor's biological form have any bearing on the adventures, as far as the character's approach -- and should it?

I think as we've seen with every regeneration, it's the tweaks to the personality that matter more than the changes to the physical form. I think the Doctor's current form should have a bearing when it makes sense for the story--Bill pretending the older Twelfth Doctor is her grandfather, for example.  Otherwise, the Doctor is the Doctor is the Doctor.

Following up on that, how does The Doctor being a woman impact your approach to the character as a writer, in terms of how you see the character reacting and interacting with characters and situations?

I don't think it really has all that much. I'm more focused on what Jodie and the current writers have brought to the role, and the voice of the Thirteenth Doctor.

The Doctor is -- or is supposed to be -- very, very old, having had 13 regenerations. Yet, with the exception of Matt Smith who passed a few hundred years alone on a planet during the end of his tenure -- they seem to have chronologically short iterations. This is a storytelling necessity for the show, as we can't expect an actor to take the role and then stick around for a few centuries, but is there any consideration in the written and graphic versions, where the constraints are off, given to the notion that any specific Doctor has adventures with other companions that would make the longevity seem... longer?

The Doctor never has a straight answer for how old they are anyway. I think the fact that there's always time for another adventure for the Doctor, across all regenerations and multiple storytelling mediums, is one of the fun things about Doctor Who.

Writing a franchise character, for me, always has me plumbing the depths of what has gone before, looking for dangling plot threads to grasp onto, closures that might still be open, and hints of things that could have been explored further but weren't. When approaching Doctor Who the franchise, what is your research process like to get into the heads of the characters while at the same time avoiding the "loaded canons" of DW continuity?

Starting out with a story that leaned on existing episodes in Road to Thirteen was for me a great way to jump in the deep end of Doctor Who for Thirteen's first adventure. It gave me a chance to poke around with the previous versions of the Doctor, as well as giving the weight of history to the first problem I would be having her solve.

With DOCTOR WHO: THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR, "A NEW BEGINNING" you introduce two humans from the future who have just invented a method for time travel that brings them into the clutches of The Hoarder. They are, presumably, from Earth, which means our future will/may have time travel available to us. Does the Doctor, as a time lord, have any responsibility to shepherd this development -- or stifle it?

I think it's fun to have the Doctor be a bit of a snob about time travel. Her people have been doing to for so long, after all. But with a long-standing fondness for humans, I think she leans more towards the shepherding.

The Thirteenth Doctor does not have a companion, but a team, a call back to the William Hartnell days when he traveled with Susan, Ian, and Barbara. However, writing for four is a completely different dynamic than writing for two. How do you go about making sure each character gets to make their contributions in an adventure?

It's definitely a balancing act! Luckily, the Doctor's friends are all fantastic characters, so it's fun to write them all. I try to lean into their particular strengths, such as Yaz's job in law enforcement, to show what they are all capable of contributing as they travel.

All of time and space is a big place. Where are you taking us next?

Someplace fun!