Lee's parents were industrious, law-abiding shop owners. His brother, Chang Ho, two years his senior, wanted to use the shop as a front for selling crack for the gang. His parents refused and were killed by a rival gang. This left Lee under Ho's protection and he brought Lee into his gang. A rivalry with another gang intensified and Ho was knifed in 1996. (PROSE: The Novel of the Film)
On 30 December 1999, Lee and his friends were beset by several members of a rival gang. The gang members shot Lee's friends one by one. Just when it appeared that Lee would follow his friends into death, the TARDIS appeared in front of Lee and the Seventh Doctor emerged. Confused, the rival gang members fired on the Doctor, then fled. Lee got an ambulance to take the Doctor to a hospital, giving the false name John Smith as the Doctor's identity. After the Doctor "died", prior to regenerating into his next incarnation, Lee was told of the unfortunate news by Dr Grace Holloway. He seemed mildly upset, but was more interested in feigning a relationship with the Doctor so that he could steal his belongings. As Grace became suspicious of Lee, he ran off with the bag containing the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, TARDIS key, and other items.
The next day, Lee entered the TARDIS. Here, he met and was enthralled by the Master, who convinced him the Doctor was evil. For a time he collaborated with the Master, even when not apparently under active hypnosis. However, the Doctor revealed the Master's stories as lies and Lee resisted the Master's commands. Rather than use any energy re-converting him, the Master snapped Lee's neck, killing him. The Doctor reversed time and resurrected Lee and Grace, whom the Master had also killed.
After the Master's defeat, the Doctor bade Lee farewell on New Year's Day 2000, warning him he shouldn't be in San Francisco the following Christmas. The Doctor allowed him to keep the two bags of gold dust the Master had originally bribed him with. (TV: Doctor Who)
After meeting the Doctor, Chang Lee decided to mend his ways and became heavily invested in joint Chinese-American space projects. His son Chang Hu was born in 2009 and Lee decided that he would lead a generation of humans out of the Solar system. (PROSE: Observer Effect)
Behind the scenes
- Some fans consider Chang Lee a companion of the Doctor, perhaps based on the fact that the TARDIS saves his life. Other fans (including Yee Jee Tso himself) consider him one of the few companions of the Master. In fact, he's both — and neither. He became a willing participant in the Master's plans, but only after being hypnotised. Later, he sided with the Doctor and was killed for it. When resurrected, he showed no interest in staying with the Doctor on any sort of long-term basis.
- The novelisation of the Doctor Who telefilm names the friends with Lee on the night he met the Doctor. One was called Lin Wang. However, the book claims that one, Pik Sim, was a woman with long hair, while in the final cut of the film they are clearly all males. This discrepancy reveals the difficulty inherent in relying on Gary Russell's novel for accurate details, as it was written without the benefit of seeing the final film and apparently even before casting had been completed.