In 2005, Christopher Eccleston left Doctor Who, but didn’t give clear reasons why. In two recent interviews, he explains what lead to him leaving such a major role so soon, and what happened after.
Over the years, we’ve heard tiny scraps of information on why Christopher Eccleston left Doctor Who after only one series. Initially, the reason had been given by the BBC as fears of being typecast. However, while Eccleston was reluctant to tell more, he also made it clear that the BBC’s claims were simply untrue. Unsurprisingly, the BBC were quick to apologize for this mistake.
In recent years, however, Christopher Eccleston has become far more candid about not just why he left, but what happened afterwards. A couple of weeks ago, in an interview with the Guardian, he was very upfront about the effect that Doctor Who had had on his career. And it wasn’t a positive one.
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What happened around Doctor Who almost destroyed my career. I gave them a hit show and I left with dignity and then they put me on a blacklist… I was told by my agent at the time: ‘The BBC regime is against you. You’re going to have to get out of the country and wait for regime change.’
In another recent interview with Radio Times, Christopher Eccleston revealed exactly how difficult it was for him working on set.
My relationship with my three immediate superiors – the showrunner, the producer and co-producer – broke down irreparably during the first block of filming and it never recovered. They lost trust in me, and I lost faith and trust and belief in them.
It’s quite surprising to hear how upfront he is. While he’s mentioned before that he “left because of politics” in the past, he still avoided naming anyone directly. So pointing out Russell T. Davies and the producers is quite surprising. Why did he stay quiet about this for so long?
When I left, I gave my word to Russell T Davies that I wouldn’t do anything to damage the show. But they did things to damage me. I didn’t criticise anybody.
However, while he’s certainly more specific about who he had difficulties with, he’s also honest about his own personal insecurities that he experienced on Doctor Who.
Some of my anger about the situation came from my own insecurity… They employed somebody [as the Doctor] who was not a natural light comedian.
He also adds that, even with his level of experience in acting, it didn’t prepare him for something so different.
Billie [Piper], who we know was and is brilliant, was very, very nervous and very, very inexperienced. So, you had that, and then you had me. Very, very experienced, possibly the most experienced on it, but out of my comfort zone.
Eccleston has remained quiet about this for a long time, so it’s interesting hearing him be so upfront about everything now. While his successor David Tennant will always be a highly popular choice, it’s still a shame that Eccleston chose to do only one season in the role.
Whatever his insecurities and the tensions on set, it’s still important to remember just how brilliant he was as the Doctor.