When Doctor Who returned to television in 2005, it was never a guaranteed success. In its heyday the show was often derided by the popular press despite its popularity amongst the general public, and it had been off the air since 1989. It took an extraordinary actor to bring the show to a whole new generation, with Christopher Eccleston rising to the challenge of playing the Ninth Doctor and becoming a fan favorite in the process.
However, Eccleston’s time on the show was short and sweet; he left the franchise after just a single year to be replaced by David Tennant. Going amidst mystery and acrimony, Eccleston seemingly wanted nothing to do with the show for a long time, turning down the opportunity to return for the 50th anniOh versary celebrations back in 2013.
Finally, after over 15 years, Eccleston returned to the fold earlier this year with audio production company Big Finish, producing a series of well-received Doctor Who audio plays with plans for more. After this, many fans are wondering if Eccleston might show up in the flesh for Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary celebrations coming in 2023, with a multi-Doctor episode being almost tradition at this point.
Christopher Eccleston’s relationship with the BBC over Doctor Who “has not healed”
During a Q&A at Dragon Con, Eccleston revealed details of his departure from the show, saying that his “relationship with the BBC over Doctor Who has not healed.”
“I left because my relationship with [showrunner] Russell T Davies, [producers] Julie Gardner and Phil Collinson completely broke down during the shooting of the first series,” Eccleston said. “I think it’s fair to say… that the first series, nobody knows what they’re doing, and the politics are raging. The shooting of the first series was a nightmare.”
It has long been known that the first season of Doctor Who was behind schedule and disorganized, with young actors like Billie Piper said to be terrified of the press interest in the show. The pressure only added to a toxic atmosphere on set, with Eccleston’s relationship with his superiors breaking down during the very first block of filming.
I agreed with Russell that I would go, quietly and respectfully, and I would look after the show publicity-wise, in terms of publicizing it. And then, without saying anything to me, they announced that I was leaving. They didn’t tell me they were going to do that. I was walking down the street, and suddenly I got quite a lot of aggression.
Eccleston has kept his promise not to harm the show’s reputation, stating his profound love for the fans and how much he enjoyed playing the Doctor. However, he has often spoken about the duplicity of the BBC. “More importantly… they created a quote, and they attributed it to me, which said I was tired,” Eccleston said. “I didn’t find it too tiring. I found it too tiring working with Russell, and Phil, and Julia. I didn’t find it physically too tiring.”
When they said that, any other producer reading that would go ‘Oh, we’re not going to employ Christopher Eccleston because he gets tired’… So they issued a kind of apology, but it’s not enough, so no.
So Eccleston isn’t likely to return to either the BBC or Doctor Who on TV, but he’s still involved in the franchise. There will be more Big Finish audios dramas in the future and the actor will be attending plenty of conventions, meaning that the Ninth Doctor’s era short era will continue.