Christopher Eccleston would return to Doctor Who if they “sack Russell T Davies”

Christopher Eccleston reveals what he enjoys about playing the Doctor on audio.Image credit: Doctor Who/BBC.Image obtained from: BBC Press.
Christopher Eccleston reveals what he enjoys about playing the Doctor on audio.Image credit: Doctor Who/BBC.Image obtained from: BBC Press. /

Actor Christopher Eccleston played the role of the Doctor on Doctor Who when the long-running sci-fi show was first revived back in 2005, under the supervision of showrunner Russell T Davies. Eccleston did not return for a second season, and was instead replaced by David Tennant. The exact circumstances surrounding Eccleston’s departure have long been shrouded in mystery, but suffice it to say they were messy. According to ComicBookMovie, the BBC announced that he wouldn’t be sticking around shortly after his first episode, hinting that he was struggling with the responsibilities of the role. Later, the BBC had to admit that they had “falsely [attributed] a statement” to him and broken an agreement to not reveal his departure so soon.

Since then, many Doctors and companions have come, gone, and returned for special appearances, but Eccleston has never come back. Whatever exactly happened, it’s clear that it soured him on the whole Doctor Who experience.

And it hasn’t passed. Eccleston proved that while on a panel with actor Billie Piper (Rose Tyler) at the For The Love Of Sci-Fi 2023 convention earlier this month. The host asked Eccleston what it would take for him to return as the Doctor, and he did not hold back. “Sack Russell T Davies,” he said. “Sack [producer] Jane Tranter. Sack Phil Collinson. Sack Julie Gardner. And I’ll come back. So can you arrange that?”

And just in case you think he was saying this all in jest, with a wink and a nudge to indicate he was just joshing, it really doesn’t sound like it. I’ve time-stamped the pertinent moment below. It’s fairly uncomfortable; no one’s laughing:

“I love being associated [with the Doctor], just don’t like being associated with those people and the politics that went on in the first series,” Eccleston continued. “The first series was a mess, and it wasn’t to do with me or Billie [Piper], it was to do with the people who were supposed to make it, and it was a mess.”

"You know, the first series, nobody wants to know. The BBC were like we’re gonna keep a big distance from this. And then as soon as it was a success they were all up close going ‘I was responsible for that,’ but they were all like at a distance. Like this is a folly, Eccleston’s folly, Piper’s folly, Russell T Davies’ folly. And then when it worked, suddenly ‘Oh yeah I worked on that.’ They wouldn’t come anywhere near us and then they jump on the bandwagon. Those kinds of politics I’m not very good at handling, I can’t swallow that shit."

Meanwhile, Billie Piper was much more chill. “Well, I’ve returned a bunch of times,” she said. “I couldn’t stop returning for a while. It has been a while. Too long, too long. Yeah, I think I would. I think I’d go back. I think also now again because my kids are a bit older, I’d quite like to share all of that with them as well.”

Doctor Who showrunner wants us to focus on Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson now

Speaking of returns, the show recently capped off a trilogy of specials that featured the return of David Tennant as the Doctor, working once again with Russell T Davies, who has returned as showrunner after years away. The most recent episode, “The Giggle,” ended with the Doctor splitting in two: David Tennnat’s Doctor gets to retire while a new version played by Ncuti Gatwa will go off and have wild adventures. It’s the first time something like this has happened.

So if Tennant’s Doctor is still out there, could he return? “Sorry, this is the age of Ncuti now,” Davids told Digital Spy and other outlets at the premiere of the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special. “No plans genuinely yet because it’s a busy TARDIS. [Gatwa’s Doctor and new companion Ruby Sunday (Mille Gibson)] are going to just sail across the universe and capture your heart. So, it’s time to look at these two.”

That’s fair enough, although given that Davies made the deliberate choice for David Tennant’s Doctor to stick around as a discrete entity, you have to think he’s mulling over cameos in the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned back up sooner or later.

The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) in Doctor Who.
The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) in Doctor Who. /

But for the moment, Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor will take over, starting with the Christmas Special and moving on to a whole new season early next year. It’s a whole new world for Doctor Who. Will it be able to adjust to the times? It has before.

“I think it’s a busy world now – there’s Stranger Things, there’s the Marvel empire, there’s Star Wars. It’s a noisy, noisy fantasy world. That’s the defining difference between now and 2005.

"We were kind of the only show in 2005, now it’s a busy marketplace. So we’ve got to be noisy and actually the truth of it is that first episode, ‘The Star Beast’, the consolidated figures are already 8.7 million. So we’re growing and growing and growing every single week. So it’s working. It’s delightful."

If there’s anyone with the energy to pull off a comeback, it’s probably Davies, who has hopefully found a collaborator up to the task in Gatwa. As for Eccleston, don’t expect him back

anytime soon


Next. House of the Dragon and 40 other sci-fi/fantasy shows to look forward to in 2024. dark

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