Christopher Eccleston introduced many viewers to Doctor Who, but his departure after one season was mired in controversy.
The 2000s revival of the beloved British sci-fi series Doctor Who propelled actor Christopher Eccleston to the limelight. Eccleston took on the role of the Doctor, a regenerating character whose exploits are the central focus of the show.
Despite the prominence of the role and Eccleston’s panache in pulling it off, he left the show after only one season — a decision announced only days after the first episode aired. The reasons why were complex and personal, made more difficult by rumors.
Doctor Who originally aired in the 1960s, following the exploits of a time- and space-travelling protagonist who could regenerate, taking on a new face and personality. Eccleston was the ninth actor to play the role, and the first one born after the series began. While many other actors who took on this role stayed on for a number of years, Eccleston gave up the role after only one season.
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Initial rumors suggested Eccleston had decided to stay on for only one season in order to avoid being typecast as the Doctor. The BBC released a statement shortly after Eccleston’s episodes began to air, saying the actor had decided to leave the role for this reason. However, the statement was released without Eccleston’s consent and falsely attributed the choice to Eccleston himself. This statement was later retracted by the BBC, which issued Eccleston an apology.
In interviews after the fact, Eccleston cited poor working relationships with the show’s staff and a poor working environment as his reason for leaving the show. In an interview with RadioTimes, he describes the breakdown of his relationship with the producers that left him blacklisted by the BBC, but he never released an official statement because of a promise he made to Doctor Who writer and showrunner Russel T. Davies.
Compounding this poor working relationship was an environment of overwork on the Doctor Who set. Eccleston told BBC News he was no longer comfortable working on the show, given the culture that the entire cast and crew were forced to work in.
Despite the bad relationship and poor environment, Eccleston says he is proud to have played the role of the Doctor, helping to reinvent the character for a whole new generation of Doctor Who fans. The bad blood between him and the IP hasn’t prevented the actor from speaking positively of his time on Doctor Who and even reprising his role of the Ninth Doctor for Doctor Who audiodramas to be released in 2021 and 2022.
Christopher Eccleston brought a fresh, new take on the role of the Doctor, providing a seriousness to the character along with a northern accent and a leather jacket. While he only stayed on for one season, Eccleston’s revitalization of Doctor Who provided an introduction to the character and series for a whole new audience, and many still consider him their Doctor.
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