Christopher Eccleston, the actor behind the 9th Doctor in Doctor Who, criticized showrunner Russell T. Davies for the "mess" of production, revealing what it would take for him to return to the show.
While most Doctor Who leads hold onto the role for several seasons, Eccleston was the exception, only leading Season 1 of the 2005 revival before passing on his TARDIS keys to David Tennant.
His exit from the show was announced by the BBC just days after his first episode premiered in March 2005, stating a supposed fear of becoming typecast as the reason. The studio later admitted to "falsely [attributing] a statement" to the actor and breaking an agreement not to confirm his exit so early.
Christopher Eccleston on Doctor Who Production 'Mess' & Potential Return
Former Doctor Who stars Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper recently attended the series' panel at the For The Love Of Sci-Fi 2023 convention, during which the topic of a potential return to the show was raised.
When asked what it would take to bring him back to Doctor Who, Eccleston stated the BBC would have to "sack" showrunner Russell T. Davies, executive producers Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter, and producer Phil Collinson:
"Sack Russell T Davies. Sack Jane Tranter. Sack Phil Collinson. Sack Julie Gardner. And I'll come back. So can you arrange that?"
All four of those named worked on Doctor Who during Eccleston's time leading the show but left in 2009 with the departure of David Tennant and just recently returned to lead the series with the 60th-anniversary specials.
The 9th Doctor actor was also questioned on if he dislikes still being associated with the show, to which he revealed he "[loves]" being linked with the character. But Eccleston was clear he is less fond of being associated with the "people and politics" behind the production of 2005's Season 1, calling it a "mess:"
"Not at all, I love being associated, just don't like being associated with those people and the politics that went on in the first series. 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."
He added how, during the development of the Doctor Who revival, the BBC "[kept] a big distance" until the show became a hit success:
"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."
On the other end, Piper was far more open to the notion, saying, "I think I would" return to the show, having already reprised her role as Rose Tyler several times:
"Well I've returned a bunch of times. 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."
Speaking with the Radio Times in 2018, Eccleston pinned his exit on a fallout with the series' top creatives, saying their relationship "broke down irreparably" early in production due to a lack of faith on both sides:
“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.
The actor told the Evening Standard in 2010 that he departed the show because he "didn't enjoy the environment and the culture that we, the cast and crew, had to work in."
Eccleston added he "wasn't comfortable" in the production and would have had to "blind [himself] to certain things" to stick around:
"I wasn't comfortable. I thought 'If I stay in this job, I'm going to have to blind myself to certain things that I thought were wrong. And I think it's more important to be your own man than to be successful, so I left. But the most important thing is that I did it, not that I left. I really feel that, because it kind of broke the mould and it helped to reinvent it. I'm very proud of it."
Will Christopher Eccleston Ever Return to Doctor Who?
Christopher Eccleston already reprised the 9th Doctor in audio form, lending his voice to 30 full-cast dramas from Big Finish so far, with two more box sets with three new stories each announced to release in February and May 2024.
Of course, the Big Finish audio dramas don't fall under the purview of Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies or the series' producers, meaning Eccleston can comfortably continue his Doctor's journey in that form without associating with them.
The actor told Rose City Comic Con in 2019 (via Radio Times), that he was offered a role in 2013's The Day of the Doctor special but didn't feel the story "did justice" to the 9th Doctor, leading him to decline the offer:
“I didn’t feel that what they were asking me to do did justice to the Ninth Doctor. So I said no.”
He also told the Radio Times he "considered it" due to his love for at-the-time showrunner Steven Moffat, but, at this point, the BBC had yet to apologize for the situation surrounding his exit from Doctor Who:
“They approached me to be in [‘The Day of the Doctor’], but the BBC had still not apologised to me. I liked Steven Moffat a lot. I considered it."
So, there was a time Eccleston was open to reprising the role of the 9th Doctor if he was met with the right story. But with all those who created a hellish environment for the actor now back at the helm of Doctor Who for the foreseeable future, the chances of that have once again disappeared.
It appears unlikely the actor will ever return to the main show in any form, with fans of the character only left with Big Finish for new content starring the 9th Doctor.
Christopher Eccleston's Doctor Who season can be found streaming now on BBC iPlayer in the U.K. and Max in the U.S.