Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper on Doctor Who
(BBC)

Will Christopher Eccleston Return to ‘Doctor Who’?

Will the "fantastic" 9th Doctor return?

Doctor Who is a BBC sci-fi show that has been running since 1963. While it did take a temporary hiatus in 1989, it was revived in 2005 and has been going strong ever since. In fact, the show has been exploring completely new avenues recently. In 2017, Jodie Whittaker became the very first woman to officially portray the Doctor. Now, it has been announced, much to our excitement, that Ncuti Gatwa will portray the 14th Doctor.

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Gatwa is a Rwandan actor, best known for his role in Sex Education. He marks the first Black actor to portray the Doctor in Doctor Who. As fans gear up to welcome the new Doctor, there is naturally much reminiscing of past Doctors. The series’ longevity is possible, largely, because of the nature of the Doctor. The Doctor is a Time Lord—a being who appears human but is actually an alien with two hearts and the power of regeneration. Essentially, anytime the Doctor is injured beyond healing, they regenerate into a new incarnation. And with each new body, they look different, sound different, and even change temperament slightly. So far, 13 different actors have portrayed the Doctor.

One Doctor who stands out is the 9th Doctor, portrayed by Christopher Eccleston. Eccleston only portrayed the Doctor for a single season, unlike his successors who portrayed the Doctor for at least 3 seasons total. Even though his stint was short, Eccleston was the first Doctor to appear in the Doctor Who reboot in 2005, and so he is the foundation of the modern Doctor Who we know and love. While many Doctors have returned to guest star in Doctor Who, Eccleston has yet to do so.

Why did Christopher Eccleston leave Doctor Who?

Unfortunately, the chance of seeing Eccleston return to Doctor Who is pretty slim. To understand why, we need to look back on the details of his departure. For one, his problem has never been with Doctor Who, so much as it is with the BBC. While many were surprised by him leaving Doctor Who after one season, it was a logical choice. The role of the Doctor was far outside anything he had done so far. However, he chose to give it a shot anyway, and when he found that the role, culture, and environment weren’t for him, he chose not to continue.

It all sounds pretty straightforward, but the BBC apparently didn’t think so. Eccleston has since claimed that BBC blacklisted him and attempted to destroy his career after he quit Doctor Who. He said that he was abandoned and vilified by tabloids, despite the fact he had given BBC a hit show. Allegedly, the backlash he received was so bad that he left the UK entirely, at the urging of his agent. His agent warned him that the entire BBC regime was against him, hence, why picked up his acting career in America.

To make matters worse, Eccleston had agreed with BBC to not speak openly about his departure. However, BBC then released a statement claiming that Eccleston had left the franchise because he was ‘tired.’ BBC did issue an apology to Eccleston after that statement, but only because he threatened legal action.

Will Eccleston ever return to Doctor Who?

Christopher Eccleston in Doctor Who (2005)
(BBC)

As for whether Eccleston will ever return to Doctor Who is unknown. There are bound to be many more Doctor Who episodes, seasons, specials, and anniversaries. Meaning there are numerous opportunities for Eccleston to surprise us and pick up the sonic screwdriver once more. However, most likely, he will not return and we really can’t blame him. As said before, it wasn’t specifically the Doctor Who franchise that he was against. Granted, it wasn’t in line with the typical work he did, but he has never bashed it to the extent he has his other works, such as Thor 2 and G.I. Joe.

In fact, Eccleston actually has since reprised his role as the 9th Doctor for a series of Doctor Who audio plays produced by Big Fish. While he clearly cares about the franchise and is still intrigued by the role, he likely won’t appear in the role on the TV screen. Despite meeting with Steven Moffat about it, Eccleston ultimately refused to reprise his role for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special. Hence, while he seems tentatively open to returning to Doctor Who, it is his relationship with BBC that hasn’t healed yet and that will likely keep him away from reprising his role on television.

(featured image: BBC Studios)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.