The Real Reason Christopher Eccleston Left ‘Doctor Who’ After One Season
Doctor Who may be entering a new era, but the series that re-started it all has new secrets to spill. Christopher Eccleston finally shares details of his one-season exit and tensions with Russell T Davies, including a surprise complication with beloved companion Billie Piper.
Eccleston kicked off the 2005 revival in its central role, but left the series after one season and was replaced with fan-favorite David Tennant. In the intervening decade, Eccleston has never been shy about conflicts with then-showrunner Davies, but got surprisingly candid in conversation with RadioTimes. In addition to conflicts with showrunners, the actor admitted to some “insecurity” over his darker portrayal clashing against tone, as well as difficulty working with then-newcomer Piper:
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 … Some of my anger about the situation came from my own insecurity. They employed somebody [as the Doctor] who was not a natural light comedian. Billie [Piper], who we know was and is brilliant, was very, very nervous and very, very inexperienced. So, you had that, and then you had me. Very, very experienced, possibly the most experienced on it, but out of my comfort zone.
Eccleston added that he’d only kept quiet about his departure as a promise to Davies that he wouldn’t “damage the show,” but now claims “they did things to damage me. I didn’t criticise anybody.” Eccleston never returned to the series even after Davies left in 2010, though the 50th anniversary episodes did use his image as the Ninth Doctor. Back in 2016, Eccleston also alluded to his struggle with light comedy, but wished for another season to hone his skill:
It was kind of tragic for me, that I didn’t play him for longer. He’s a beautiful character and I have a great deal of professional pride and had I done a second season, there would have been a marked improvement in my performance. I was learning new skills, in terms of playing light comedy. I was not known for light comedy and, again, production did not allow for that.
In any case, Jodie Whittaker will make her formal debut as Thirteen when Doctor Who returns this fall, but might things have gone any different with Eccleston sticking around?
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