After an absence of nearly 15 years, Christopher Eccleston has finally returned to Doctor Who via a new series of Big Finish audio dramas. The Ninth Doctor was praised for his performance in 2005, though left the show after just a single season due to conflicts with the production staff. Of course, the nature of the character meant it was easy to regenerate him into David Tennant, but unlike other Doctors, he’s never reprised the role and was particularly missed in the 50th anniversary spectacular.
This special – ‘The Day of the Doctor’ – focused on the team-up of Matt Smith’s Eleventh and David Tennant’s Tenth Doctors. However, the ending featured archive footage from most previous Doctors, with a surprise appearance from Peter Capaldi’s upcoming Twelfth. Eccleston was notable by his absence (though he did have a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod in the finale), with many assuming he’d turned it down because of bad blood between him and the BBC.
But the real reason was that he wasn’t happy with the script. Speaking at a convention, he said:
“I felt that it was basically myself, Matt and Dave riffing off the fact that we used to be the Doctors. … I personally didn’t feel like the narrative was strong enough. So I looked at it and I thought is this really the way I want to come back and I decided it wasn’t. There were other factors, political factors.”
Now he’s back, with his first audio drama ‘Ravagers’ now on sale and picking up positive reviews from fans. The consensus is that he’s embracing the role once more and it’s like no time has passed since we last saw him. Here’s the synopsis of the first story:
“On the Sphere of Freedom, the Doctor is about to shut down an evil Immersive Games business empire. He’s assisted by a valiant galley chef called Nova. But his plan spectacularly fails… Now, the Doctor must fight back to discover what could have caused everything to go so badly wrong. His journey takes him via Piccadilly Circus in 1959, Belgium 1815 and far flung future worlds where machine intelligences regard sentient life as mere biofuel. Where does the mysterious old-timer Audrey fit in? Is the alien beverage Charganzi safe to drink? And is there really anything the Doctor can do to stop the entire universe from being devoured?”
Eccleston is confirmed for further Big Finish audio dramas through 2022, with at least three more volumes coming soon.
In the meantime, we continue to await news on a release date for Doctor Who‘s thirteenth season. After many COVID-19-induced delays, it’s back later this year. Fans had expected it to conclude with the Fourteenth regeneration of the Doctor, though there were recent reports that Jodie Whittaker will remain in the role until late 2022. As always, watch this (time and relative dimension in) space.