It was great news for Doctor Who fans when it was announced that Christopher Eccleston would be returning as the Ninth Doctor in a new series of audio dramas. It was also a surprise, though, seeing as he previously swore off the franchise forever, and he’s now discussed his reasons for once again taking up the key to the TARDIS.
Eccleston might have been crucial in re-establishing Doctor Who for a new generation in 2005 after it had been on indefinite hiatus since 1989, but his involvement in the series has become retrospectively mired in controversy after he revealed his unpleasant experiences working on it. In a fan Q&A session conducted by Big Finish, he addressed a query of what drew him back to the franchise he previously declared he would never have anything more to do with, and said:
“Well, I mean, I’m an actor and I act to support myself for my children, Albert and Esme, so the deciding factor – it might not be fashionable to say it – is that it’s paid work, particularly in a pandemic. After that, it was the quality of the writing, and it’s always scripts and writers that attract me to projects. The quality of Big Finish’s writers is so high, and it’s been a joyous experience.”
His openness that it was partially the money that drew him back is typical of the pragmatic actor, but such blunt honesty also strongly suggests that his comments on his enthusiasm for the new project are equally genuine. Even just listening to the trailer, there’s a sense of wonder and excitement that he rarely displayed on screen in his largely stoic and reserved interpretation of the renegade Time Lord.
Even after making definitive declarative statements, people are allowed to change their minds. And although Big Finish audios are canonical Doctor Who adventures, they’re created separately from the main TV show and so are produced with a different creative team, meaning that while Eccleston likely still has no interest in reprising an on-screen role that was largely responsible for such a difficult time in his life, he wasn’t required to work within a production structure that was the cause of it.