Doctor Who came back better than ever in 2005 and fans instantly took to Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor, even though he only lasted 13 episodes. While the show was a big success, major disagreements behind the scenes caused Eccleston to walk away from the job of a lifetime, leaving the BBC to quickly cast David Tennant in his place.
For over a decade, the actor refrained from speaking much about his problems with the producers, but recently he’s started to come clean. In a new interview with BBC Radio 2, Eccleston revealed that not only were things bad enough to make him quit but he then got into another battle with the network over how they handled his resignation.
“I made an agreement that I would say nothing about my departure, and I honored that because I was looking after the production. And then the BBC issued a statement, they put a quote from me that they had written saying why I’d left, because I was tired, which any producer reading that [would think] ‘Well we won’t give Chris Eccleston a job because he gets tired’.”
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Eccleston was even going to take the BBC to court over the issue, though it was eventually settled with a public apology. Nevertheless, the actor’s agent encouraged him to leave the country and find work elsewhere for a while as he still feared the fallout from his Who exit would negatively affect his career.
“I threatened legal action and I got an apology printed in all the newspapers. The BBC had to make a statement apologizing for attributing quotes to me. Nobody will go on record as saying this but my agent said ‘You need to get out of town because you’re not going to work’. I kept my word and they didn’t keep their word, so I took them to court. Well, I didn’t have to take them to court – I took them to a lawyers’ office”.
Eccleston went on to find jobs in the US for many years after that, appearing in the likes of Heroes, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and Thor: The Dark World (in which the actor had similar issues with Marvel). He’s since returned to the UK though and nowadays is even willing to attend conventions with other Doctors and film videos in character for fans’ weddings.
Of course, it’d be amazing if Eccleston could reappear on Doctor Who one day – maybe opposite Jodie Whittaker, who he fully endorses – but considering his experience in 2005, we can’t blame him if it never happens.
Source: BBC Radio 2 (via Radio Times)