Doctor Who fans have long wished that Christopher Eccleston stayed on as the Ninth Doctor for longer than the single season of 13 episodes that he did back in 2005. As to why he left so soon, the details have always been sketchy, but the evidence pointed to it having to do with a clash between him and some BBC execs. Now, 13 years after vacating the show, the actor has finally begun to reveal the behind the scenes feud that made it impossible for him to stay.
Eccleston told the Radio Times that he clashed with former showrunner Russell T. Davies and exec producers Julie Gardner and Phil Collinson pretty much immediately after beginning his time on Doctor Who – during the very first block of filming. The actor didn’t elaborate on what caused this rift, but he went as far as to say that the two parties completely lost “faith and belief” in each other.
“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.”
He also mentioned that the situation was at least partially his fault, as his difficult behavior on set was caused by his insecurities about being in something much more fantastical and lighthearted than the roles he’d previously appeared in up to that point.
“Some of my anger about the situation came from my own insecurity,” he says. “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.”
As for why he’s only starting to talk about his experiences now, Eccleston revealed that he’d agreed to keep his story quiet in order to prevent bad press from blowing back onto Doctor Who. Now that it’s so many years later, though, the star has clearly had enough of keeping things hidden away.
“When I left, I gave my word to [then-showrunner] Russell T Davies that I wouldn’t do anything to damage the show. But they did things to damage me. I didn’t criticise anybody.”
It turns out that the disagreement between Davies and Eccleston hasn’t dimmed over the years, either, as the actor has promised that he’ll “never have” a working relationship with the writer again. It’s clear that he still holds resentment against Davies for the feud, too, as he added: “If you’re the showrunner, you know everything. That’s your job.”
This is tough to hear for fans of the Eccleston era as, despite the troubles brewing behind the camera, most people think he gave one of the best ever leading performances seen in the show as the battle-scarred Ninth Doctor. Let’s hope that the latest Time Lord, Jodie Whittaker, has a much smoother time in the TARDIS when her era of Doctor Who officially starts this October.