Based on the details Christopher Eccleston has been revealing in recent weeks about his relationship to Doctor Who, we could have seen his Ninth Doctor play a part in the show’s 50th anniversary episode. We already know why Eccleston chose not to reprise his one-season role in the event, which instead cast John Hurt as the War Doctor alongside David Tennant, Matt Smith, and (briefly) Tom Baker. But how exactly Eccleston would have fitted into the story has now been put together by Screen Rant, based on comments by former showrunner Steven Moffat.
According to ideas that have been collated in the six years since the 50th anniversary “The Day of the Doctor” episode, we would still have seen the basic plot of a Zygon invasion and the Time War being the focus of the special. In this scenario, the different versions of the Doctor wrestle with the impact of using The Moment, an ancient Gallifreyan weapon capable of ending the Time War by destroying both the Time Lords and the Daleks.
If Eccleston had agreed to take part, however, he would have taken over the role played by Hurt’s War Doctor, who was effectively a solution to his absence, representing a new identity to help him fight the Time War. Some lines written for Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor, who interacts with former companion Rose Tyler as The Moment’s avatar, were retooled for the War Doctor as well.
We also would have seen the Ninth Doctor shortly after his regeneration, while storyboards have shown Eccleston interacting with David Tennant. Other changes we could’ve seen include The Moment taking a different form than Rose Tyler to avoid confusion with appearing to Eccleston before their first meeting, and losing Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor mini film to avoid further continuity issues.
In the end, Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary was a success, and Eccleston’s reasons for not returning are justified given the circumstances. And although it’s unlikely we’ll ever see him back on the show, he still remains a key reason for the popularity of the new Doctor Who in the 2000s.