Doctor Who now stands as a worldwide sensation, so it’s difficult to remember how different a state it was in back in 2005. The BBC sci-fi series had ended its original run 16 years before and the idea of relaunching it as an expensive primetime show, even with the involvement of some of the biggest talent in British TV, was hugely risky. Of course, the very first season convinced everyone that it was going to work, but while making it, star Billie Piper has admitted that she thought it was going to fail.
Piper – who played beloved companion Rose Tyler – virtually reunited with her former co-star David Tennant for the latter’s podcast. The actress explained that her lack of familiarity with the Whoniverse and the general reception at the time caused her to think it would be a short-lived gig and not something she’d still be most remembered for a decade and a half later.
“I didn’t grow up with it, so I didn’t have that feeling that you had of complete fandom and you were obsessed, right?” Piper said to Tennant. “Then, when we started making it, everyone said it was going to be a failure. So you just didn’t imagine it being on for longer than three months, imagining that 15 years later, it’s still probably the biggest job you will have ever done and you’ll still be talking about it and going off and meeting people and, you know, celebrating it… That was a big reach.”
Tennant then mentioned that the scope and scale of the show was “a bit untried” at the time, causing Piper to reply:
“Nobody had made a show like that in the UK, ever, really. It was new ground and using technology that Hollywood used… It was a huge gamble. And we were all quite aware of that when we were shooting it, which sort of meant that we couldn’t enjoy it as much as we did in our second series. Everyone went mental for it, and that was a really nice feeling going back in.”
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Season 1 saw the actress appear opposite Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, who vacated the role after just 13 episodes. Tennant then took over for 2005’s Christmas special, creating one of the most popular couples in TV history in the Tenth Doctor and Rose. Piper left at the end of season 2, but has returned to the series numerous times in recurring parts and guest spots in the years since. Nowadays, she and Tennant occasionally team up for new audio dramas produced by Big Finish.
Due to Rose’s popularity, there’s always the hope that she’ll come back to TV once again. Seeing as she last appeared in the 50th anniversary special, it’s feasible that she could turn up in the 60th birthday bash in 2023, maybe even alongside Tennant. Back in the here and now, though, Doctor Who will be on our screens again this winter for a new holiday special.