Doctor Who led into its 50th anniversary special in style. 2013’s “The Name of the Doctor” saw the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) having to jump into his own timestream to save companion Clara (Jenna Coleman). And while there, he encountered a vision of a version of himself we never knew existed before – the War Doctor (John Hurt), the one who fought in the Time War.
Hurt’s incarnation went on to have a leading role in the special “The Day of the Doctor,” but fans may know that the War Doctor was a late-in-the-day creation, necessitated when Christopher Eccleston turned down the opportunity to return as the Ninth Doctor. We know that writer Steven Moffat’s first draft of “Day” featured Nine, but what we didn’t know is that he originally conceived the “Name” cliffhanger to reveal Eccleston’s comeback.
While speaking to Doctor Who Magazine, Moffat revealed what could have been an equally mind-blowing moment, with the Eleventh Doctor forced to relive the horrors of the Time War while in his past self’s body, saying:
“At one point, I thought Matt’s Doctor was going to step into his time-stream and wake up as Christopher Eccleston!” Moffat explained.
While fans have always lamented that Eccleston wasn’t involved in the 50th anniversary celebrations, it’s widely agreed that having the opportunity for a great actor like Hurt to play the Doctor was too good to miss up. Tragically, the Alien and Harry Potter icon passed away in 2017, but he did play the Time Lord a dozen more times in Big Finish audio productions prior to his death.
Excitingly, Eccleston himself has finally agreed to return to the Doctor Who universe to portray the Ninth Doctor for Big Finish, as revealed last month in a shock announcement that stunned the fandom. Fingers crossed this means he’ll turn up in the TV show again for the 60th anniversary special in 2023.