Doctor Who News Bill Nighy Was Offered Doctor Who Role in 2004

Published on June 4th, 2012 | by Christian Cawley

Nighy *Was* Offered Doctor Who Role!

Bill Nighy Was Offered Doctor Who Role in 2004Remember 2004? This was the year in which shooting began on Doctor Who Series 1, the year in the Daleks joined, withdrew and then rejoined the series, and of course the year in which Christopher Eccleston and then Billie Piper were cast.

Of course, for Daily Mail readers, it didn’t quite happen like that. In an event that slightly echoed the online storm between two websites concerning the casting of the Ninth Doctor, the infamous right-wing newspaper declared that Bill Nighy had been cast as the Doctor.

For the rest of the world, Christopher Eccleston was the Doctor; in fairness, it’s hardly the first or the last time the Daily Mail had attempted to reshape reality to suit its own ends.

Since then, Nighy – who notably appeared in 2010′s Vincent and the Doctor and is a star of films so diverse as Love, Actually and Underworld – has kept quiet about the affair, but speaking to The People at the weekend he revealed:

“I was offered the role once, I won’t tell you when because the rule is that you’re not allowed to say you turned that job down because it’s disrespectful to whoever did it. I will say that I was approached. But I didn’t want to be the Doctor. No disrespect to Doctor Who or anything. I just think that it comes with too much baggage.”

While the Daily Mail might have got things a little wrong with their bold declaration of Nighy as the Doctor, they were certainly right about him being offered the part…

What do you think? How might Doctor Who have developed if Nighy had taken the role?


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About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

9 Responses to Nighy *Was* Offered Doctor Who Role!

  1. avatar Bob James says:

    I think he would have been great. He’s a brilliant, brilliant actor, and I think he could have had the right combination and balance of gravitas and comedy to really pull it off. He definitely would have been very different to Christopher Eccleston, perhaps more along the lines of a slightly more action oriented William Hartnell. But I think he would have been great. As much as I love Eccleston’s take on the Ninth Doctor, I even still wonder how the “audio” Ninth Doctor, Richard E. Grant might have been. We’ll never know, but it’s fun just to wonder what could have been……

  2. avatar Rick Lundeen says:

    I think Nighy would have been an inspired choice as well. Grant…no. Didn’t much care for his animated take on the role.

    If Nighy did take the role, I imagine things would have gone down a *very* different path. Since so much rides on chemistry with characters, they probably would have been looking for a dramatically different character and story than they developed with Rose. Perhaps big Finish should do up another of their alternate universe audios featuring Nighy this time?

  3. avatar Bob James says:

    Bill Nighy as an alternate universe Big Finish Doctor? I LOVE that idea. If Nick Briggs makes it to the annual con they have in November up in my part of the world (and he usually does), I’m going to suggest this to him. Nighy might even match David Warner in the “inspired” alternate department. I think it could be fantastic.

  4. avatar Tony says:

    Bill Nighy would have been brilliant as the Doctor – better than Eccleston, with that pathetic excuse for a costume! In acting terms, there’s only one “Man in Black”: Valentine Dyall – albeit, he passed away in ’85.. (Other fields of entertainment will, of course, offer Gary Player and Johnny Cash.)

    I can imagine Bill’s incarnation in a get-up somewhere between Hartnell and Troughton – complete with a long and loopy ribbon tie; perhaps even with a Pertwee smoking jacket and/or frilly shirt. Certainly, one would have expected a much more eccentric and welcome attire.

    To those that argue that – ultimately – it’s the acting that counts; of course, you are correct. However, our hero’s costume is extremely important – and, in any case, Nighy would have still won, over the annoying northern twang of Eccleston. (Yes, many planets DO have a north – I simply don’t wish to go there.) Besides, who says that you can’t have both? I suggest that, by and large, we HAVE been blessed in both departments, with the clothes suiting (if not making) the man.

    Naturally, one thinks of the sixth Doctor’s OTT appearance, which probably befits his ego and attitude. Not that I’m blaming Colin Baker in any way; I’m sure that it wasn’t exactly to his liking, just as he didn’t get to play the part as he must have dreamt it. A shame because, ever since his memorable performances in “The Brothers”, I’d always considered Colin a fine actor and, to this day, am sorry for the way he was treated during his all-too-short tenure. Had he been allowed to portray our favourite Time Lord as he saw fit, he and Peri could have been as memorable together as other pairings (or that would be groupings, in some cases…!)

    For me, I wish that I could forget Mel and Ace! (I never could understand why Sophie Aldred’s character was so popular – eh, Professor…?!)

    So, to summarise: Bill Nighy would have made a fabulous incumbent and, who knows – there’s still time! Or Sir Derek Jacobi? Marvellous thespian, and I really do not see age as being relevant, even today; after all, Jon Pertwee was over 50 when he took on the role, and it didn’t stop him being an action Doctor (if and when required)

    Finally, please do not dismiss the Daily Mail as you do; it does you no service, and good, intelligent Conservatives such as myself readily tire of others’ finding my favourite paper an easy target, when it happens to talk much more sense than (e.g.) the ridiculous left-wing nonsense of that Mickey Mouse comic, the Mirror…

    • I’ll happily give the Daily Mail a break when they apologise for supporting Mosley. In the meantime, an interesting post.

      Incidentally, I think you’ll find intelligent conservatives reading the Telegraph, not the tabloid version of Hello! magazine. You are aware that The DM lifts its celeb stories straight from the Sun? Shoddy and hardly inelligent.

      • avatar Tony says:

        I happily read the Telegraph, but please do not get me started on The Sun – as bad as The Mirror, f not worse! At least that soc-called excuse for a “newspaper” knows where its leanings are, however misguided, and wouldn’t switch from one side to the other (New Labour, God help us!) and back again….

    • avatar Matt says:

      Annoying Northern twang? What an awful thing to say.

  5. avatar Scott says:

    Love Eccelston, Tennant, and Smith but I have always felt Nighy would have been incredible.

    “All the days that never were…”

  6. avatar Alex says:

    I’m surprised this story even made it into the Daily Mail; not exactly the usual example of moral outrage they go after. I’d buy the Daily Mail if it were a bit softer and didn’t remind me of that horrible rough tracing paper at school.

    Bill Nighy would have made a great Doctor, but I did really like his turn in the Vincent episode.

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