In his regular Doctor Who Magazine column, Steven Moffat has answered a fan’s query on why Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston’s appearance was so short in the 50th anniversary special recenteration.
John Hurt’s War Doctor got two thirds of the way through a regeneration with the suggestion of the Ninth Doctor’s features forming. Moff’s answer was ‘human decency’…
It was one thing to include [Eccleston] among all the other archive Doctors, as they flew in to save the day — in fact, it would have been disgraceful to have left anyone out — but placing him in that scene might have given the impression he’d actually turned up for filming, which would have been crossing the line.
Not taking part in the 50th was a difficult decision for Chris, taken after a lot of thought and with great courtesy, and not respecting his wishes would have been grossly unprofessional and disrespectful to a good man and a great Doctor. Number 9 may not have turned up for the celebrations, but there would have been no party without him.
Diplomacy of the highest caliber. Eccleston’s engagement with the show has been a thorny issue for fans since Tennant took over. He’s been very clear that there were on-set tensions where he felt staff were badly treated. From what’s been reported previously, it sounds like he felt there was a bullying culture such that staying would have compromised his morals!
I find this a bit difficult. Eccleston did a huge amount for the show – and while it was a different beast back in 2005 (burping bins and farting fat-suits), we wouldn’t have seven series without his hard word and deliberately unexpected portrayal of the Ninth Doctor. My difficulties are firstly that he’s the only person to have had a problem with the production’s culture as far as I’m aware – though maybe he’s the only one who’s told it like it is? And secondly I’m sad to say I got the impression he didn’t enjoy himself that much.
I could be completely off here – but Eccleston looked to me like an actor in a part he really didn’t feel comfortable with. Particularly his balancing an audience of both adults and children and the lighter moments which Tennant and Smith seemed so at ease with. Anyhow, whatever his feelings about the show, Moffat is clear that Eccleston’s decision not to take part in the 50th special was an important and considered one. And you can understand that if someone has declined to have their name attached to something, (like the occasional script writer back in the Classic era), it’s out of order for the production to imply that they did take part.
But what do you think? Would a split second more have made any difference? Moff knows this kinda thing matters to fans (cuz we’re weird like that). Could they not have asked him? Or maybe this was the classy way to do things. TV is made by people and they have their own lives and feelings that should be respected. Was this a grudge born too long or professional courtesy in action? Tell us below…