After a lengthy hiatus of more than 15 years, British fan-favorite series Doctor Who finally returned to television back in 2005 under the guidance of creator and Who aficionado Russell T. Davies. The first season of the hit science fiction drama consisted of 13 episodes and essentially reintroduced viewers to the Doctor, an enigmatic humanoid alien who travels through time and space in his blue police box the TARDIS. English actor Christopher Eccleston was lucky enough to play the first new, modern incarnation of the Time Lord, alongside Billie Piper as his companion Rose Tyler.
Yet while Piper went on to star in the next season as well, Eccleston unceremoniously left the series after only the first season. A lot of fans speculated as to why he would leave the show so early, and the BBC ended up releasing a statement saying it was because the actor feared becoming typecast. Eccleston, for his part, then revealed that statement was released without his consent and that he actually left the show because he “didn’t enjoy the environment and the culture that [they], the cast and crew, had to work in.” Still he was proud of having played the role.
It’s been over a decade since Eccleston played the Doctor, yet the actor still has regrets about how everything that went down. According to a recent interview with 774 ABC Melbourne’s Drive, he wishes he could have stayed on and done more with the role. However, at the time Eccleston didn’t feel like there was really a choice to stay on with all the drama happening behind the scenes:
“It was kind of tragic for me, that I didn’t play him for longer. He’s a beautiful character and I have a great deal of professional pride and had I done a second season, there would have been a marked improvement in my performance. I was learning new skills, in terms of playing light comedy. I was not known for light comedy and, again, production did not allow for that.”
Eccleston went on to play Claude in Heroes and villain Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, but he’s still best known for starring in Doctor Who. He’s currently starring in HBO’s The Leftovers, but no other part has been quite as popular as the Doctor. BBC seems to have gotten past whatever differences the two may have had in the past, and in 2013 even invited the actor to lead the show’s fiftieth anniversary special, ‘The Day of the Doctor.’ Yet once it was clear Eccleston wouldn’t be participating, new showrunner Stephen Moffat was forced to rewrite the story and introduced John Hurt as the War Doctor.
It’s clear Eccleston still holds animosity towards the series and the BBC. Despite stating his love for the character, he was unable to put aside past problems to star in even one episode (and an important one) of Doctor Who. Other actors may have let it go for the franchise and character he praises, especially since Davies is gone now and Moffat specifically reached out to him with an olive branch. Perhaps, in another seven years, if the series is still on the air, he will have changed his tune for the 60th anniversary.
The Leftovers season 3 will air in 2017 on HBO. Doctor Who will return to BBC 1 and BBC America for the 2016 Christmas special. The exact 2017 air date for season 10 has yet to be confirmed.