Steven Moffat has revealed part of an earlier draft of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special that was written for Christopher Eccleston. Throughout most of its history, Doctor Who has been a series that has no problem interfering with its own timeline. It's an easy enough thing to do when the characters are time travelers. Even the most recent Christmas Special involved the Doctor meeting a much older incarnation of himself. Still - at least in recent years - one of the show's biggest shakeups was certainly the introduction of the War Doctor.
An alien known as a Time Lord, the Doctor regenerates into a new body upon dying. The Doctor's appearance, physical age, and personality changes each time. As of this past Christmas, even the character's gender changed. But the Doctor is always the same person at the core. Fans tend to keep track by referring to them in numerical order - Tom Baker played the 4th Doctor, David Tennant played the 10th Doctor, etc. When the show was revived in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston in the role, fans naturally took to calling him the 9th Doctor, assuming he came right after Paul McGann's 8th Doctor. So when the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) identified a mysterious character played by John Hurt as a secret earlier incarnation of himself, fans were certainly confused. He eventually was given the title of the War Doctor, but really he is sort of 8.5 - coming between the 8th and 9th.
Only that wasn't supposed to happen. The original plan was for the 50th Anniversary Special to include the three most recent Doctors - 9, 10, and 11. But Eccleston declined to return, and the episode was rewritten for the War Doctor. Now RadioTimes is reporting that former showrunner Steven Moffat has revealed a piece of the early draft written for the 9th Doctor, as part of a charity project.
In the scene, the 9th Doctor interacted with The Moment, played by Billie Piper, in a barn. While much of that scene was still used in the special, there are differences, mostly centered around the way Eccleston played the character. One big difference was a tip of the hat to the first thing the 9th Doctor ever told Rose Tyler - also played by Piper - which was "Run." There was also a moment indicating that the Doctor had just regenerated into this body and was not used to it yet. A common trope for the show when that happens is to focus on one or two of the new actor's physical traits. In the case of Eccleston, it was his ears, which "just sort of keep going" according to the Doctor.
The script excerpt was released in the book A Second Target for Tommy, which is being sold to help raise money for children's book author Tommy Donbavand who is suffering from cancer. There are only a limited number of copies, which can be purchased on Obverse Books. Meanwhile, Eccleston has continued working since Doctor Who and recently starred as Matt Jamison in The Leftovers.
Because of Doctor Who's frequently changing cast, it's certainly not uncommon for the writers to roll with the punches and make changes to accomodate actors. The recent return of Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald was meant to be different than it ended up being, and Moffat recently revealed an idea for the story he would have told if David Tennant had continued as the 10th Doctor for one more season. While it would have been fun for fans to see Eccleston return to the role of the Doctor and interact with the 10th and 11th versions of himself, John Hurt won a lot of hearts with his popular portrayal of the War Doctor. And now a few lucky fans can see what might have been, if they're quick buying a copy of the limited edition book before it sells out.
Doctor Who season 11 premieres October 2018 on the BBC.