Christopher Eccleston has come out in support of Jodie Whittaker’s casting in Doctor Who. Eccleston, of course, helped re-launch the BBC’s flagship sci-fi series back in 2005, bringing a cheeky northern charm to the eponymous Time Lord. Whittaker – the first woman to land the part - will step into the role at the end of 2017’s Christmas special, which is going by the title “Twice Upon a Time”.
Eccleston and Whittaker have worked together before, appearing in a British production of the play Antigone. It would be amazing to see their two Doctors interacting, but the fact that Eccleston didn’t return alongside David Tennant in the 50th-anniversary special a few years ago seems to suggest that he wouldn’t be up for it.
However, Eccleston does seem to be fully in favor of Whittaker taking on the role he once played. Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 program Loose Ends (hat tip Radio Times), he offered this brief and comedic statement of support:
“She’s working class, she’s northern, what can go wrong?”
Indeed, it’s not much of a surprise that Eccleston supports Whittaker’s casting. Assuming that Whittaker keeps her natural West Yorkshire accent, her Doctor will be the first ‘northerner’ to pilot the TARDIS since Eccleston departed the title role after just one series. It remains to be seen if incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall will try and offer an explanation for this; perhaps Whittaker’s 13th Doctor will have a similar sensibility to Eccleston’s 9th.
If you were looking to put a negative spin to put on this story, you could read a lot into the “what can go wrong” part of that statement. Eccleston was probably just being jokey, but he has been quite vocal – in previous interviews dated 2013, 2015 and 2016 - about things that went wrong during his tenure on the show. He regularly cites internal BBC politics and differences in opinion as his primary reasons for leaving the role so soon.
Despite all the speculation going around, it's unclear at the moment quite what Whittaker's Doctor will be like. Her costume from the teaser clip won't be her actual look, and Pearl Mackie's Bill definitely won't stick around to be her companion. Outgoing Doctor Peter Capaldi has offered an endorsement, though, calling Whittaker "a wonderful actress of great individuality and charm" and predicting that she will be "a fantastic Doctor.” Fittingly enough, only time will tell how Whittaker's Doctor compares to the previous iterations.
Doctor Who returns on Christmas Day. Whittaker’s first full season is expected in 2018.