Something very big happened in world of Doctor Who recently. The show reached its 50th anniversary, and Doctors past, present and even future all came together to join in with the celebrations. Even the actors that had passed away were represented in some way. William Hartnell’s granddaughter was there, and the respective sons of Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee even put in appearances. But there was one Doctor who was missing for the festivities, and that Doctor was Christopher Eccleston.
Both showrunner Steven Moffat and Christopher Eccleston himself had said for a long time that the Ninth Doctor would not be appearing in the anniversary episode, but after Paul McGann’s similar claims were revealed to have been a smokescreen, many fans, myself included, started clinging onto the hope that maybe Christopher Eccleston was simply misdirecting people as well and that the Ninth Doctor would indeed make a glorious return.
So when, at the end of the episode, John Hurt’s War Doctor started to regenerate and made a joke about hoping his ears would be less conspicuous in his next form (spoiler: they aren’t!), a lot of people around the world probably had a premature fangasm. I know I did. Then the familiar golden fire of regeneration started to engulf Hurt’s face and for a few glorious seconds, his features started to morph into the instantly recognisable fizzog of Christopher Eccleston. To everyone watching, it looked like Moffat and Eccleston had been lying and the Ninth Doctor would make an appearance after all. But then, just before the regeneration was complete, just before the Ninth Doctor could return to the screen in all his northern glory, the scene cut away. And just like that, a billion fanboy dreams were crushed in an instant.
I’m not going to lie. I was disappointed. I, like many others, thought for a split second that he’d actually come back, but it obviously wasn’t meant to be. But then the rest of the episode happened and we got Tom Baker and that amazing line-up of all twelve Doctors, staring into the distance. That image alone was enough to give me chills. And then we had The Five(ish) Doctor’s Reboot, which I’m pretty sure made a lot of people laugh themselves into a coma. And after all the Doctor Who related smoke had cleared, I had forgotten my about disappointment with Christopher Eccleston’s no-show.
But not everybody had forgotten. A quick search on the internet revealed entire forums dedicated to crucifying the man, declaring him an ingrate, a sh*tbag, arrogant, and even a traitor (and those are just the polite things he’s being called). And these vilifying opinions are still being posted online with an alarming rate. The internet, it seems, is not happy with Christopher Eccleston’s decision not to return.
Unfortunately, this vitriolic backlash is pretty standard in the world of fandom, where entitlement has always been a dirty word. Fans seem to think that if they shout about it enough on forums, then they must be right. It’s an unpleasant side of a usually fun loving and friendly culture. Apparently Eccleston owed us a cameo, apparently he’s a diva, apparently he only has a career because of Doctor Who, apparently he didn’t appear because they offered David Tennant more money than him, apparently he shouldn’t view it as just another job, apparently he hates all Doctor Who fans everywhere. And all of these claims must be true because people were all caps raging about them over and over again all over the internet.