To paraphrase a quote from Neil Gaiman, Christopher Eccleston is not your bitch. He doesn’t owe you anything. He is the main reason that Doctor Who came back with such a bang. Without him, there might not even have been a 50th anniversary episode to celebrate. So if anything, you owe him, not the other way around. Just say thanks for the memories and walk away while you still have some dignity.
It is fairly common knowledge that Eccleston left the role of the Doctor because he felt he could no longer work in the unpleasant and bullying environment that some of the show’s head honchos had created, and to his credit he has never named names, even eight years later. But despite that, he has remained supportive and genial to his many fans, and has often expressed just how much he loved playing the Doctor. And even with the negative experience he had working on the show, he was still willing to meet with Steven Moffat to discuss the possibility of coming back for the anniversary. Twice. He eventually decided not to return, but in Moffat’s own words, Eccleston was “very measured, very kind, very gentlemanly” about the whole thing, and went on to add that the actor was “a good bloke”.
But still the fans complain. It seems like they are determined to make Christopher Eccleston into some kind of social pariah, to forever smear his name as the man who pooped on Doctor Who’s party. But I think they’re missing the point. The very fact that he met with Moffat in the first place speaks volumes in itself. He actually toyed with the idea of returning, despite the unpleasant time he had making the program, and that shows that he does care about the fans, that he does understand he’s a small part of something huge.
And yes, he did eventually decline the offer, but he sat down and listened to it, and that, if nothing else, is a glimmer of hope for the future. It shows that he hasn’t sworn off the show completely like some are claiming. There will be more anniversaries further down the line, and who knows what the future might hold? We may never know Eccleston’s reasoning for opting not to return, but the least we can all do is respect his decisions. Surely we owe that much to the man who helped to bring back Doctor Who.
Christopher Eccleston is my Doctor (Sorry, Paul, but I was too young to appreciate your Doctor when I first saw the movie…), so of course I was disappointed when he wasn’t in the anniversary, but it was not up to me or any other fanboy to decide whether or not he should be. The choice was always his and his alone. And does his absence affect the anniversary itself, or diminish his tenure as the Doctor? Of course not. The Day of the Doctor was still an incredible piece of television and, in my opinion, Eccleston’s series of Doctor Who is by far one of the strongest the show has ever had, anchored equally by some of Russell T Davies’ finest writing and by a truly powerhouse performance from its leading man. And nothing will ever change those things.
Christopher Eccleston will always be the Ninth Doctor, his series will always be a near flawless piece of television history, and I will always love his work.