Fifty Years of Doctor Who, Part 10: The Ninth Doctor – Christopher Eccleston
Christopher Eccleston slipped on the Doctor’s leather jacket, shaved off his hair and sauntered off the field of battle, a dark and damaged man. Born in the heat of battle, he was broken, having just committed two mass genocides. Well, believing he had destroyed both the Time Lords and the Daleks. That would be enough to cause anyone to break a little. The time he spent during and after the time war is largely unexplained. Over the years, we have had pieces of information revealed; fleshing the story out, but it is still largely unexplored.
It wouldn’t be a stretch; I think to say Eccleston’s Doctor was suffering from some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His moods were a bit erratic, fluctuations between a manic zeal for life, and a dark brooding in the face of destruction. Moreover, his performance is one of the most layered and complex of the series. Every time I watch him, I am captivated by the fact that he still seems unpredictable; it really is an amazing performance. Among the striking features is the depth of emotion Eccleston hides just beneath the surface. This is a stripped down Doctor. I feel that we can see as much of the character’s core as we ever will. It was as large a step away from the established character as we had seen; it set the pace for all future incarnations. He also undoubtedly established that The Doctor needs his companions. Not simply to abate the loneliness of his life, but to keep him from succumbing to the darkest natures of his being that fully revealed during the Time War.
Christopher Eccleston’s time as The Doctor was far too short. He had planned to continue his run at least three seasons, possibly four. Unfortunately, things around the BBC had not fully cooled down. Voldimort still had influence and still hated this series and he was doing everything he could to stop it from seeing the light of day. He even issued a cancellation before it ever aired. Fortunately for us, he failed, but not before claiming one last victim. Eccleston decided to leave the role, and had remained fairly quiet about the reasons until recently. When asked about his reasons for departing he said, “”I wasn’t comfortable. I thought ‘if I stay in this job, I’m going to have to blind myself to certain things that I thought were wrong.’ And I think it’s more important to be your own man than be successful, so I left. But the most important thing is that I did it, not that I left. I really feel that, because it kind of broke the mold and it helped to reinvent it. I’m very proud of it.”
He should be very proud. While he may not be my favorite doctor, by a very slim margin, he is in my top three, or five, it’s a sliding scale really. Regardless, he was fantastic, and it is because of him, well because of his performance that we have the series today. Like Hartnell before him, he laid the track and set the TARDIS in motion.
Christopher Eccleston was the Ninth Doctor, the renaissance of Doctor Who. He was, above all others, fantastic.