Yesterday at New York Comic Con, Christopher Eccleston took to the stage at the Javits Convention Center amidst uproarious applause. After this, he settled to speak about his time on Doctor Who, among other things. This may seem like a given, but there was a time in which Eccleston distanced himself from the show. After playing the title role in 2005 for the first season of the show’s revival, Eccleston suddenly left. During the show’s 50th anniversary special in 2013, several actors returned. Eccleston was notably absent. Rumors swirled, and Eccleston slowly began to fade from the public eye. But that’s been changing over the last several years, as he has taken on a number of projects and now openly talks about his time as the Doctor.
During the panel, Eccleston dove into Doctor Who, talking about his time with the show, his reasons for leaving, and even the possibility of a future reprisal of the 9th iteration of the Timelord. Apparently growing up he “didn’t know much” about the show, but had always found the regeneration episodes fascinating. Speaking about his approach to roles, Eccleston said that he always looks at a character’s occupation first, whether he’s playing Hamlet or Reverend Matt Jamison in The Leftovers on HBO. For Doctor Who, he thought about how the Doctor doesn’t have a true home as he’s always traveling through space and time. Seeing how lonely that would make him, he thought “I can do lonely,” and took the role.
As for leaving, he explained that he had issues with the treatment of the crew. He clarified that for the 50th anniversary, he actually considered coming back, but read two versions of the script; one with him in it and one without. Seeing how the second one featured John Hurt as the War Doctor and had more excitement, he passed on reappearing. This explanation raised a few eyebrows at first, but Eccleston explained that he’s a “writer’s actor,” always choosing roles and work based on the strength of a script. When asked if he’d return to the show sometime down the road, Eccleston confidently stated, “I am coming back.” He paused for a roar of applause, and then added, “I’m gonna do the 100th anniversary.”
While this seems like a cheeky response (and it was), he was pressed about it, especially since Jodie Whittaker currently plays the Doctor (The two of them previously acted together in Antigone at the Royal National Theatre). He then pondered, “Maybe in 2022. Because 13 and 9 is 22.” Eccleston played the 9th Doctor, while Whittaker plays the 13th. So not a guarantee that he’d return by any means, but at least a confirmation that he’d be open to it.
He explained that after leaving the show, he was effectively blacklisted by the BBC for four years. This caused him to lose confidence in his acting abilities, but he got it back playing John Lennon in Lennon Naked for the BBC. Since then he’s started to make more and more convention appearances, and talk more about his time on Doctor Who. During the panel, he spoke about various other events in his life, including dealing with depression and finding the will to talk about it (“it’s like breaking an arm, nothing to be ashamed of”), playing Macbeth last year at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the night he fell on top of an audience member, and writing a book about his dad’s struggle with dementia.
Whether or not Eccleston will make a Doctor Who return is anyone’s guess, but he will for certain appear in the third season (or series) of The A Word, which just finished production.