Two years ago, Doctor Who fans celebrated the 50th anniversary of the beloved sci-fi program. There were many questions circling the franchise since its return in 2005 that were to be addressed, but the episode also brought up even more questions for fans to contemplate. Showrunner Steven Moffat recently did an interview with the Radio Times about the anniversary special, and what it was like behind the scenes of such a monumental event for him as well as Doctor Who.
One question that was asked of Moffat was the same one asked by many Doctor Who fans since 2013: Why didn’t the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, return for the anniversary? “I knew that Chris was almost certainly going to say no. I met him a couple of times and he was absolutely lovely… I three-quarters talked him into it,” Moffat told Radio Times. “I went for another meeting with him and he decided no. His reasons are his business and he’s a very private man. But it’s reasonable to say he really cares about Doctor Who. He’s well versed in what’s happened since he left, and happily chatted away about Amy Pond by name.”
With Eccleston not returning, Moffat had to scramble for a story that would work with what was available to him. That was when he proposed the idea of an unknown incarnation of the Doctor to appear instead. “What if there was an incarnation of the Doctor none of us knew about? And, coincidentally, he was played by the most famous actor in the world? Specifically someone who might have been cast as the Doctor during the long hiatus. For instance, John Hurt.” Thus, the concept of the War Doctor was born. Hurt was delighted and eager to sign on for the episode, and the 50th anniversary special came to be.
Moffat does not touch on how much would have been different if Eccleston had signed on, but it wouldn’t have made sense for Eccleston to have fought in the Time War. The very first episode of the new series plays on the idea that Eccleston’s Doctor had recently regenerated since he doesn’t seem to even know what he looks like. Plus, as “The Night of the Doctor” proved, the Eighth Doctor portrayed by Paul McGann would not have been one to willingly kill two races to end a war, even if it was to save the universe. Luckily we will get to learn more about the War Doctor in his own audio drama adventures with Big Finish.
The full interview will appear in the print version of Radio Times, but you can see the rest of their excerpt on their site now. Also, be sure to let us know what you thought of the War Doctor, and the lack of Eccleston, in the 50th anniversary special below!
HT – Radio Times
Images – BBC