We all most likely remember that tingle of excitement when Episode Six of the Ninth Doctor's sole series saw him going face to face with a fellow survivor of the Time War...
But that couldn't have happened without permission from the estate of Terry Nation - the man who created the Daleks! So, just in case the BBC got a ' no', a backup plan was needed! Which leads us nicely into what would come to be jokingly known as Absence Of The Daleks.....
Russell T Davies - the man who spearheaded Doctor Who's return to television - had something up his sleeve for that eventuality. He designed a new & similarly robotic foe which he dubbed a ' future human' & later ' the Sphere' ( his original sketches can be seen in his book The Writer's Tale- The Final Chapter) which would be incorporated into writer Robert Shearman's second draft of his planned script. The Nation estate's ' yes' to the inclusion of the Daleks in the episode ultimately meant we wouldn't see how that would have turned out.
But Davies did manage to incorporate his new foe into a future storyline, of sorts. Fast forward to the Ninth Doctor's regeneration into his Tenth self, though- Last Of The Time Lords/The Sound Of Drums-& it became evident the Sphere had indeed survived, albeit with a change of name! Now called the Toclafane, they were indeed humans from the future- little more than cannibalised heads inside metallic orbs...
How did they get to that state? A little visit to Utopia. The scattered remains of the human race, spread across the galaxy at the end of the universe, responded to a message encouraging them to pop along. The reality of course was anything but, & to survive in the conditions in which they now found themselves they regressed into what would become the Toclafane ( the name given to them by the Master as a reflection of a sort of Gallifreyan Bogeyman, a fairytale figure). Using the TARDIS, which he'd pinched from the Doctor, the recently regenerated bad man- who'd been elected as Prime Minister- in effect created a paradox by bringing the Toclafane into their own past & allowing them to pick off people who may very well have been their forebears! With an army of six million of the beasties at his command the Master began to build a ' New Time Lord Empire', ordering that exactly one tenth of Earth's population was to be wiped out. The survivors were enslaved & forced to work on the construction of a fleet of rockets to carry the Toclafane into deepest space with a view to expanding the ' Empire' to cover the entire galaxy..until the Doctor saved the day & negated the timeline of ' The Year That Never Was'- a period also covered in The Story Of Martha ( which contains The Weeping by David Roden, Steve Lockley & Paul Lewis's Breathing Space, Dalek writer Robert Shearman's The Frozen Wastes & Star-Crossed by Simon Jowett- the linking material between all four written by Dan Abnett).
Davies had been lobbying for the Doctor to return to Saturday teatimes since the late Nineties & finally got the call to work on a relaunch from Lorraine Heggessey ( Controller of BBC One) & Jane Tranter ( Head of Drama) with the first production meeting scheduled for December 2003. By that time his initial pitch ran to fifteen pages, outlining the character of the new Doctor- to be played by Christopher Eccleston, an appointment which left Tranter purring that his casting would send out a message that the intention of this new series was "to take Doctor Who into the 21st century, as well as retaining its core traditional values— to be surprising, edgy and eccentric." with Davies adding that having such a leading man on board "raises the bar for all of us". April 2004 gave fans something to ponder, as Eccleston said that his Ninth Doctor wouldn't be as ' eccentric and as foppish as he was in some of his incarnations'.
Perhaps most radically of all, he spoke with a Northern accent! It didn't bother the man who played him, though- he believed that at heart the Doctor had always been "a scientist and an intellectual, and a lot of people seem to think you can only be those things if you speak with received pronunciation which, of course, is rubbish." . What of his famous leather jacket & jeans? "I didn't want the costume to be my performance". But it wasn't all doom & gloom either. "In everything the Doctor does, he is saying 'it's great to be alive'", again according to Eccleston.
Hints of the Time War & Nine's darker side were dangled before us even then- Davies going on to tease that he carried a certain survivor's guilt, the reason he "strides through the universe wearing a dark leather jacket saying "Don't touch me"". And so appetites were whetted until March 26, 2005. Eccleston has since resisted all post The Parting Of The Ways attempts to get him to return to the role, including of course the big anniversary, though he does appear, sort of, in Night Of The Whisper- voiced by Nicholas Briggs.
The pickings are equally slim when we turn our attention to the bookshelf- the Ninth Doctor first appearing in The Tomorrow Windows as a vision of his preceding self's next incarnation. Following his début on television The Clockwise Man, The Monsters Inside, Winner Takes All, The Deviant Strain, Only Human ( reprinted as part of the 50th anniversary novel reissue set) & The Stealers Of Dreams served as the introductory stories for the New Series Adventures range. Ultimately short then, but sweet all the same. Would he ever return if asked? This sounds like a pretty firm ' no'-
"I left Doctor Who because I could not get along with the senior people. I left because of politics. I did not see eye-to-eye with them. I didn’t agree with the way things were being run. I didn’t like the culture that had grown up around the series. So I left, I felt, over a principle.
I thought to remain, which would have made me a lot of money and given me huge visibility, the price I would have had to pay was to eat a lot of shit. I’m not being funny about that. I didn’t want to do that and it comes to the art of it, in a way. I feel that if you run your career and.. we are vulnerable as actors and we are constantly humiliating ourselves auditioning.
But if you allow that to go on, on a grand scale you will lose whatever it is about you and it will be present in your work. If you allow your desire to be successful and visible and financially secure – if you allow that to make you throw shades on your parents, on your upbringing, then you’re knackered.
You’ve got to keep something back, for yourself, because it’ll be present in your work. My face didn’t fit and I’m sure they were glad to see the back of me. The important thing is that I succeeded. It was a great part. I loved playing him. I loved connecting with that audience. Because I’ve always acted for adults and then suddenly you’re acting for children, who are far more tasteful; they will not be bullshitted. It’s either good, or it’s bad. They don’t schmooze at after-show parties, with cocktails."
Why did Steven Moffatt not include him in The Day Of The Doctor, though? Apparently it had nothing to do with his grievances!
"I was always nervous of that one, because it doesn’t fit with [2005's] Rose at all.Previous Stories From The Scrapheap
[Eccleston] is a brand new Doctor in Rose, he’s absolutely, definitely new. It couldn’t have been [him] who pushed the button in the Time War, cos that’s a new man, very explicitly, in that episode. I also had trouble, I have to be honest, imagining it being Paul McGann’s Doctor.
So all of this led me to the idea that if you’re going to sell to the New-Who audience a Doctor who essentially they haven’t seen before, then you have a freer hand than saying it has to be one of the ones you’ve already had. And it was predicated in getting an enormous star to be able to do it. We got John Hurt, so that was cool! Think of the fuss it’s created for us!"
The Red Fort
The Son of Doctor Who
The Final Game
Doctor Who Meets Scratchman
The proposed Eighth Doctor series
The one written by Stephen Fry