Why wasn't the Eighth Doctor back at the TARDIS console for Series One of the Russell T Davies led revival back in 2005? No explanation was even offered for his regeneration into a new Ninth incarnation, the gap in continuity only explained a full seventeen years after his TV Movie appearance of 1996 during The Night of the Doctor.
Speaking at a BFI celebration of the TV Movie in 2013, as part of a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, McGann said:
“I would [have returned) in 2005 if Russell T Davies had asked], definitely.”
So the next logical question is, 'why wasn't he asked'?
It seems Davies just wanted to make a fresh start with a new Doctor, casting Christopher Eccleston after working with him on The Second Coming (which incidentally also features music by Doctor Who composer Murray Gold, who also worked with Davies on Queer As Folk & Casanova.)
Although Davies praised areas of the TV Movie, there was one part of it he was not so complimentary about. He didn't like the assertion that the Eighth Doctor was half-human:
“I don’t like the half-human thing. He certainly isn’t half-human, but it’s less interesting to say it simply doesn’t count. I always wanted to put in a line where someone says to the Doctor ‘Are you human?’ and the Doctor says ‘No’, but I was once in 1999. It was a 24 hour bunk. Part of the reason I never put that in was it was a bit too self-referential but also I thought I’m spoiling the TV Movie if I do that. In that time, like it or not, the Doctor was half human. Everything in that story says he was half human, so you can’t not count it. I don’t think we can ignore it.”But ignore it, & McGann, he did. Could it be that the inclusion of "the half-human thing" pushed Davies in a fresh direction? We can only speculate, but if that line wasn't included maybe McGann's phone might've rung. At least if it was only for a brief regeneration sequence - something it seems he would've liked to do. Here's his answer to a question on the subject, posed in 2009:
''Yeah, I felt a bit short-changed at that, I have to say. I’m a bit miffed, I have to tell you…Listen, Russell! (laughs) "Originally Davies had authorised Doctor Who Magazine to depict a straight change from Eight to Nine in the pages of The Flood, intended as the final comic story before the passing of the torch. Although as discussed here that never came to pass.
McGann later admitted that when he watched the 2005 revival of Doctor Who there was one aspect of the show he was quite jealous about - the Ninth Doctor's hair...
"Chris got away with the short haircut… he looked like a bin-man, didn’t he? When we shot ours, the one I was in, I had a number two (haircut), I’d played this sort of soldier boy a few weeks previously and I had this real short haircut. When I turned up on the ‘Doctor Who’ set I literally had this, almost a skin-head haircut. I thought ‘This is great, this’ll be a departure, they’ll like this’… They freaked! They made me wear this wig out of a box. Horrible. And you know, I was saying to them at the time, ‘This’ll be great, let’s explore his inner… his inner Eccleston!’… I just wanted to keep this haircut. They said no. And even recently, when little Matt Smith got cast, I was highly amused to read the reports of the audition, you know, these BBC types were going ‘When we saw the hair, it was a no-brainer!’, I realised that not a lot’s changed. It’s all about the hair. It’s a hair job.''
Speaking to the Official London Theatre in 2011, McGann revealed that he might not have enjoyed the huge exposure which came with the show:
"Chris, I think, seemingly found it tricky. I think I probably would have been more like Chris. I like my privacy."But in the wake of Steven Moffatt finally asking him back for The Night Of The Doctor, it seems he'd be keen to return to the role again:
"If the same thing were to happen again and [Steven] Moffat were to say, 'Would you come back and do it and I'll write it?', why wouldn't I want to do it? If it's going to be that quality, why wouldn't you want to do it?"
Why indeed. For some time now there's been a constant cry from fans for a spin-off series starring McGann as the Eighth Doctor, including an online petition (here). Even the man himself put fingers to keyboard in support of it.
“I signed it! But keep it under your fez. Of course I would do it! Should anything like that ever happen again I can only assume it would happen like it did last year – there’d be a call saying ‘could you start on Monday?'. The thing is, I’m warmed up now. I could do it now. When we got to shoot The Night of the Doctor I was so glad for the audience. I got to keep my hand in, so to speak, because I felt like I knew what I was doing. The second I put the kit on I felt like the Doctor.”Would you like to see the Eighth Doctor return, & how?