Doctor Who: The Great BBC Balls-Up

Christopher Morley turns the clock back a decade to March 30th 2005, and revisits the BBCs unfortunate handling of the departure of the Ninth Doctor.

With just one episode of Series One of the new all-singing, all dancing Doctor Who having been broadcast and welcomed back into its place at the heart of many a Saturday teatime, it appeared Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor would be something of a short-term concern.

Responding to journalists questions on Wednesday March 30th 2005 the BBC appeared to confirm that the leather jacket-favouring Mancunian would be leaving at the conclusion of his sole series, with the actor's concerns over typecasting suggested as the main reason for his decision to hand over the key to the TARDIS following The Parting Of The Ways.

They then went so far as to issue a statement allegedly from the man himself:
"The audience's response to the new Doctor Who has been incredible. I'm really proud to be part of it - and I hope viewers continue to enjoy the series."
A nice sentiment, but not from the mouth of Eccleston! It would appear that the Beeb failed to consult their departing leading man, as he reflected later...
"They handled it very badly but they issued an apology and I dropped it."

And what of that apology? It came from the Head of Drama Jane Tranter on April 5th 2005:
"In January 2005 the BBC and Christopher mutually agreed not to make public the fact that he would not be doing a second series. It was also agreed that any subsequent announcement would be done jointly. Because of the stories being put to the BBC, this was not the case. Contrary to press statements, Christopher did not leave for fear of being typecast or because of the gruelling filming schedule."
One thing he definitely didn't actually say was what was attributed to him in the BBC's original statement, but at least they apologised for that, too.
"Contrary to press articles last week, Christopher Eccleston did not make any announcement through the BBC about leaving Doctor Who.''
Ms Tranter did at least shower a little praise on the departing Doctor, though.
"The BBC is delighted by Christopher's performance as Doctor Who. He has brought iconic status and contemporary vision to this classic role, reinvigorating it for a new generation of fans."
But Eccelston's experience working on the programme wasn't entirely a happy one!
"I was open-minded but I decided after my experience on the first series that I didn't want to do any more. I didn't enjoy the environment and the culture that we, the cast and crew, had to work in. I thought if I stay in this job, I'm going to have to blind myself to certain things that I thought were wrong."
In the days between the original statement and the apology the press wasted no time speculating as to why Eccleston had quit, and moreso just who would replace him.

Alan Davies, who had been linked to the role of the Ninth Doctor prior to Christopher's casting, claimed in the Daily Telegraph that Eccleston had left due to feeling exhausted by overwork- which drew the ire of the man who got the part for that one series!

Davies may have been an outside bet, but the BBC's own entertainment page was quick to point out that...
"Alan Davies, 39, has also previously worked with lead Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies, starring in 2001 television series Bob & Rose"
So once the leather jacket had been consigned to the back of the TARDIS wardrobe, Davies appeared to be a candidate to portray the Tenth Doctor. Warren Lush of Ladbrokes kindly confirmed that:
"Before Eccleston took the role the money was for Alan Davies or Eddie Izzard and they have to be seen as possible contenders again."
Eddie even won himself an endorsement from no less than Tom Baker!
"Eddie Izzard is so mysterious and strange. He seems like he has lots of secrets. You always feel Eddie Izzard knows something you don't, or has been somewhere you haven't been.... I like the way he dresses. He could probably do his own wardrobe..."
Of course they were both pipped to the post by David Tennant, the BBC confirming they were "currently in discussion" with the Scot as early as March 31st. Over two weeks later on April 16th the announcement came that David Tennant had been cast as the newest incarnation of the Doctor. With Jane Tranter still adding an element of damage control for the Eccleston balls-up!
"Christopher Eccleston has given an exceptional performance as the ninth Doctor. David Tennant is a great actor who will build on the excellent work already done by Christopher in establishing Doctor Who for a new generation."
His time was brief, his departure was poorly handled, but Christopher Eccleston you were fantastic... absolutely fantastic...

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