Former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston has revealed a surprising inspiration for his lively performance as the Ninth Doctor – then-showrunner and larger-than-life head writer Russell T Davies, with whom Eccleston later had a falling out when the latter left the BBC sci-fi series under something of a cloud.
Asked by a fan at Rose Comic con how he created his energetic Doctor, Eccleston said: “That was a response to the writing – but also I based my Doctor on Russell T Davies.”
Eccleston, who has previously suggested the Ninth Doctor’s “Fantastic!” catchphrase came from Davies’ regular usage of the word, went on to explain just how much he based his incarnation of the Time Lord on the Welsh screenwriter, who has also created series like Queer as Folk, Years and Years, A Very English Scandal and Cucumber.
“[Russell] wanted to get away from the foppish era, that kind of Victorian car crash with Spandau Ballet that was going on at one time,” Eccleston said. “So he said the Doctor wears a leather jacket. And I remember thinking…Russell, YOU wear a leather jacket.
“And a conversation with Russell, you will go from…it’s very like a conversation with Damon Lindelof actually, who did Lost and the Leftovers. Those two have got hyperactive brains and imaginations. So the inner pace of my Doctor was taken from Russell.”
Eccleston, who has criticised Davies in the past for how the BBC handled his exit at the end of Doctor Who’s 2005 series, also paid tribute to his former boss’ influence on the rise of Doctor Who, even if he says he hasn’t forgiven him yet for their personal differences.
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“I think it’s fair to say [Doctor Who]’s gotten bigger since I did it, and he must get the credit for this – not me not David Tennant, but Russell T Davies,” he said.
“Now, me and Russell T Davies have serious personal difficulties and disagreements. We don’t get along. But he’s the man who’s responsible. He took the character of Rose, he feminised Doctor Who. The assistant is now just as integral to Doctor Who, the female role. And that came from Russell. He really did that, him and Billie [Piper].
“I’d done a thing with Russell called Second Coming previously,” he continued, “and I knew he’s borderline genius. I felt I was in a good place [joining Doctor Who] because of the script. And I thought I’ll just do the job. And I blocked a lot of it out – I didn’t embrace it in the way that perhaps David and Matt did. I’m a different animal, but I just did the job, you know.”
“There was a great deal of anger in me about the politics and the way I was treated in the aftermath,” Eccleston later added when asked about why he’d avoided conventions and discussing Doctor Who after his departure.
“There was a lot of seriously bad politics by Russell and Julie [Gardner] and Phil [Collinson], and the BBC. I was unofficially blacklisted in the UK, I didn’t work for four years.
“So what was great for you guys wasn’t so great for me. To a certain extent what they had to do was discredit me to help the next Doctor. And what they did was they forgot I was a human being. I’m from Salford, and we don’t forget that s***. We don’t let it pass.”
In many ways, then, even Eccleston’s pleasant memories of Doctor Who are a little too tied into the circumstances of his exit for him to enjoy them properly. If only we really had a time machine to help a few things go differently…
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 in early 2020