Doctor Who is about to celebrate its 60th anniversary next year, and this year’s Emerald City Comic Con shined a spotlight on the man who helped bring the sci-fi franchise back to prominence. Christopher Eccleston was a special guest at this year’s convention, and on Saturday, he took the main stage at the Sheraton Hotel to discuss his time as the Ninth Doctor. Though his tenure as the Doctor lasted for a single season, Eccleston recently returned to the role in a series of Big Finish productions — and he admitted that he’s having the time of his life. “The Big Finish people could absolutely write for the show,” he told moderator Amy Ratcliffe. Eccleston also revealed that he was slated to record a new batch of Big Finish episodes in September.
When reflecting on his time playing the Doctor in live-action, Christoper Eccleston had nothing but praise for showrunner Russell T. Davies. In fact, he said that he based certain elements of the Ninth Doctor on Davies. “Russell had a brown leather jacket. Russell spoke at a mile a minute.” The same level of praise was given to castmate Billie Piper, who was also a special guest at the convention. When asked what companion he’d travel with, Eccleston replied that it would always be Rose. He also said he sought out the role rather than being contacted for it, as he’s a proactive actor. He even said that he received the role because he was considered “the most miserable man in Britain” due to his work on the stage. Finally, Eccleston also stated that he loved the work that Jodie Whittaker did as the 13th Doctor and that he was looking forward to Ncuti Gatwa’s tenure.
Eccleston was also more than willing to discuss his other work, delivering an honest critique in the process. When asked about Thor: The Dark World, he revealed that he got the role of Malekith the Accursed because Benedict Cumberbatch turned it down — which is somewhat ironic, given that Cumberbatch would go on to star as Doctor Strange. And while he didn’t enjoy working on the film, Eccleston had nothing but kind words for Chris Hemsworth and even said he got to fulfill a lifelong dream by working with Anthony Hopkins. Next up was his role as the invisible man Claude Rains in NBC’s Heroes; Eccleston stated that the creators asked him to return but felt the role that was written for him was too slight. He also turned down a costume suggestion to wear a scarf in homage to Doctor Who.
But the biggest non-Who program that came up was The A Word. The BBC drama follows a family who learns that their youngest son has been diagnosed with autism. Eccleston said that working on the series was one of the greatest joys of his career and that he was approached by as many fans of that show as he was with Whovians. A fan even gave him a tearful thank you, saying that the show saved her life. “YOU saved your life,” Eccleston told her, and I felt a few tears welling up in my eyes at that statement.
A Q&A session followed, with Eccleston ruminating on everything from his first Shakespeare role — which happened to be Hamlet — to his love for his family. That played into his pick for his favorite episode of his Who tenure, “Dalek”; he said he took the anger he felt when he learned his father was in critical condition and poured it into his performance. Eccleston is the reason I got into Doctor Who, and his views on the franchise were both insightful and honest. He even said that doing conventions helped him to rekindle the joy he felt for Who, and I hope he does as many more as he’s able to.
Christopher Eccleston’s recent role was in the HBO original series The Leftovers, which is available to stream on HBO Max.