Why Christopher Eccleston turned down 'Doctor Who' 50th anniversary special

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Christopher Eccleston in Doctor Who (Credit: BBC)

Christopher Eccleston has said that he turned down the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who because it didn't do his incarnation of the Time Lord justice.

Eccleston did appear in The Day Of The Doctor, broadcast in 2013, but only in archive footage, and not in person.

“When [The Day of the Doctor] came along I did speak to them,” Eccleston said during a panel interview at Rose City Comic Con in Portland (via Radio Times).

“I didn’t feel that what they were asking me to do did justice to the Ninth Doctor. So I said no.”

Read more: Eccleston says he considered suicide

Eccleston played the Doctor for just one series, and quit the role acrimoniously.

He later said that the BBC 'blacklisted' him after he left the show, and even threatened to sue the broadcaster over what he believed was a misleading statement issued around his departure.

The actor went on: “They approached me to be in [The Day of the Doctor], but the BBC had still not apologised to me.

“I liked Steven Moffat a lot. I considered it. But it had an enormous emotional impact on me, what happened with Doctor Who.

“As the series was going out, as the series was being celebrated I was being vilified in the press in the UK because of the statement that the BBC issued.

Matt Smith, John Hurt, and David Tennant in 2013's Day of the Doctor. (BBC)

“And it caused quite a depression in me that year. While everybody was going ‘Doctor Who’s great – he’s great and he’s gone’. Because they [the BBC] kind of smeared me and told lies about me.”

Eccleston went on to say that because he wouldn't appear, it meant that the character of John Hurt's 'War Doctor' was created.

“The virtue of that is that we then get the War Doctor,” he said. “Because if I’d have come back you wouldn’t have got the War Doctor – the War Doctor was there precisely because the Ninth Doctor wasn’t.

“And John Hurt’s a far better actor than me, and that opened up a whole new dimension. So it was a positive thing really.

Read more: Eccleston reveals BBC ‘blacklisting’

“I would have loved to have acted with him, loved to. I did meet him, and he walked past me and he said ‘Oh, Chris, we’re kind of mingled aren’t we? We’re mingled, you and I!’”

Eccleston with co-star Billie Piper (Credit: BBC)

Eccleston recently revealed in an extract from his new memoir that he was suffering with mental health issues and an eating disorder around the time he was in Doctor Who, and later considered suicide.

“Many times I’ve wanted to reveal that I’m a lifelong anorexic and dysmorphic,” he writes.

“I never have. I always thought of it as a filthy secret, because I’m Northern, because I’m male and because I’m working-class.

“The illness is still there raging within me as the Doctor. People love the way I look in that series, but I was very ill. The reward for that illness was the part. And therein lies the perpetuation of the whole sorry situation.”