Monday, 18 November 2013

The Ninth Doctor – Christopher Eccleston

In the week that marks the 50th anniversary of the first episode of Doctor Who, Tim Bustin argues that the ninth doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston, was the greatest.

Perhaps rather unfairly, Christopher Eccelston is sometimes underrated as a Doctor. His style was often unlike that of the eccentricities of the Tenth and Elevent Doctors (Tennant and Smith), and even that of most of the first eight Doctors.  The character he portrayed was burdened with survivor’s guilt resulting from the loss of his race (the Time Lords) during the Last Great Time War, in which the Daleks and Time Lords virtually exterminated one another.

Hence, Eccelston was a troubled and more serious Doctor. The episode “Dalek”, in which the Doctor encounters the last Dalek in existence after the war, showed this darker side when the Doctor tortures the Dalek in anger. This isn’t to say that Eccelston still didn’t retain the Doctor’s key elements – he "is a scientist and an intellectual” as Eccelston states, just not "as eccentric and as foppish as he was in some of his incarnations”, although Eccelston can still turn on the silly smile, despite the dark leather clothing and the jeans costume.

Let us not forget the immense task Eccelstone had in reviving Doctor Who. The show had been off air since 1989, disregarding a failed revival with the 1996 television movie. It was Eccelston’s performance (in part) which breathed new life to the show, laying the path for both Tennant and Smith. For the role, he was voted “most popular actor” at the National Television Awards, and came top in many other polls too. Of course, it was also the quality of the writing that made the show popular again. His short, one-series reign as the Doctor featured some of the most classic enemies of the show, including Cybermen, Slitheen, Daleks and Autons.

We watched as the Doctor, Rose (Billie Piper) and Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) battled through tense and exciting moments, and the recurring theme of “Bad Wolf” led to mystery throughout. The characters fighting through these stories had more development than many in the original Doctor Who, where most previous companions were only good for screaming and getting themselves kidnapped. The 16-year absence of the show from television (explained as the Doctor’s fight in the Time War) allowed for a clean slate in many ways for the Eccelston Doctor: unknown to us in some ways, and allowing a whole new kind of Doctor to be created.

Now, with the 50th anniversary episode approaching, the behaviour of Eccleston's Doctor seems to be becoming clearer. In a prequel mini-episode for the 50th anniversary programme, we saw the 8th Doctor, Paul McGann, given the choice of what characte he could next regenerate into, in order to fight (thought reluctantly) in the Time War. The regeneration he chose was to become a warrior (John Hurt) and it was this incarnation that performed the actions that leads to the guilt of Eccleston's Doctor --- actions such as the death of millions of Daleks: the entire race. So, it seems that we will have to wait for the anniversary episode to be released before we can fully understand the Ninth Doctor. This is just one more reason to be excited about what is already promising to be a very special moment in TV history.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree-Love Ecclestan.


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