WHO's the Doctor? Christopher Eccleston

Christopher Eccleston in 2004's Boom Town Christopher Eccleston (here in 2004's Boom Town) was 'dark, broody and compelling', but could this serious actor do eccentric?

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A war damaged doctor who'd done terrible things, Christopher Eccleston's Time Lord went straight for the heart of Radio Lancashire broadcast journalist John Barnes.

I remember exactly where I was when I heard that Doctor Who was coming back.

The news popped up on the screen at BBC Radio Berkshire in Reading, on September 26th 2003. Nothing to get too excited about, it was still two years away, but intriguingly the report said it was going to be made in Wales.

Oh, and it was to be helmed by Russell T Davies! The man himself, the genius responsible for the ground breaking Queer as Folk, a show that won me over with its astonishing humour and passion. That news was genuinely exciting.

I have to admit that during its original run I was a bit lukewarm towards the Doctor. My family didn't like the show - I watched it whenever I could - just not with a real passion.

I preferred Star Trek

I was always there for the regenerations, but I was a casual viewer; I was more interested in Star Trek and countless other cult tv shows.

John Barnes John Barnes: 'genuinely exciting' return

As the show got closer I got a little more excited and the news that it was coming from the BBC in Wales suggested that this was indeed going to be special.

The casting of Christopher Eccleston in March 2004 as the Doctor was a more muted affair than the recent media blitz that greeted Peter Capaldi, but unusually, it was greeted with almost unanimous approval.

A serious actor who could be dark, broody and compelling - sure he's got all that - but there were questions being asked about whether he could deliver the eccentricity that the role demanded.

The press had suggested Paul Daniels and Shane Richie; the casting of Eccleston signalled Davies' true intent for the show.

A few days ahead of the launch Chris Eccleston was on the Simon Mayo show on 5 live. I was never a fan he said, 'I preferred Star Trek'.

I knew what he meant.

So much to love

'Do you wanna come with me?' asked Chris in the rather brilliant tv trail, and by now I knew that I did.

On the Saturday night I was rather apprehensive. I just hoped that they had got it right and managed to marry the sheer amazing premise of the original show with modern production and effects.

They had - despite the best efforts of Graham Norton and an unintentional live trail for Strictly Dance Fever that was broadcast over the start of the show.

There was so much to love - Chris, Billie Piper and Camille Coduri as the magnificent Jackie Tyler. So all planets have a north, eh?

By the time we got to Chris's turning of the earth speech I was totally hooked.


The first half of the series may have been somewhat childish, what with the farting aliens, but it was clear that Davies knew what was needed to hook the kids.

As the series moved into its second phase the stories got stronger, they became more epic and they began to emotionally move us. Doctor Who has made me well up with tears and that's not an easy feat.

Chris was a war damaged doctor who had done terrible things. He recovered through his relationship with a human shop girl whose life had been going nowhere. They needed each other.

Within days of the debut the news broke that Chris had left the show. Thirteen brilliant episodes and then he was gone in an amazing regeneration sequence.

David Tennant was going to be the Doctor for Christmas, or maybe he was taking Rose to Barcelona.

Chris made it possible for the show to survive and prosper and for David and Matt, and soon, Peter to make their mark.

Chris - you were fantastic. I really wish you were back for the 50th.

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