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Never has the famous Time Lord in the Universe been so 'sorted'. Gone are the floppy hats, eccentric knitwear and 'plummy' public school tones. Doctor Who is now tough and streetwise with a strong Salford accent.
Not surprising really, when you consider that this Doctor was 'born' in Manchester. For that, you can thank both Christopher Eccleston and writer Russell T Davies. Between them, they have drawn on their common Mancunian upbringing, to invigorate this most treasured of childhood programmes.
|Who? Christopher Eccleston|
Davies is Mancunian and proud. He began his career as a storyliner on Coronation Street, and is now one of TV's finest script writers. All his finest work - Queer As Folk, The Second Coming and Bob & Rose - has been set in Manchester. So when given the entire Space-Time continuum to work with, a 'Manc' Time Lord was always a possibility.
Christopher's leather jacket-wearing Doctor, played in his own Salford accent, is more down-to-earth than some of his more flamboyant predecessors - "stripped down", as Russell describes him.
"The first couple of episodes were written before Christopher was cast," says Russell. "But, by happy accident, my template for the character fitted him perfectly and he's also added as we've gone along."
'Doctor Who's a scally!'
"The accent is an interesting thing," says Salford-born Christopher. "The Doctor is a scientist and an intellectual, and a lot of people seem to think you can only be those things if you speak with received pronunciation which, of course, is rubbish."
|"If you're an alien, how come you sound like you're from the north? Lots of planets have norths!"|
|Rose talking to the Doctor|
But Doctor Who with a Salford accent? It's definitely got people talking. In one episode of the new series, even the Doctor's own companion Rose (Billie Piper) asks: "If you're an alien, how come you sound like you're from the north?" The Doctor replies: "Lots of planets have norths".
Talking on the Mark Radcliffe Show on Radio 2 this week, Bolton comic Peter Kay just couldn't let it go: "Eh! Doctor Who's a scally! I heard that trailer: 'You're alright! Don't worry 'bout it. Nice one. Where are the daaaaleks? Where's the Taaardis?'
"Christopher Eccleston is Doctor Who. I'd loved to be in Doctor Who. Russell T Davies, if you're listening: I'd love to be Davros! I'm practically there with Brian Potter. I've got me own wheelchair. I could be a modern day Davros."
A Salford lad
Christopher was born and raised in Salford. His childhood dream was to play for his beloved Manchester United. But finding himself to be a much better actor than he was a footballer, he took to acting.
His TV and film credits are impressive: Shallow Grave, Our Friends in the North, Jude, The Second Coming, Hillsborough, Cracker, Clocking Off and many more. He's even made a guest appearance in The League of Gentlemen (filmed in Hadfield, on the edge of Manchester) - [Christopher Eccleston photo gallery - 'See Also']
Although he was never a fan of Doctor Who as a child, he leapt at the chance of working with Russell T Davies and making Doctor Who a Salford-Manchester collaboration.
Said Chris: "I read that he was going to do it and e-mailed him and said: When you draw up an audition list, put my name on it. Because I'm a fan of his writing. I've worked with him on Second Coming. I love Bob And Rose, I love Queer As Folk most of all, I think. I just wanted to work with Russell."
Russell still sounds surprised when he recalls how Christopher contacted him.
"I didn't think Christopher would be interested," he admits. "But it's no secret that he has a very serious screen image, and I think playing the Doctor is a way of showing a different side of himself. "There's a lot of fun and humour in his portrayal, but of course when the Doctor is angry or passionate we get that other side of Christopher, which has helped make him one of Britain's finest actors."
"It's as close to myself as I've played, I feel. It's like a version of me as a child. It's how I felt about the world as a child and everything in it. And I kind of based a lot of it on Russell. I borrowed a lot of Russell's speed of thought and pace."
"The dalek," says Eccleston without hesitation. "Because of the psychology that goes on between the daleks and the Doctor. They know more than you all do about the Doctor's history. It's not so much the suckers and the lasers - it's the insight the daleks have about the Doctor and his personal and emotional history."
Christopher Eccleston makes his debut as the ninth doctor when the new series starts on Easter Saturday - March 26th. A BBC Wales Production for BBC ONE, Doctor Who is written by Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Paul Cornell and Robert Shearman.