Although Christopher Eccleston has opened himself back up to the world of Doctor Who in recent years—attending conventions, returning to play the Ninth Doctor in audio dramas, and in general allowing himself to actually talk about the series in an extended capacity for the first time in over a decade—he’s long remained steadfast against actually returning to the TV series at all. Until now, it seems.
Speaking recently at the Supernova convention in Australia (via Screenrant), Eccleston opened up about one particular way he could see himself coming back to the series: his steadfast belief that the Ninth Doctor works best as the only Doctor around.
“I’ve never been a fan of multi-Doctor stories. You know, when I worked on the series I had really strong ideas—surprise, surprise—about what works and what doesn’t, and I always think that multi-Doctor stories are a bit of a cash-in, and a bit of exploitation,” Eccleston said. “Creatively they never work for me. … The Ninth Doctor in particular is a one-man band, definitely. So, he doesn’t work with other Doctors. If you want me back, you get me on my own.”
Now we know at least why it was always going to be a doomed prospect for Steven Moffat to try and get Eccleston back for an appearance in Doctor Who’s almost-disastrous 50th anniversary special. It also makes sense, especially for an actor who has made clear just how badly his relationship with the production team behind Doctor Who had become by the time he’d decided to leave the series, in spite of an enduring passion for the character.
Multi-Doctor stories are fun for us as an audience to get to see the most archetypal versions of these different Doctor incarnations riff off of each other, but that’s by and large the sole appeal of Multi-Doctor specials. The stories themselves are rarely more than excuses to smash those characters together, and when you’re competing for screen time between huge personalities like the different Doctors are—especially so as a “guest” Doctor next to the current incumbent Time Lord—you’re not really going to get much more deeply into the kind of character exploration you can do than returning to the broadest-sense definition of those past Doctors. Eccelston has made it clear with his return to the Ninth Doctor for Big Finish that he has big ideas about how to grow and play his Doctor beyond what was done in his sole season of the TV show—and if he can explore that on audio as a standalone character more than he could appear as one Time Lord among many on TV, there’s no surprise as to what he’d prefer.
But hey, given certain crazy rumors floating around about what the show might do with Russell T. Davies’ return and the upcoming 60th anniversary, maybe it wouldn’t be out of place to expect a chance for a solo Ninth Doctor return in some capacity. Perhaps even like Night of the Doctor, a short story accompaniment that lets Eccleston get one last huzzah on screen? We can but hope—but at least now we know the actor himself would be amenable to making the leap back to televisual adventures in time and space.