This is a transcript of an interview with Christopher Eccleston on Jonathan Ross’s chat show in March 2005, a few days before the new series premiered. You can see the original here, and as always I’ve cut out the um’s and er’s etc. Eccleston talks about his favourite Doctors when he was younger, and is clearly keen for the new series to be popular with children as well as adults.
A few days, or perhaps a week or so, after this interview was aired, Eccleston announced that he wouldn’t be returning for the second series.
JR: I was so excited when I heard they were bringing back ‘Doctor Who’, because I have very fond memories of it as a kid. So how did you come to get the part? Was it something you actively wanted, or did they come to you first?
CE: It was written by Russell T. Davies, who I did a thing called ‘Second Coming’ with.
JR: Which was brilliant. It was essentially you playing the saviour…
CE: The second incarnation of Christ on this Earth, and he also wrote ‘Queer as Folk’, ‘Bob and Rose’, fantastic writer, and I heard that he was writing it which I thought was quite strange for his career.
JR: An unusual choice.
CE: Yeah. But he’s a massive fan. He’s got a Dalek in his house, at home. He’s been a fan since he was a little boy in Swansea, he used to wander round hoping that the TARDIS would appear and he could be the Doctor’s assistant. He didn’t want to be the Doctor, he wanted to be the assistant.
JR: Why did he want to be the assistant?
CE: I don’t know.
JR: That’s a peculiar thing.
CE: He didn’t want to be the Doctor, he wanted to be his assistant.
JR: You could probably define someone’s psychology by working out if they want to be the Doctor or the assistant. I wanted to meet the Doctor but I wanted it to be a lady Doctor, who would take me in the TARDIS and teach me things. And I still sometimes hope that might happen. So you were attracted by the writing, I mean you know if he’s behind it, it’s going to be quality writing.
CE: Yeah, I thought it was a chance to… you know, its reputation kind of dipped in the 80’s and you get mentions of it over the series, in ‘Queer as Folk’ and stuff and there’s a real passion in him for it, he really believes in it as a vehicle for Saturday night television, because it is a fantastic idea, an alien who can travel backwards and forward in time. It gives the thing scale, for instance in episode eight, Rose played by Billie Piper gets to meet the father that she never met.
JR: So she goes back and meets her father.
CE: It’s an 80’s episode, and it’s frightening, there’s some terrifying aliens in it, but it’s also really emotional and it’s dealing with loss and things, so without getting soapboxy there’s some powerful stuff in there.
JR: I’ve seen the first episode, I watched it with my children and they loved it –
JR: I was worried because they’ve got no knowledge of ‘Doctor Who’, I once tried to make them watch an old episode of ‘Doctor Who’ and they had no time for it.
CE: Which was it?
JR: I can’t remember which one it was, I think it might have been one of the Jon Pertwee ones, who was my favourite. Did you have a favourite Doctor?
CE: Erm… the first one I remember is Patrick Troughton. For some reason when people say ‘Doctor Who’ I have this black and white image of his face, his fantastic face, but the ones I grew up with were Baker and Pertwee.
JR: Yeah, well Tom Baker, I think everyone loved Tom Baker, but I liked Jon Pertwee because of the velvet jacket.
CE: The whole –
JR: He was quite the dandy. That’s why when they were looking for a Doctor I thought they might have considered someone who liked clothes. I mean the acting’s quite important, but I would have thought the clothes wearing would’ve been above that.
CE: It occurred to me that you dress like a Doctor.
JR: I’d have been a much better Doctor than you, we both agree on that.
CE: Yeah, absolutely.
JR: Maybe it’s not too late?
CE: Get that cockometer on the table.
JR: It’s not a cockometer!… I watched it with my kids, and they found it scary but not too scary that she wouldn’t watch again.
CE: Interesting. I mean we’ll have to see with later episodes because it gets scary. I mean that’s for parents and children to decide.
JR: But he’s super-confident, super-inquisitive, always going forward, wants to talk to, wants to engage with the aliens.
CE: And I think that takes some of the fear out for children. If I’m being chased down a corridor by aliens and just before I slam the door I give them a flash of my grin, I think that invites kids into it.
JR: But not in a Michael Jackson kind of way. Although a strange Doctor turns up, he takes a young woman away into a phonebox.
CE: And I must be, what, twenty-five years older than her?
JR: Although Billie Piper’s got a history of that kind of relationship. Well you’re 900 years older than her, aren’t you?
JR: We’ve got a montage of some of the creatures that appear in the later episodes, and it looks like it gets better and better.
CE: Yeah, we do get stronger as we go, I think.