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50th Anniversary Retrospective: The 9th Doctor

John Hussey continues his monthly retrospective, this time looking at the 9th Doctor, Christopher Eccleston.

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The Origins of The Ninth Doctor

Paul McGann was the most unfortunate actor to play the part of the legendary Time Lord, never reprising his role onscreen due to a bad era behind the scenes. The TV movie hadn’t gained the achievements FOX and Universal wanted and so they declined the idea of making a series to go with their pilot. With the ‘Wilderness Years’ taking their toll, McGann never got the chance to come back even when the show finally made its return to the BBC under the watchful eye of new show-runner Russell T Davies. It was just never meant to be, under no fault of his own. At least he was allowed to continue the role in spin-off work within the Big Finish Audio adventures.

When Russell T Davies took to the helm of show-runner, he decided to restart the show with a fresh start by introducing a new Doctor to both old and new viewers. The question was, who was going to play the ninth incarnation of the Time Lord, and furthermore, who had the ability to bring him back? The person in question turned out to be none other than Christopher Eccleston. Eccleston approached Davies for the job solely because he enjoyed working with him on a previous show called The Second Coming. Eccleston had no real understanding of how big and popular Doctor Who was when approaching the role of the Doctor but it didn’t stop him giving it his all and bringing the character to life once again with a new flare of excitement and stamina.

Era and Stories

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The Ninth Doctor era was all about revival; the revival of the Doctor and his character, along with the concepts and ideas of the show in general. After the 1996 Television Movie, Doctor Who was placed into the wilderness once again, this time lasting for eight years. Finally in 2004, new show-runner Russell T Davies had finally got the back in production again and the BBC finally put into action bringing their longest running show back onto the screens of Britain’s televisions.

Dramatic changes were made within the revived series, mainly its format. The episode format was brought into a modern era and audience and, so the original seasonal format of 4-7 multi-part episodes was scrapped in favour of a 13-part series. On top of that was the idea of having a series-long story arc that slowly built up towards a climatic finale where the meaning of the seeded arc was revealed and put into effect for the final episodes. Multi-part episodes remained, with the series containing 3 two-part stories, with the finale being one of them.

The other dramatic change was the killing off of the Time Lords. The Doctor’s race had been a huge part of Doctor Who’s mythology but the Davies decided not to bring them back and try and add a new spin on the show and the Doctor’s character. This idea led to Davies creating an event that would go to explain what the Doctor had been doing in his absence off-screen. It was written in that the Doctor had been fighting in the Last Great Time War which resulted in his own people, the Time Lords, going to war against the Daleks. This story arc was slowly seeded into the first few episodes and it was later revealed in ‘Dalek’ that the foe that had caused the Time Lords destruction was in fact the Doctor’s great enemy. This also served as an inventive way of reintroducing the Daleks back onto television after being absent since 1988.

This idea also affected the Doctor’s character greatly and went on to develop many interesting scenarios for him throughout the revived series. It was decided that the revived series would start from scratch by introducing a brand new Doctor for both new and old audiences to follow and bring their way into the style of the long running show. Like with the Seventh Doctor’s era, the beginning of the Ninth’s is very vague with his Doctor not receiving a regeneration sequence which explains how he came about. The Ninth Doctor was simply there at the beginning of ‘Rose’, although it was implied later on in the episode that he may still be in his early days within his ninth incarnation as he examines his body and makes notes on his changes, notably his big ears. For the first time the Doctor was given a more obscure accent instead of being a more traditional English accent, with the Ninth Doctor adopting a northern accent. Also, the Ninth Doctor wore non-traditional clothes and instead went with a leather jacket and jeans.

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The Ninth Doctor’s era introduced a new idea towards the life of the companion; giving them a back-story and family connection. This had never been done before. Within the Classic Series the companion simply came onboard the TARDIS and their life back home was never really delved into. For Series One the new companion, Rose Tyler, was given a mother, Jackie Tyler, and a boyfriend called Mickey Smith. These characters would become reoccurring characters throughout the series and gave episodes a lot of character developments and drama/conflicts. ‘Aliens of London/World War Three’ for example delved into the idea of how would the companion’s family feel about their long absence from their life and society. Rose Tyler had accidentally been away for an entire year with her mother Jackie Tyler believing her to be missing or dead. This idea was an interesting concept that really pointed the finger towards the Doctor and asked the questions of whether the companion was truly safe being at his side during his adventures. Romantic conflicts were certainly developed between Rose Tyler and Mickey Smith after she leaves him at the end of ‘Rose’ in order to travel with the Ninth Doctor. Their feelings and relationship was slowly pushed towards breaking point and they were left merely as friends by the end of the series; although emotional conflicts, especially from Mickey, were brought forward along the way. In many ways Russell T Davies brought in a Soap-drama format to play with, creating some intriguing results which brought about a new era and direction for the show during its revival to television. This new approach in turn returned the show to old ideas, i.e. the Third Doctor era where the Doctor had a close personal life with Earth and its species. A lot of the Ninth Doctor’s era revolved around Earth and Rose Tyler’s family and similar to the Third Doctor, he didn’t always enjoy his time within present-day society.

Other ideas that were introduced within Series One were the idea of time not being a straight forward line of cause and effect. This idea was introduced in ‘The Unquiet Dead’ where the Ninth Doctor explained to Rose Tyler that she could die before she was actually born. This idea has gone onto to create many different ideas of how time works over the cause of the revived series and even to a degree developed further within Steven Moffat’s concept of ‘timey-wimey’. Another important time concept introduced was delicate points in time. This idea came about in ‘Father’s Day’ when Rose Tyler re-wrote history by saving her father Pete Tyler from death. It introduced the consequences of changing or meddling with time and like with the idea above, it would go on to create further ideas along with stories revolving around its concept.

Character Traits, Personality and Catchphrases

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The Ninth Doctor certainly continued the traits of his previous incarnations, most notably of all the mystery behind him. The Ninth Doctor was very much a massive mystery to both his companion Rose Tyler and the audience to begin with. His persona was very alien and he seemed to step away from his humanity and understanding of human nature. This developed his further presence of authority and exiled nature of a lonely man travelling on the brink of time. On many occasions he scorned the very behaviour of the human mind as being stupid and mocked them in a very disrespecting and angry way that even caused Rose Tyler to question his authority and way of life. On the other hand he also praised the human way of thinking and like with his previous selves, appreciated his fondness of the species and why he enjoyed their presence so much. Another thing that certainly continued was his fondness not to think before he acts, a concept that continually gets him and his companions into trouble. The Ninth Doctor’s alien persona was caught out in ‘The End of the World’ when Rose Tyler confronted him on the fact that he didn’t think about her personal feelings before bringing her to the end of the world.

Unlike with previous incarnations, we never saw how the Ninth Doctor reacted to his regeneration. We’re still unsure as to why his previous self regenerated and the circumstances that led to it, nor have we seen the Ninth Doctor’s true beginning. It’s hard to say how the Ninth Doctor reacted to his post-regeneration period but it certainly left an aftermath of emotional baggage due to the events that happened in his previous life. The Ninth Doctor’s choice in costume was unique as it stood against the styles his past incarnations picked. The Ninth Doctor went against the old fashioned styles or costume ideas and went for a more modern look of a leather jacket. This also reflects the idea that he was a war-torn hero of the Last Great Time War and his darkened look further generated his emotional state of mind. Also, the idea that the Ninth Doctor gained a northern accent also further increased the different nature of Nine to his past selves along with becoming a little in-joke throughout his timeline.

The Ninth Doctor continued the Eighth Doctor’s trait of having a more human side in which depicted the Doctor having more emotional elements to his persona which were displayed in many different ways. The one Nine expressed a lot of was sadness and aggression. This was all down to the Last Great Time War, an event that resulted in the death of both the Time Lords (the Doctor’s own people) and the Daleks (the Doctor’s greatest enemy) by his own hands. Everytime the Time War was mentioned the Ninth Doctor showed great signs of sadness and almost regret. Speaking with the Nestene Consciousness in ‘Rose’ the Ninth Doctor admitted he couldn’t save any of the worlds he promised to protect during the battle. When Jabe confronted him about still existing in ‘The End of the World’ the Ninth Doctor was left in tears due to remembering the terrible ordeals he committed and all the friends and loved ones he lost because of it. He later came clean with Rose Tyler, after earlier in the episode refusing to speak about his past due to how painful it was, and told her the truth about his past, explaining to her that he was in fact the last of the Time Lords.

Aggression was later used against his great enemy the Daleks once he realised that they were still alive. In ‘Dalek’ he gloated at the last Dalek knowing it was defenceless and took his advantage upon it through dark words in order to express his hatred and despising thoughts against the evil creature of death. After being provoked, the Ninth Doctor even attempted to kill the creature knowing it was what he should do. Throughout the story he was provoked by the Dalek, even to the point where the creature told him he would make a good Dalek. Those words burnt the Time Lord and made him all the more determined to kill it. In the end it was Rose Tyler who managed to show the Ninth Doctor what he was becoming and from that moment on he became a changed man.

The first half of Series One showed a wounded Doctor who was scarred by the Time War but in the second half he received his redemption. The Ninth Doctor slowly managed to rise out of the dark and returned to the light, almost becoming his old self once again. This was certainly shown in ‘The Parting of the Ways’ when he had a choice of killing the Daleks at the cost of humanity. The Ninth Doctor chose against this instead of repeating history. He became the coward and at last decided to become the hero again and make the right decision which would bring good to the world instead of destruction. This reflects the promise the Eleventh Doctor spoke about in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ that they must follow a code that reflects the meaning of their chosen name. The Ninth Doctor decided to do this instead of falling into the category of the Forgotten Doctor who broke the promise, saving the universe but at the cost of losing his meaning, and to a degree his soul. Afterwards he then sacrificed his life in order to save Rose Tyler, finally granting himself peace towards his future incarnations.

The Ninth Doctor also displayed a very fun side from time to time, especially with his witty and inappropriate jokes in the darkest of situations. He also had moments of joy, shown especially in ‘The Doctor Dances’ when he finally received a day when everyone survived to tell the tale, furthering the idea that the Ninth Doctor was finally receiving redemption from the pain he suffered during the Time War.

The Ninth Doctor certainly displayed a huge sense of authority and justice against his enemies, perhaps as a form of further side effects from the Last Great Time War. With Cassandra for instance, he was quickly reluctant to let her die for her crimes of murder, claiming that everything in the universe has its time and dies. This reflects his feelings about the death of his own race and his hatred towards death and destruction. The Ninth Doctor also showed a great care for humanity when it came to protecting the Earth, maybe due to the fact he couldn’t protect his own race and so felt it his duty to protect the species he had been fond of since his first incarnation.

One of the main traits displayed by the Ninth Doctor was his desire to name Mickey Smith wrong and address him as Ricky, or in some cases ‘Mickey the idiot’. Although at first not being overly fond of his character, he later developed a huge amount of respect for him at the end of ‘World War Three’ after he helped him stop the Slitheen Family. His other bad trait was referring to humans as ‘stupid apes’ and even addressed Rose Tyler as one on many occasions, especially in ‘Father’s Day’ when she disobeyed him and caused a terrible set of events due to breaking the laws of time. Another trait of his was defending his northern accent with the idea that lots of planets contain a north.

The Ninth Doctor’s favourite catchphrase was ‘fantastic’, a word he used right up to the end of his life.

Companions

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Rose Tyler

Rose was a teenage girl leaving an ordinary human life until suddenly her workplace came under attack by shop window dummies. After she encountered the mysterious Doctor, her life was turned upside. Given the chance to travel in time and space Rose ditched her old life behind and began her travels with the Ninth Doctor, travelling far and wide through the time vortex. Her greatest moment of truth came when she requested to see her father upon his death and ultimately changed the course of history by saving him. This emotional event was a true moment of love and sadness and really did bring her closer to the Time Lord. Rose’s other moment of truth came when she refused to leave the Ninth Doctor behind on the Game Station and did everything she could to return to him; at the cost of ultimately bringing his downfall. This was the first sign of her love towards the lonely Time Lord.

Mickey Smith

The bumbling ex-boyfriend of Rose Tyler was at first sceptical and scared towards the world of the Doctor but during the year Rose was away travelling with the Doctor; he researched about him and became more aware of his way of life. Mickey proved useful with his computer skills in ‘World War Three’ and helped the Ninth Doctor defeat the Slitheen Family. He once again retained his bumbling ways during the events of ‘Boom Town’ and felt pushed aside by Rose due to her feelings towards the Doctor. This way of thinking was thrown away by the time of ‘The Parting of the Ways’ were he came to terms with this fact and did what he could in order to help Rose achieve her goal of returning to the Ninth Doctor.

Adam Mitchell

The super genius assistant to the insane Henry van Statten wished only to travel the stars instead of just cataloguing their remains from crash landings. He helped in a small way against the Dalek onslaught during the events of ‘Dalek’ and was later granted, at the request of Rose Tyler, the chance to join the Ninth Doctor in the TARDIS. In ‘The Long Game’ however, Adam proved he wasn’t capable of travelling with the Doctor after he attempted to share the future with his parents back home. After nearly bringing danger to not only himself, the Ninth Doctor and Rose, he also nearly brought about the collapse of the time-stream and was therefore taken back home with a futuristic surgical implant within his forehead.

Captain Jack Harkness

Jack Harkness was an ex-Time Agent who landed himself in Blitz London in order to dish out a con to his old agency. This in turn accidentally lured the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler to the scene as they attempted to find the crashed Chula Warship that Jack wished to bargain with in order to con the Time Agency into buying a piece of space junk. This however brought about releasing a batch of Nanogenes which began re-writing humanities DNA. Jack eventually rose to the occasion and aided the Ninth Doctor in stopping the Nanogenes. He was later given the opportunity to join the Ninth Doctor on his travels in the TARDIS. Jack was at first more of a coward but throughout his time with the Doctor became more of a hero and again raised to the occasion during the Daleks invasion of Earth in ‘The Parting of the Ways’, ultimately dying in order to protect the Ninth Doctor. At the end of the battle he was resurrected by the Bad Wolf but was ultimately left behind by the Ninth Doctor for a then unknown reason.

Encountered Villains and Monsters

Dalek

The Autons

The plastic creatures made a return to the show in ‘Rose’ where they attempted to kill Rose Tyler in the basement of her workplace. The Nestene Consciousness once again tried its luck at invading Earth, this time due to all of its food sources being destroyed during the Last Great Time War. The Ninth Doctor managed to track its location in an underground boiler room beneath London but was then apprehended by its minions the Autons. The Nestene used the London Eye as a signalling device to awaken every piece of plastic on the planet. Rose Tyler then rose to the occasion and aided the Ninth Doctor in pouring the anti-plastic into the Nestene, nearby destroying the creature and its plans for world domination.

Lady Cassandra

Cassandra was the last pure human of humanity in the year 5 billion. She had kept herself alive via thousands of pounds in investment towards her unearthly surgery which had left her no more than a piece of skin suspended on a mobile display cabinet with two eyes and a pair of lips. Cassandra attempted to gain money by killing everyone onboard Platform One during the Earth’s destruction by using her Robot Spiders and robotic minions the Repeated Meme to sabotage the ship’s shields. The Ninth Doctor prevented this and brought her back to the ship via her own teleport device and watched as her skin started to shrivel and crack due to the increased heat onboard the station and was apparently killed because of this.

The Slitheen Family

The giant green farting machines were a psychopathic family from the planet Raxacoricofallapatorius who intended to destroy the Earth for profit in ‘Aliens of London/World War Three’. They did this by stealing the bodies of members of Parliament, killing the Prime Minister and then creating a hoax alien crash landing in order to put the Earth on red alert. After doing so they attracted the attentions of U.N.I.T. and had them executed before moving on to create a false story involving an advanced alien race ready to invade the Earth from above. This in turn would’ve generated mass hysteria, resulting in missile launches to a fake target that would go to create a nuclear war between humanity with the entire planet being reduced to a pile of rubble. The Slitheen Family would then sell the remains as fuel to the highest bidder. This plan was prevented by the combined efforts of the Ninth Doctor and Mickey Smith who launched a missile at 10 Downing Street and apparently killed the members of the psychotic family.

It was discovered in ‘Boom Town’ that one of them had survived, the sister of the group who took on the form of Margaret Blaine. Margaret was now Mayor of Cardiff and intended to build a nuclear power-station in the centre of the city on top of the Rift, a temporal shift in time and space. She then intended to cause a nuclear reaction which would react with the Rift and grant her escape from the planet via her Extrapolator at the cost of Earth’s utter destruction. The Ninth Doctor once again interfered and this resulted in Margaret being granted a new life at the hands of the TARDIS after she stared into the machines heart.

The Daleks

The Doctor’s greatest enemy returned from their apparent destruction in ‘Dalek’ when the last of the creatures was found by the Ninth Doctor in Henry van Statten’s alien museum after he received a distress signal. Once the Dalek managed to regenerate itself using Rose Tyler’s DNA, an onslaught began with every living thing being exterminated by the creature with the Ninth Doctor left desperate to destroy it. The Dalek eventually took its own life after developing humanity through Rose’s DNA.

The Daleks returned in ‘Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways’ when it was discovered they were using Satellite Five to manipulate humanity and regain their numbers. The Dalek Emperor made its return to screen, after last properly appearing in ‘The Evil of the Daleks’, after it survived the Time War and began rebuilding the Dalek race. It grew completely insane and deemed itself god of Skaro and prepared to build its new haven on Earth are slaughtering humanity. The Ninth Doctor was near powerless to stop them as his friends and companion Jack Harkness died at the creatures hands and in the end the Time Lord even threw away his last trump card in order to retain his humanity. The Daleks were ultimately destroyed by Bad Wolf who used her powers to protect the Ninth Doctor and reduced his great enemy into dust, apparently ending the Time War for a third time.

The Three Must See Episodes

  • 3. ‘Dalek’
  • 2. ‘The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances’
  • 1. ‘Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways’

Special Mentions to:

  • ‘The End of the World’
  • ‘Aliens of London/World War Three’
  • ‘Father’s Day’

First Words

“Run!”

The Incarnation Speech

“No, because this is what I’m going to do. I’m gonna rescue her. I’m gonna rescue Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet. And then I’m gonna save the Earth. And then, just to finish off, I’m gonna wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!”

Famous Last Words

“Rose… before I go, I just wanna tell you, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I!”

The Regeneration

The Ninth Doctor regenerated after absorbing the heart of the TARDIS in order to save Rose Tyler in ‘The Parting of the Ways’. This all developed due to the mysterious nature behind the word ‘bad wolf’, a word that had been cropping up all over time and space – literally following the Ninth Doctor on all of his journeys in the TARDIS. Rose Tyler discovered it was her who scattered these words through the time vortex in order to make a link between her and the Ninth Doctor through time. After absorbing the heart of the TARDIS, Rose Tyler essentially became a time god called Bad Wolf. The Ninth Doctor was the last man standing onboard the Games Station after the Dalek onslaught and was left with a terrible dilemma; destroy the Daleks at the cost of killing humanity. The Ninth Doctor decided against using the Delta Wave, choosing to be the coward, and prepared for his fate of death at the hands of his great enemy. Rose Tyler showed up and used her powers to protect the Ninth Doctor, ultimately destroying the Daleks. The Ninth Doctor then had to sacrifice himself to save Rose from burning up her mind by absorbing her powers and returning them to the TARDIS. By doing this he was forced to regenerate due to destroying every cell in his body. After taking Rose Tyler back into the TARDIS the Ninth Doctor made one final farewell speech to his companion before exploding into a burst of energy, morphing into a younger man…

Step back in time...

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