Analysing the Ninth Doctor
Guest contributor Patrick Durston analyses the Ninth Doctor and his short-lived era.
I remember very well the time when it was first announced that Doctor Who would be returning. After repeatedly watching many of the classics on tape at a young age and immersing myself in a few of the Doctor’s various adventures, I was pleasantly thrilled to hear such a momentous event in bringing back a show that I adored so much in my infancy. I never even acknowledged that it had been cancelled for at least sixteen years, but I just knew it was back, or it was here, and I was absolutely ecstatic!
The lead actor playing the role of what would be the Ninth Doctor, was announced. An actor called Christopher Eccleston. “Who?” I thought to myself. Never had I seen or heard of him before. I didn’t know what to expect, not just from him though, but from the revival of the show itself. Would it be the Who I loved years before? Will it be as great? Those were some questions I had in my head as an inquisitive early fan of the show, but I was interested in what it would be.
But of course, all of my doubts were cleared. New Who delivered the goods and cleared any of my doubts. I was washed away by it all; the direction, the style, the format, the whole sense of newness and how boldly exciting and fresh it was. I was even more happy that it decided not to go down the route of being a reboot, and that I understood that it was ‘Doctor Who’, nothing new.
What was most important was the new Doctor himself. I was captivated very much by Christopher Eccleston’s initial performance as the Time Lord (first time I’d seen him act). I soon began to realise that he has true potential in this series when his first portrayal in ‘Rose’ created a great impact, and I was eager to see more of his character grow throughout it. I saw the depth and volume to his Doctor, with how he was explored psychologically through his personality and mind set, and how his quirky habits were made real. We had solid continuity from already established canon by seeing what made him the troubled character we saw by his actions in the ‘Last Great Time War’.
We were given an insight into the deep fissures in his psychology that Eccleston’s Doctor managed to display with style and conviction. There was a more angry, darker, sorrowful persona than any of his other incarnations before him had. I only feel this was a excellent construction of him made by the new show runner at the time: Russell T Davies, who managed very well to get the show going again with a brilliant Doctor that had a lot to present in its first revived series.
In front of the tortured, hurt interior was an exterior that was an expressive, enthusiastic, confident, courageous, fun, bigger-than-life personality, that showed more than the ‘born from war’ element that largely dominated his world on the inside. But perhaps at the same time this was a mask to hide the troubled, cynical interior he had. The Doctor has always been very good at closing himself off in New Who when they feel like it by putting on different sides to them that hide what they’ve been through, or what they feel at the time. The Ninth Doctor did this very effectively.
But of course, there was plenty of room for his ‘alien’, childlike, playful attitude to come out that made up another great part to him. From his brilliant use of the word ‘fantastic,’ emphasising more into “Fantastic!”, to just the way he interacted with the people around him with several quirky expressions he made (which was always different), showed how diverse he was in his mannerisms and behaviour. Even the Northern accent (natural to Eccleston) added greatly to him, where in other cases it would take away. It seemed fitting for him to have it, and the idea of a northern Doctor was funnily made credible in the fact that “lots of planets have a north”, so there can be no arguing about that.
Overall, the Ninth Doctor is a man with many masks. He bears the massive weight from the recent Time War on his conscious that has an evident effect on the way he is. Yet he finds solace in travelling with the companion Rose Tyler (and other faces he encounters), who allows him to have comfort and forget all his past troubles (at least try to). As the companion naturally does – Rose gives him the big responsibility over her life when travelling all of time and space, and he doesn’t fail to share a great dynamic with her (a dynamic I found great!).
One of the other elements I found interesting was how his activity in the Time War afterwards sharpened his look on humanity, the universe and everything else than his previous incarnations ever had. Having learnt from his actions allowed him to give himself more of the task of protecting the universe from any danger, yet in the process gave him great insight into humanities comportments and mistakes when made. But he found great success when he did save human lives (as well as different species’), and less so when he didn’t. “Everybody lives, Rose. Just this once, everybody lives!”, a subtle reference to just for once after all the bloodshed and the travesties of lives the Doctor has endured, everyone can live to tell the tale once again. Very, very bold indeed. Creates a lot of impact that, as does the way in which he delivers it.
Sadly, Eccleston’s era was so short-lived that he “could have done so much more!” (yes, I did use a Tenth Doctor quote there, but it was necessary). In all seriousness, he could have been developed, enough to really flesh his incarnation out. Enough to understand more of him and where he stands a lot more in the order of things. Series 1 allowed us to see his own identity for what he was, but it was a disappointment that because he had one brief stint, we couldn’t get a much broader sense of the character. Series 1 only scratched the surface of his persona and I feel such a richly crafted incarnation of the Doctor only deserved to be explored more.
But of course, circumstances happened off set that caused any further development to him not to occur (end of Eccleston’s role basically), but that’s a long story shrouded in controversy. But it is a terrible shame indeed that he couldn’t have stayed for at least another series to really emphasise him. His time on the show ended briefly, like an incomplete sentence…
Though the greatest positive to come out of it all was that even though he only had a year, he managed to produce so much of an affect on fans like me in that year of playing the Doctor. He created a very large impression and I owe a lot to his performance. I feel he is still somewhat overlooked in other parts of the fandom just because of his short-stinted role, and his series is that of an underrated one.
Some fans still bypass Eccleston in any popularity poll. Which is a shame as the first series owes a lot to us fans, being the one to revolutionise the show onwards (and what a great send off he had though). It’s the showcase of a new fiery, adventurous Doctor (who is played brilliantly by Chris himself), along with a cracking whole new chapter to the Whoniverse, and Eccleston booted it up perfectly. Unlike the recent result for Series 1 in the ‘Best Series‘ poll we had on Doctor Who TV, the whole concept the series had as a whole proves far greater than the rank it was given. Hopefully, I feel that by writing this article, I’m giving him more of the exposure that he truly deserves as a brilliant Doctor.
I do hope that Eccleston will he come back for the 50th anniversary if there is a planned multiple Doctor scenario. Sadly, I’m unsure if he will. It will be a massive shame if he doesn’t, being the one who helped lift the revived show off the ground, and that’s something. He’s stated very much his refusal of going back, but I personally think he’s forgetting the reason why a part of the fandom DO want him back because he was simply “fantastic!”. I just hope he changes his mind and reconsiders stepping back into of his infamous roles. I’ll be a very happy fan among others if he does. A great privilege it will be indeed.
So long live the Ninth Doctor! And let us continue to remember him.