The Ninth Doctor: Five Favourites
Guest contributors K-Ci Williams & Francis Milan picks out five favourites from Eccleston’s era.
Look here! Already halfway through February! What is set to be the greatest year for Doctor Who yet is already reaching another birthday – none other than the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston. Born shortly before the opening episode of Marco Polo, Eccleston triumphantly enters the history books as the first man younger than Doctor Who to play the show’s titular role. In fact, there are lots of interesting firsts where Mr Eccleston is concerned. The ‘first’ Doctor, if you will. His character was the first incarnation never to encounter the Master on-screen, the first Doctor to use the TARDIS telephone, and – need we say it? – the first TV Doctor of the 21st century, cultivating a brand new generation of Who fans with his dazzling charisma. (He’s also the first Doctor to have a vowel at the start of one of his names, though we reckon we’d be scraping the bottom of the barrel a bit there.)
Bursting onto our screens on the 26th March 2005, he not only completely revolutionised the character of the Doctor, something unique bestowed on us by every actor to grace the role, but he managed to pioneer the way in the show’s most daring reformulation ever. Something the Ninth Doctor brings to the Doctor Who world was that his tenure has, officially, the highest consistency of quality stories. In 2009, DWM’s Mighty 200 poll saw the Ninth Doctor’s run clock in at an average score of 74% – the highest quality tenure compared to his [then] nine counterparts. Perhaps some people underestimate the influence Chris’ acting talent had on these results. His debut, Rose, retains the title for the highest UK viewing figure of any regular New Who episode, and he bagged the Best Actor award at the NTAs that year. In honour of the amazing man who became the on screen saviour of a Doctor Who, here are our Five Favourites of the Ninth Doctor.
The End of the World
In the second story of Doctor Who’s revival, the TARDIS takes us to the End of the World, billions of years into humanity’s future – and the Earth is burning. Imagine a new, keen and fresh audience at the time, a nation of people ready to experience the new Doctor, Christopher Eccleston – in what was slated to be the second in a series of revival flops. But what proceeded was far from a folly; full of warmth, a satisfying mystery and the first off-Earth experience for our new companion, The End of the World just had to be in my Five Favourites list. First and foremost, the graphics are perhaps the most obviously stunning thing of the episode. Whereas we have had five very well written serials from the First and Fourth Doctors earlier this year, the special effects and computer generated animation of the Ninth Doctor is a major step up. This story has the fundamental aspects that all Doctor Who episodes should, and at the heart – the Doctor himself, shortly but splendidly played by Eccleston. Billie Piper and Christopher Eccleston could possibly be one of my favourite Doctor-companion pairings of all time. The End of the World presents stellar acting from the both of them, only made more amazing by the array of creatures in the story itself. From the villainous Cassandra to the Face of Boe, I will always hold a special place in my heart for this story; brimming with life and extravagant colour, this is an episode that will go down as part of Doctor Who’s greatest years!
First of all, the writer of this story needs to make a return to the show. Dalek is a Who masterpiece. While I (K-Ci) started watching with Matt Smith, this is one of the episodes I have never forgotten from my Revival-Who-Backlog-Watch. The concept of the lone Dalek is an idea used many a time in modern Who; in this story however it works as the most effective. Let us start with what is one of my favourite scenes from the episode, involving Rose. Of course it was inevitable that the Daleks would return, but in a moment with Rose – now a time traveller, having traveled the time vortex – she was able to awaken the true Dalek. However, it must be said that Eccleston’s performance was the best part of the episode. If it seems I am not really writing any solid points here, it’s because I’m still recovering from the epic proportions from the overall episode. So, if I’m honest, I can only suggest one thing: go and watch or rewatch the episode, and find out for yourself why this had to be in the list. In short, Eccleston + Billie + Dalek = perfection.
Father’s Day exceeds in many aspects. Rose was now an established companion, and it was almost as if the Doctor’s paternal instincts were starting to get the better of him. We’re reminded that he has such a deep obligation of responsibility, so when Rose tries to save the life of her father, the Doctor doesn’t handle it well. The performances of Eccleston, Piper and guest-star Shaun Dingwall are truly sublime, enhancing the tragic and heart-wrenching situation the characters are engulfed in. The episode adopted an unusually sombre tone as Pete Tyler awaited his fate, and, try as he might, the Doctor was for once almost powerless to stop it. This seems like a breakthrough for the Doctor’s persona – despite knowing that it could rip time to pieces, he is prepared to risk his own life to cheat the system and save Pete. It’s a story so powerfully poignant that I (Francis) doubt we’ll ever see the likes of it again, and I’m sure it’s a favourite of many a Whovian.
The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
Steven Moffat’s first story for the series, and boy was it a thriller. Of course, the most memorable line of “are you my mummy” still haunts me (K-Ci) to this day, and thanks to this episode – I can never sleep if someone says this before bed. Anyway, was I the only one who didn’t see the reveal coming that Nancy was the mother of the little boy? And obviously, we have the introduction of Captain Jack Harkness, played by the always vibrant and bubbly John Barrowman. For me personally, he was a refreshing change in the dynamic of the show, and was much needed for the darker tones of the episode. What gives this story that quality which has earned it a spot on the list? Why it’s the change in tone from other episodes, and the superlatively crafted piece of writing from Moffat (can you tell I’m a fan?) that made it amazing in my eyes. The imagery of the episode unfolds beautifully thanks to the director; gas masks among the few. Overall, you should be asking why not put this on the list than why to put it on. It’s a quality episode.
Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways
Okay, so we’ve got the epic Dalek finale sorted, but how about the regeneration. Since I (K-Ci) started with Matt Smith, I was well versed with the lengths of Doctor eras – and knew that Eccleston would leave. Hence I was prepared for the ‘feels’ that would come with the regeneration. Yes, I’m skipping straight to the regeneration! It was heartbreaking to see Rose unaware of what happens, but equally as heartwarming to experience Nine happy to go; embracing death. That big cheeky grin of his, plastered on the screen should have made me sad because it was ending, but I was honestly overcome with joy – every Doctor deserves to bow out in glory, in acceptance of ‘death’ (with a little nod to David Tennant’s Doctor, well more like a dig.) Eccleston has the best regeneration scene for me (bar Matt Smith – he’s my Doctor!) and the collective work from Russell T. Davies, Chris himself, the gorgeous Billie Piper and everyone else all helped to bring the first series of the revived series to a close. Bravo!
Honourable Mention: All The Rest
- Rose – it started off the show, and the Autons were a great first villain
- The Unquiet Dead – a proper ghost story, freaked me out (K-Ci) upon first watch; nice link with Gwen from Torchwood
- Aliens of London/World War Three – Admittedly, the villain was a bit odd, but a good introduction for Harriet Jones
- The Long Game – the team managed to make Adam very self-centred and obnoxious. Bravo!
- Boom Town – Best scene is the dinner scene, dynamic shift from the rest of the episode.
Is it any wonder why Christopher Eccleston is so special to us and many others? The Ninth Doctor, the battle-scarred hero, and the catalyst for the 21st century’s trip of a lifetime. He will always be remembered as one of the greats. A very happy 50th birthday, Chris!