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Why Christopher Eccleston Was Never The Same After Doctor Who

Doctor Who is a pop culture institution and virtually every person who has lent their face to the iconic time-traveler is considered royalty in the eyes of fans. Even though David Tennant and Tom Baker are arguably the most popular incarnations, audiences should give credit to the first of each generation. William Hartnell might have served as the first Doctor, but much of the show's current popularity can be traced to Christopher Eccleston.

When Russell T. Davies resurrected Doctor Who, he signed Eccleston on to play the title role, possibly because they had previously worked together on The Second Coming (via BBC America), and, to crib the catchphrase of Eccleston's Ninth Doctor, the results were "Fantastic." After wandering through a timeless limbo, Doctor Who was back. Although a new season was basically guaranteed, Eccleston didn't return for a second time; after one season, he left the show and was replaced by David Tennant, making Eccleston's tenure as the Doctor the shortest in Doctor Who history — the movies starring Paul McGann and Peter Cushing, as well as the War Doctor episode featuring John Hurt notwithstanding. Unlike Tennant, who hit post-Doctor ground running and leapt from one success to another, Eccleston struggled. In fact, his departure almost killed his career, and here's why.

Christopher Eccleston says the BBC temporarily blacklisted him

After Christopher Eccleston left Doctor Who, he found himself in a bit of a funk. His next big roles were for American movies such as Thor: The Dark World and G.I Joe, and, by all accounts, he hated it. Eccleston said he wanted to kill himself every moment he was filming — his hyperbole, not ours — and he likened the roles to "being a whore" (via The Guardian). Why did his acting gigs suddenly switch countries? Because he was blacklisted, in his words.

As Eccleston told The Guardian, the BBC overreacted to his departure with overt, overblown hostility. "I gave them a hit show and I left with dignity and then they put me on a blacklist," explained Eccleston. "I was carrying my own insecurities as it was something I had never done before and then I was abandoned, vilified in the tabloid press and blacklisted. I was told by my agent at the time: 'The BBC regime is against you. You're going to have to get out of the country and wait for regime change.'"

And that's exactly what he did. Thankfully, Eccleston returned to star in more BBC shows and movies. But for a time, he stayed far away from the BBC. He suffered, but he came out clean on the other side. The experience left Eccleston with a serious case of Doctor Whophobia, but he has stated he will gladly return to the show on one condition: when "hell freezes over" (via Syfy Wire). In all seriousness, the closest Eccleston will ever come to stepping into the TARDIS again is stepping into an audio booth.

His relationship with Russell T. Davies crumbled, at least from his perspective

In any business, it's not just what you know but also who you know. Before he acted on Doctor Who, Christopher Eccleston previously worked with Russell T. Davies on The Second Coming, which probably convinced Davies that Eccleston was the man to bring back Doctor Who. However, Eccleston abandoned ship so early he might have likewise convinced Davies to avoid Eccleston in the future.

According to Eccleston, his seemingly sudden departure was a long time coming. Eccleston explained (via Radio Times), "My relationship with my three immediate superiors – the showrunner, the producer and co-producer – broke down irreparably during the first block of filming and it never recovered. They lost trust in me, and I lost faith and trust and belief in them." A major point of contention for Eccleston was the role itself. Even though Eccleston's rendition of the Doctor was at times emotionally exhausted, he hid it well with a mask of jovial wit. However, the role required a man who, as Eccleston put it, was "a natural light comedian," and he was anything but. Eccleston's decision to leave the show was easy because he just wasn't comfortable with the role, which came at the cost of his working relationship with Davies. At least, that's what Eccleston thought.

Turns out the energy Eccleston brought to the role, even if it was all just an act, left a lasting impression. Davies enjoyed Eccleston's comedy, as well as the anger he occasionally displayed on screen. "He will always be my Doctor, and I will always be his producer," Davies stated in response (via Radio Times).