Sunday, February 16, 2014

Happy 50th Christopher Eccleston!

 Illustration by Andrew Skilleter, from The Who's Who of Doctor Who.*

Today sees the birthday of former Doctor Who, Christopher Eccleston. The actor, who played the "Ninth" Doctor in case you've forgotten, is 50 years old today and I'd like to take a moment to celebrate one of my favourite Doctors. Later on, there'll be a "list" but, first, I thought I would share some of my more general thoughts about the Northerner.

When the Eccles~a~tron was first announced I remember being mightily impressed with the casting, much like when Paul McGann was unveiled. Chris was, like the Eighth Doctor's shoes, the perfect fit. I couldn't have been more delighted (well, maybe if they'd cast Hugh Grant). And when the first pictures of him emerged as the Time Lord, bedecked in leather with very un-Gallifreyan hair, I was shocked, thrilled and slightly aroused. Again, I could not have been more pleased.

This enpleasening continued and swelled immeasurably from the first exciting hand-grabbing moments of Rose to his final teary goodbye in Parting of the Ways. Christoper Eccleston was the PERFECT Doctor and entertained no end with his august performance which he peppered with light moments and frivolity. His one series (or season, as some might call it), may not have been enough but it remains a solid outing that captured the hearts of millions around the world and made them either fall in love with Doctor Who all over again, or made them fall in love with it for the first time.

Though his time was short, for me, he's most definitely one of THE best, unquestionably in my top five - up there along with the likes Hartnell, Davison and Baker. I miss and celebrate the man in equal measures, and I look forward to seeing him in Doctor Who once more.

BLOGTOR'S TOP NINE NINTH DOCTOR MOMENTS

9. The Doctor cries (The End of the World)
Just before she sacrificed herself to save the inhabitants of Platform One, lovely tree lady Jabe revealed she knew exactly where The Doctor was from. She sympathetically said, "it's remarkable that you even exist. I just wanted to say how sorry I am," and then reached out an arm (or branch) to him. To which, firstly, the audience are collectively exclaiming "Wha??" (well, the older fans anyway) but, more importantly, The Doctor sheds a tear. An actual tear. A beautiful moment played so tenderly.

8. "Lots of planets have a north!" (Rose)
Classic.

7. The Doctor meets Dickens (The Unquiet Dead)
Another from the more playful side of Nine. Stuck in a cab with his hero, The Doctor gets to gush about the author's work. It's a lovely moment, mirroring the worship that exists, in real life, around Doctor Who. Though a fan, he's never scared to be slightly critical - regarding the "American bit" in Martin Chuzzlewit he states, "Was that just padding or what? I mean, it's rubbish, that bit," and Ecclescake portrays his fanaticism wonderfully.
 
6. "Run!" (Rose)
Possibly one of the most exciting initial meetings between a Doctor and his companion ever, this encounter encapsulated everything that was so unique about the relationship between Rose and the Time Lord. That scintillating moment when he grabbed her hand, looked her in the eye and rasped, "Run!" sums up their dynamic - adventure and fun. Really, Chris was grabbing our hand, the audience's collective consciousness (his favourite word), and inviting us for some time-traveling excitement. Never has one word made such an impression.

5. "I MADE IT HAPPEN!" (Dalek)
"They're never going to come! Your race is dead! You all burnt, all of you. Ten million ships on fire. The entire Dalek race wiped out in one second." Ooof! Take that poor solitary Dalek who we were all getting quite attached to. There's some very un~Doctory moments in the brilliant Robert Shearman story, notably in how the Gallifreyan takes glee in taunting the Metaltron and then hunts it down with a gun. Chilling, and Chrissy E brings all his acting nouse to each syllable he spits.
 
4. "Everybody lives!" (The Doctor Dances)
Awww, that they do Doctor, that they do.

3. "Rose, before I go..." (The Parting of the Ways)
We never really had The Doctor face regeneration in such a way before. In such a composed, calm and almost proud fashion; ready for "death", as it were. And telling a companion they were fantastic in the run-up to it? Classy. Though, in case we got too teary (which we were!), The Doctor cheekily adds in his own inimitable fashion, "So was I." Yup, he was. *sniffs*
 
2. "The turn of the Earth." (Rose)
Amazingly, this beautiful scene between Chris and Billie Piper was a last minute addition to the episode (which had underran by a good few minutes) yet it shows off Chris' skills perfectly. The humour from the "shop wars" gag to the pensiveness of answering Rose's question of "who are you?", it's an astounding couple of minutes. "The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour, and the entire planet is hurtling round the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour, and I can feel it," he calmly proclaims. It's a definition of the Time Lord we've never heard, and it's so relatable and human. But still so madly alien - which pretty much defined Christopher Eccleston's Doctor.
 
1. The Doctor sends Rose home (The Parting of the Ways)
Ermahgerd, the FEELS!!!

To be honest, there are a number of moments from his very final episode that could have made this list. Like Rose, it's almost a template for everything that shines in his portrayal (and mentioned many times above). I've chosen this particular moment as it's the pinnacle of The Doctor's character. In The Caves of Androzani we saw The Fifth Doctor act selflessly to save his companion and here The Ninth Doctor does the same. Russell T Davies performed so many wonderful tasks in this first series, but none more so than to give a Gallifreyan an emotional core that resonated like never before and to give him hearts that cared so much for his friend. Cared so much that he sent her away from the horrors he was sure they were about to face.

It was this moment, after an already fantastic collection of episodes, that I realised I loved Doctor Who like never before. Seeing Chris leaving the TARDIS and instantly knowing what he was about to do felt like nothing before in the history of the show, for me. And that look as he turns round. Man. Sheer poetry. Thanks Chris.
_____

Feel free to share your thoughts on Christopher Eccleston and The Ninth Doctor in the comments section below!


* Image reproduced by kind permission of the artist, for more of his amazing art visit: facebook.com/artofandrewskilleter

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9 comments:

Sean Tubbs said...

#9 returned the series back to its prime, and after recently watching Spearhead from Space (#3's first) it's so amazing to see the connections between #3 and #9's regeneration episodes. I'm struck now, 9 years later after #9 began, by how brilliant it was to embed the return of the new series well within the DNA of the old. And now? Well. We've got one solid series again and it's thanks to Christopher Eccleston giving us one of the best portrayals ever.

Anna said...

Good on ya, Cameron...poor Chris has really gotten no (or almost no) love during the 50th, and you do him proud.

Ten's MY Doctor...but Nine's a really close second. His respect for RTD's work, his refusal to tolerate abuse of crew members, and most of all, his total immersion in credibly bringing back the Doctor make his all-too-short run VERY special for me. I still bawl like a baby when Rose breaks down in "The Christmas Invasion", sobbing "he *left* me, mum!". I felt much the same way.

stephenw32768 said...

"The turn of the earth" was the moment that sold me on the new series. Wonderful writing, and superbly acted by Eccleston.

Shane said...

I, too, loved Eccleston. He wasn't around long, but his one series was poetic and it remains, at least for me, classic Who. I love how he played the Doctor. Pity he hasn't turned up in the Whoniverse since though.

Thank, Cameron, for this list. As always, brill observations.

Anonymous said...

I loved the 9th Doctor. There's a gravitas there and he doesn't need to be the smartest person in the room. A much more mature characterisation of a really old alien.

Simon the Nimon said...

An excellent write-up, Cameron, I doff my cap and tug my forelock to you. Like yourself, I've always thought that we didn't get enough of number 9. Incidentally, I wonder just how it would have changed The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor if Eccleston had said yes to a return?

Timelord said...

The ways are as they are. Eccleston brought the show back, but Tennant made it absolutely lovable.
Maybe if Chris had a second season, it wasnt become the hype it became with Tennant.
We never will know.
I love them all, even Hurt.

Anonymous said...

Worst Doctor ever. Just awful. A case of the emperors new clothe.

Anonymous said...

Nice review, and I think Eccleston deserves a lot of credit for the fact we still have Doctor Who to enjoy. Though if I'm able to live out the rest of my life without seeing someone call him "Ecclescake" again I'll die a happy man.