Stepping out of the Box

When Doctor Who is off the air, it is often a good opportunity for fans to branch out and discover new shows. Doctor Who can even provide inspiration for what we actually choose to watch. With that in mind, let’s take a trip back to 2004, when Series One was not yet in production. 

It was announced that highly respected film, television and theatre actor Christopher Eccleston would play the Doctor. Frustratingly, I was familiar with neither him nor his work. Who was this mysterious thespian who would breathe new life into our sorely-missed show? 

To satisfy my curiosity, I watched Nicole Kidman’s atmospheric horror film “The Others”. Eccleston played the husband of Kidman’s character, a handsome and well-spoken soldier (see above). Would this portrayal be a template for his new Doctor? I then watched him in the BBC comedy series “The League of Gentlemen”. Eccleston made a small appearance as a bizarre “pet impresario” sporting a wide-brimmed hat and beaming an eccentric smile. Was this a clue to our new hero’s persona?

I investigated the religious drama “The Second Coming”, starring Eccleston and written by upcoming show-runner Russell T Davies. Despite its incredible premise of a returning messiah, the modern day Manchester that Davies created felt compellingly realistic. I would soon discover that this kitchen-sink feel would become a hallmark feature of his tenure on Doctor Who.

Sci-fi grandee Simon Pegg would appear in Series 1. It shames me to admit that I did not know him either. I bought the “Spaced” box set. I laughed all the way through two series of this genius rom-com. So enamoured was I with Pegg, that I then watched his hit zombie parody “Shaun of the Dead”. His high jinks and antics with his comedy partner and one day Santa-actor Nick Frost were hilarious.

Series One finally aired in early 2005 and all was revealed. We discovered Eccleston’s cheeky and endearing portrayal of the Doctor. RTD lavished us with his colourful, imaginative and witty scripts. Sci-fi lite, they never strayed too far away from the familiar reality of Rose’s life, family, housing estate and all those London landmarks. 

Then came the bombshell. Eccleston was leaving. A new actor would take over the role. Who was this David Tennant? To find out, I watched RTD’s “Casanova”. Tennant’s impish and almost “Carry On-esque” performance won me over instantly. Swept away by his energy, I knew he would make for a perfect Doctor. I wondered, however, if he could match Eccleston’s gravitas. Would alien foes take him seriously?

I bought “Jude”, a particularly dull Victorian period drama, just to see a courthouse scene featuring both Eccleston and Tennant. As they filmed that tantalisingly brief scene, little did the actors know that they would both one day play the prized role of the Doctor.

And now, new actors for Series 9 have been revealed. Who are Paul Kaye and Morven Christie? A quick Google reveals that the former appeared in “Games of Thrones” and the latter in the intriguingly titled crime drama “Grantchester”. The enforced wait for Series 9 gives us the time to step outside of our familiar Whovian territory and broaden our televisual horizons. 

Maybe, as we discover shows unfamiliar to us, they will satisfy our curiosity by giving us a taste of what is to come. But our interest today can never compare to the overwhelming intense curiosity of ten years ago, when it was announced that at long last Doctor Who was returning to our screens. 

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