‘Doctor Who’ exec Moffat explains Eccleston regeneration cut in 50th ep

Steven Moffat has discussed why the regeneration of John Hurt’s Doctor into Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor in Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary special was cut short.

The scene in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ ended before viewers could fully see the Ninth Doctor’s face.

Speaking to Doctor Who Magazine in the latest issue, Moffat revealed: “It was one thing to include [Eccleston] among all the other archive Doctors, as they flew in to save the day — in fact, it would have been disgraceful to have left anyone out — but placing him in that scene might have given the impression he’d actually turned up for filming, which would have been crossing the line.”

Doctor Who Series 1 Rose

He added: “Not taking part in the 50th was a difficult decision for Chris, taken after a lot of thought and with great courtesy, and not respecting his wishes would have been grossly unprofessional and disrespectful to a good man and a great Doctor. Number 9 may not have turned up for the celebrations, but there would have been no party without him.”

Did you want to see more of the regeneration scene? Let us know below…

  • Daedrin

    He may not have returned for an important day, but he was there for all of the other important days. Time is something you waste when you have so little of it, right?
    Without him, none of our modern appreciation of the doctor would exist. The pregenitor.

    • Matt ‘Moriarty’ Carey

      “You should always waste time when you don’t have any. Time is not the boss of you. Rule 408.”


  • A Touch of Insanity

    I would have loved to have seen the full regeneration, but I can understand honoring his wishes. Just the small touch with Chris’ brilliant blue eyes coming through was good for me.

    • Samantha Bryans

      I agree. 2 more seconds and I would’ve been satisfied.

  • Fortytwo Mice

    Uummm WTF? Christppher Eccleston DOES appear in the 50th Anniversary episode with the line “..for my next trick.” and is shown flicking a lever on the console so WTF are you all & the above article on about beyond the fact the full regeneration wsn’t shown & for me that is a great way of leaving it open for Chris to come back at some point & fill in the gap between the 50th regen & Rose.

    • Doctorwhy

      The line “for my next trick” is archive footage from the first season with chris.

    • ElizabethIsATimeLady

      Which is exactly what Moffat said. Christopher appeared “among all the other archive Doctors, as they flew in to save the day” with a clip clearly from the archive footage, just like all the other clips of the previous Doctors. Showing him during the regeneration scene would have looked like he had actually shoot the scene *for* the 50th anniversary, and Eccleston clearly didn’t want that. His choice not to appear in the special is probably linked with his wanting to detach himself from the role, so I appreciate how thoughtful they were to take his wishes into consideration. They could have done that using archive footage, but it wouldn’t have been nice to Chris to give the idea that he actually participated in the shooting of the special.

    • Dana

      Exactly what gap is he supposed to fill in? The Doctor’s messed about with Rose’s timeline enough already, including showing up at Powell Estate as Ten the New Year’s Eve before Rose met the Doctor the first time in her own timeline. I’m content with Rose’s first known meeting with him being when Nine grabbed her hand and said, “Run!”

  • Victor Who

    As great at the 50th was, it would’ve been more memorable had Eccleston participated in it. The scene where the War Doctor was with The Moment….instead of two Tardises materializing, there would’ve been three and where the “coat”, the “bowtie”, and the “leather jacket” would come out.

    I really liked #9, but his choice not participate really soured me on him.

    • CedarRapids

      Yeah, It was the 50th anniversary, at least show some respect for the show and the fans even if you do have a beef with the BBC.

      • A Guy

        It’s not that he didn’t have any respect, it’s just that he wanted to detach himself from the series. He didn’t want to be typecast.

        • Aaron O’neil

          Actually that’s just a rumor. he never liked tdoing the show and he wasn’t into it before then either, so he left.

      • JJ

        How was choosing to not be a part of a role he once had being disrespectful? Do you think Matt Smith or David Tennant should automatically commit to every Doctor Who movie henceforth? I don’t think so. Yes, it may have been disappointing because he was great in that role.. but it was just work for him. He’s respectfully moved on.

        • Steven Ramos

          “Do you think Matt Smith or David Tennant should automatically commit to every Doctor Who movie henceforth?”

          YES. Always YES. It should be in the contract. “Once a doctor, always a doctor. You will be called upon to do reunions, anniversary episodes, cameos, conventions, and what not. If you’re not willing, there are close to 2 billion English speakers on the planet who would love the opportunity.”

    • Dana

      Ten was Sandshoes, not Coat. And Eleven was Chinny.

      I actually think Nine would have made the episode a bit *too* Doctor-heavy. *gasp!* Yes, I know. I just spake heresy. But sometimes even Doctor Who can go too far over the top. If they’d just had him there at the end where War Doctor regenerated to him, or maybe in the Thirteen Doctors scene, that would have been fine, but having him in the main plot really wouldn’t have worked.

      And Eccleston made the conscious choice to leave in the first place out of discontent with the way the show was run behind the scenes. As per his original explanatory public statement, not from rumor. Clearly whatever the problem was had not been resolved by the time they asked him to come back. It’s not like anything else he’s done has been nearly as famous, especially not in the States; it would have benefited him to return. He had to know that, too.

      • Morbius

        I don’t agree it would have been too Doctor heavy. “The Five Doctors” worked fine.

        • morn1960

          but Tom
          Baker wasn’t in that one, just a clip

          • Guest

            That still left 4 Doctors, as opposed to the 3 that would have been in the 50th anniversary (4 if you include Tom Baker’s appearance).

          • Kenton

            You sort of have to.

      • caffeinedelusions

        Not necessarily. Implications are that if they’d been able to get him to agree, then the War Doctor never would have been introduced into the narrative. The War Doctor existed for the sole purpose of standing in for Nine.

        • stargazer1682

          According to another interview by Moffat, around the time of the 50th; when he met with Eccleston, Moffat told him he didn’t feel that 9 was the one to have pushed the button. He seemed to be more interested in including Eccleston only for a regeneration scene; and Eccleston in turn didn’t want to do just a token appearance in the anniversary special.
          I do wonder what it might have been like – we could have had the Chin, Sandshoes, Granddad and the Boat Captain.

          • Hosfac

            According to an interview with Eccleston, he left the show because he had some sort of a falling out with BBC management and Moffat. I’m sure that factored into his decision, possibly more than anything else did.

          • stargazer1682

            Russell T Davies was head writer at the time Eccleston left.

          • Hosfac

            Yes, you’re right. However, I doubt that the upper management of the BBC had changed much.

          • Jeremy Parker

            If that’s true – that Moffat only wanted Ecclestone in to do the regeneration scene – then I forgive Ecclestone and don’t blame him for turning it down.

      • sennasghost

        Yeah, that whole Maleketh thing in Thor:The Dark World was just a bit part and no one saw it.

        • John Hanson

          or, you know.. the first season of Heroes… nobody watched that…

          • A character in a show with too many characters to count OR being The Doctor. No comparison. (And I loved his part in Heroes)

          • Chan Sher Ly

            chris eccleston had a part it heroes!! GASP!! when?? it was my favourite show for 2 seasons and i didnt even realise

          • He was the invisible guy. I think he had a beard. (But I might be mixing that up with the invisible [dead] homeless guy from Ghost).

          • Name

            He was invisible to be fair

          • Stephanie Ignasiak

            Omg my boyfriend and i were just rewatching all the Heros seasons getting ready for the nrpew season this summer wh2n I saw 9. He didnt realize right away why i was freaking out wh2n i saw 9

        • That was him? (Seriously)

          • sennasghost

            Yep. Malaketh. And he was fantastic!

        • Danny Maupin

          Let’s not forget he was also Destro in G.I. Joe. I know it’s not as big as Thor The Dark World was but it still wasn’t a minor role.

      • He has had a great run in the HBO series “The Leftovers”

    • Brianna Starfish

      The episode would have been completely different. The only reason the war doctor exists is because that character was supposed to be 9, but since he chose not to be in the episode, they had to make a whole new character.

      • lloyd

        That is not the reason the war doctor was created. 9 found Rose not long after he regenerated so it would have been highly unlikely that they would have considered 9 to be part of the time war. They may have considered 8 to be in the place of the war doctor but they most likely chose to add the war doctor before asking if either 8 or 9 wanted to play the part because they probably didn’t think 8 would have been capable of making the decisions that needed to be made in the name of peace and sanity.

        • Caffeinedelusions

          Originally, it was believed that Eight (Paul McGann) was the Doctor through most of the Time War for precisely the reasons that you cite… That said, the notion of Eight regenerating into Nine in an opening scene, Nine reaching for the Moment because a new Regeneration means a new perspective on events, and going the whole Special making a running gag out of the fact that Nine never gets to look in a mirror would’ve been a perfectly reasonable explanation.

    • JJ

      Wow, get over it. It’s Christopher Eccelston choice to not be a part of the 50th. It’s just a role for the actors, not their life’s work. It doesn’t mean that every actor who plays a role (any role actually) is committing his life to it. They do their best job and move on. And so you should move on too.

      • Jeremy Parker

        It wouldn’t have been committing his life to it though would it? It would have been committing an extra half a day.

    • Theodore Trout

      If Eccleston had participated, John Hurt’s turn as his stand-in would have been unnecessary. I’m sure the idea was always to replicate ‘The Three Doctors’.

  • Devon Loper

    The WHO verse is very very very complacated!! u have the classics and then this.. 2005 has its own little storyline thing but they have added sooo much of the classic that it makes no sense with how the doctor is… But It is in the end A FANTASTIC show and Uncontrolable amazing!

    • Stephan Dirk Berger

      The English language is also “complacated” 😉

  • Ewan

    But we did see 9 properly in the 13 Doctors scene when he said “And for my next trick”

    • Bradley Jacobs

      If you couldn’t tell, it was an archive scene from his season, not a new clip.

  • Linda

    I don’t understand… Surely he would have regenerated to show the first doctor, not the 9th?

    • Kyle

      The War Doctor comes after the 8th Doctor. He’s is the version of the Doctor that fought in the Time War. There’s a short called “Night of the Doctor” which shows the 8th Doctor turning into the War Doctor.

      • Trevor Troth

        looks like Linda may be one of those who thinks Christopher Ecclestone was the first Doctor 🙁

      • Hosfac

        And that short is actually rather good, too.

  • Steve the British One

    You know, I’m fine with Eccleston not appearing fully in the 50th. I don’t really think having him properly show up for the regeneration would have really added all that much, and if he didn’t want to be a part of it in that way then I’m glad they respected his wishes.

    Besides, I kind of like that it only goes part-way. I think seeing him stumble around post-regeneration would probably only have hurt the scene. It’s actually, I think, a touch more powerful just knowing he’s going to regenerate and seeing those first features of the 9th Doctor appearing.

  • delores_in_wa_state

    Perhaps it was not in the DVD, but it was in the movie theatre showing because I noticed it in the US. I was happy to see his eyes for that second or two. 🙂

  • Tig

    If you accept a role as the Doctor, you are accepting things like this. It is extremely disappointing and frankly offensive to fans for him to be so ashamed of his work on the show that he won’t come back for something like this.

    • scotsinkilts

      he signed on to do one season. and according to reports he did not enjoy his one season that much. Why would he go back?

    • Trinity Bernhardt

      I admit it’s disappointing he doesn’t want to be attached to the role anymore, but it’s his choice. It would be wonderful if every actor attaching themselves to a fandom truly understood and accepted the fact that fandoms last forever, but it doesn’t always work. Maybe he thought he would enjoy it more when he signed on, or maybe he never considered how big it would become. Doctor Who always had its loyal followers, but was never quite what it has today. I’ve grumbled over his choice to be sure, but he introduced me to the Doctor. If he hadn’t have been fantastic I might not have hung on to fall in love with 10 or become best friends with 11. 😉

  • Chef Joe

    Look I really think Eccleston was my favorite Doctor. “Every Planet has a North” And I understand he quit under issues that made him quit that first brilliant season. But to not show up and give us fans the respect to play his role will not be forgiven. It is extremely disappointing and frankly offensive to fans for him to be so ashamed of his work on the show that he won’t come back for something like this.

    • dancedance

      I’m extremely disappointed people get offended over something like an actor choosing not to appear in a role. I’m a fan and I am not offended by any means.

      • Chef Joe

        good for you

    • LonelyWolfe

      So lets say some actor makes a movie and he really hated making that movie or had a problem with it. Hollywood wants to make a sequel and the fans want the sequel. Should that actor make the sequel just to make the fans happy? Your whole post is offensive to me as a fan of Doctor Who and also a fan of Chris Eccleston. And you don’t deserve any respect from any actor what so ever because you only think of yourself. He had his reason and you need to respect his reason for doing so. If he didn’t want to do it that’s his choice and never will be and never should be yours.

    • Rusty Fender

      SO, he’s now COMMITTED to playing the Doctor whether he wants to or not? Is THAT what you’re saying?

      Believe it or not, he DOES have a life of his own and he doesn’t owe the fans ANYTHING. Tom Baker stayed away from playing the Doctor for YEARS before he finally started doing the part again.

      If he wants to do something, he will and TRUE fans will be grateful for whatever we get.

      Yes, I was disappointed that he didn’t decide to do the 50th, but it was HIS decision and I respect him for that.

      GROW UP!

  • id love to see the whole scene, why not just edit from the mcgann eccleston scene?

  • I’m fine with the way it was filmed. If he ever decides to come back, he’s welcome!

  • Sara Jung-Claßen

    Considering how bad the 50th was, I’m kind of glad he didn’t appear…

  • Aaron Springer

    Don’t forget, Tom Baker didn’t show up for the Five Doctors, either. They still used the footage they had.

  • leviathan0999

    I’d have loved to see more of the regeneration, and to have seen more of Eccleston in that special all together… But not if it would make him feel abused, misused, or taken advantage of. He gave us a magnificent year of Doctor Who. I’d have loved more, but I’ve learned enough to know he’s got a complicated relationship with the show and the character, and my gratitude for what he gave us is too great for me to ever want to see him inconvenienced or troubled by the fandom.

    He doesn’t owe us a thing.

  • Mat Greenfield

    I wish Chris had been there. I just have an image of that scene where they’re all flying in to save Gallifrey. Eleven cries “Geronimo”. Ten declares “Allons-y!”. Nine sees the incoming TARDISes and says “Fantastic!”. Then the War Doctor (who still exists in my alternate version as the representative of Classic Who), says “Oh for god’s sake!”

  • James O’Neill

    As much as we love the character of The Doctor, and get fan fever for those who portray him, it is a job!
    For the working actor , it is a great part. But, there is the possibility of being typecast. Never finding a comparable role or being considered for certain jobs because ” Oh, you mean the guy from that British kids show”( which a lot of Hollywood producers WOULD say!)

    And taking that particular role is a lifelong and perhaps NOT entirely welcome position. ( consider standing at the urinal at a public location and being asked, there and then, for an autograph! )

    • Shad Gray

      It’s amazing to me that people can love the Doctor so much and then hate on Eccleston for being very Doctor-like. I mean, the Doctor is not known for “looking back”. He does something amazing and moves on. He seldom checks back on his past companions, rarely revisits the worlds he saves… he just “swanders off”. Well that is Eccleston too. It’s not just Doctor Who, but all of his actiong projects. When filming, he pours his heart and soul into the role and when it wraps, he swanders off to his next project. He doesnt like to look back and to try and revisit the roles he has done before. Why is that a bad thing? Its not out of any disrespect to his fans. It’s not to be a jerk anymore than the Doctor is a jerk not for popping in on former companions all the time. The Doctor can love the people he has met and still move on, even if those former companions wish we would come back from time to time. Eccleston can appreciate and respect his fans without catering to their desire for his return as well.

      And as for “typecasting”, I honestly don’t think that has anything to do with Eccleston not returning to the role. Perhaps there was a time when a Doctor Who actor had to worry about that, but seems to me that none of the former NuWho Doctors or Companions have dealt with such a thing. Billie Piper went on to some amazing roles (Diaries of a Call Girl and the amazing Penny Dreadful), Tennant is amazing in Broadchurch, Freema went on to Law and Order UK, Catherine Tate is still doing amazing theater and comedy, Matt Smith has the upcoming Terminator film and more on the horizon, Karen Gillan’s “Selfie” might have ended fast, and her Occulus horror movie might not have broke records, but it Got her into Guardians of the Galaxy and that will surely lead to other things. Nobody is having these “Typecast” issues anymore… perhaps because viewers are no longer doing such things, or possibly because Doctor Who has been on for 50+ years and and viewers have come to expect new Doctors and new Companions in a way that defies typasting faced by characters in other shows.

  • Gregg

    I call BS on this Moffat. Another 3-4 seconds to see the full regeneration would have been fine. I don’t think anybody would have thought he was actually there.

  • John Frahm

    He should show up for the New Who 10th with Capaldi

  • Jeremy Crowley

    Reading up on why Chris said no (they wanted to replace the War Doctor with 9. Which would have been retarded.) t makes a LOT of sense for why he said no.

    I imagine thatif they had asked him if they could finish his regeneration or if he’d mind coming in for a cameo he’d have said yes.

  • John Lyle

    I don’t like it when execs explain these things. I thought it would be a great ambiguous regeneration. Having chanced the doctors time line would he have still chosen Eccelestons form for that regeneration maybe this change in the doctors history could have triggered a different no9. After all we don’t know if this was the exact moment the he woukd have regenerated. Perhaps with the influence the the moment had on him this could have been the doctors female regeneration. Not explaining the full regeneration could have given scope to a spin off or lead to some different ideas.

    • Hosfac

      Time Lords don’t typically choose their regeneration. It’s random, unless there’s some other factor involved. Look up “Night of the Doctor” on YouTube to see what I’m talking about.

  • JakeOllyB

    I wish we could have seen more of him, but hey, it’s Eccleston’s choice. 🙂 He was a great Doctor and is one of my all time favourites!

  • Douglas Peterson

    I wish they would have just let the 8th doctor fill the gap. There was no need for the war Doctor. Dont get me wrong he was very cool, but I think The 8th Doctor would have been cooler and fit into continuity better.

  • James Thomas Liptrot

    Would of been nice

  • Joshatron

    Still think that as the shot happened, they should have panned over to the side and then as the regeneration sounds end all we hear is Eccleston saying “Fantastic!”. Easy enough to do with recordings from when he was on the show, I’m sure. That way no one thinks he showed up for shooting and we still get a nice start to Ecclestons run.

  • Chris Bale

    Not taking part in the 50th wasn’t really that difficult a decision when Eccleston had clearly stated “No, never bathe in the same river twice.” – about a Doctor Who return.