Day Of The Doctor

While writing about ‘Doctor Who’ is a pretty regular part of my job – one of the best parts of the job, in fact – I have to admit I never expected to be spending as much time as I have in 2018 writing about Christopher Eccleston’s time on the program. But in defiance of all expectations, the erstwhile Ninth Doctor has been in the news a lot over the past few weeks. First, we learned that was apparently blacklisted by the BBC and/or Russell T. Davies following his departure from the show. That was unexpected, but the real surprise came a week later when Eccleston at long last revealed the reason for his abrupt and often lamented exit from the role. And now we’re getting a taste of what the fiftieth anniversary special might have been like had he chosen to participate.

For his contribution to ‘A Second Target For Tommy’ – an anthology by friends and colleagues of author Tommy Danvaband to help fundraise as he battles cancer – former ‘Doctor Who’ showrunner Steven Moffat submitted a portion of one of his early drafts of the teleplay for ‘The Day of the Doctor’ – one that included the Ninth Doctor. As Moffat explains in his introduction:

“While novelizing ‘Day of the Doctor’, I went back through all the many drafts of the script, and I found this version of the barn scene. The Moment is clearly not Rose Tyler in this draft, and the barn itself has a different, erm, origin. If barns can be said to have origins. But the other big difference is the one that people might get a kick out of. Hope you enjoy, but please do keep in mind that this is the roughest of early drafts…”

When Moffat talks about this being from an early version of the script, bear in mind the difficulties he had in putting the episode together. As he has detailed in the past, when he first sat down to write the special, he didn’t even have then-current Doctor Matt Smith (or any actors other than Jenna Coleman) signed on. As work progressed, early versions were written that featured each of the three modern Doctors that had appeared to that point – Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith. Of course, Eccleston ultimately decided to sit out the special, at which point John Hurt’s incarnation, the War Doctor, was developed.

While we sadly don’t have the full script, the BBC has released the following three excerpts of this early version of the barn scene through the Radio Times. The first plays very similarly to the final version, albeit with more “Ecclestonian” dialog.

THE NINTH DOCTOR

Don’t sit on that.

RAGGEDY GIRL

Why not?

[He strides over to her, grabs her arm.]

THE NINTH DOCTOR

Because it’s not a chair, love – it’s the most dangerous weapon in the universe.

The next echoes the various moments in ‘Rose’ that imply that the Doctor has only recently regenerated from his eighth self, though it would seem to contradict the suggestion in that episode that he had done so recently enough that he had not yet had a chance to look in a mirror.

THE NINTH DOCTOR

Listen. A very bad thing is gonna happen here and I’m not sure how it’s gonna work. But I don’t think you want to be here when it does, okay?

RAGGEDY GIRL

…you’ve got a funny face.

THE NINTH DOCTOR

You should see the other fellas.

RAGGEDY GIRL

I like it though.

THE NINTH DOCTOR

Thanks, it’s new. Not sure about the ears yet, they just sort of kept going. Now you need to get away from here. You need to pick a direction and just run –

And finally…

RAGGEDY GIRL

You sound clever.

THE NINTH DOCTOR

Not clever enough to figure out how this thing works, so could you give us some hush?

For comparison, you can watch the finished version of the scene here:

 

Of course, as interesting as all of this is, and as wonderful as it would have been to see Christopher Eccleston play the Doctor once again, his involvement would have meant a world in which John Hurt was never handed a key to the TARDIS. And as disappointing as Eccleston’s absence was, Hurt’s performance as the War Doctor was one of the special’s many highlights, to say nothing of the subsequent occasions on which he would reprise the role for Big Finish.

Would Eccleston’s involvement have been worth losing that? Or was losing Eccleston a fair price to pay to see John Hurt as the Doctor? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more ‘Doctor Who’ news, including the seemingly inevitable next word from Christopher Eccleston.