What Does Christopher Eccleston Think of Jodie Whittaker’s Casting?

After the announcement of a new Doctor, we always get a friendly array of faces from Doctor Who‘s past commenting on the casting. The Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, however, rarely gives his opinion on such things – unless he’s specifically asked.

That’s exactly what happened, on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends. Presenter, Sara Cox asked the obvious question about Jodie Whittaker being the Thirteenth Doctor, to which the actor responded:

“She’s working class; she’s northern: what can go wrong?”

It’s worth pointing out that he starred with Whittaker in the National Theatre 2012 play, Antigone.

Eccleston’s remained very non-committal here, perhaps because he apparently doesn’t watch the show anymore. On the surface, his comment acknowledge the links shared between the Thirteenth and the Ninth Doctors. But beyond that, it might be able the social struggles he’s previously talked about.

In 2015, Eccleston said:

“When I told my parents I wanted to be an actor, there were no Billy Elliot clichés of ‘No son of mine is going to do some poncy job’. That’s working-class culture as framed by middle-class people, as far as I can see… If you want to play a classical role in London, you need to be white, you need to be male, and you need to be middle class. There is still this connection somehow between high intelligence and the possession of an Oxbridge education and perfect vowels… Let’s take a long, hard look at the social and educational backgrounds of the people who’ve played Hamlet at the RSC, the National and in the West End in the last 20 years; if they’ve all come off council estates then I’ll keep my mouth shut.”

Christopher, of course, played the Ninth Doctor in 2005, ushering our beloved show back to BBC1 under the showrunning of Russell T. Davies. But he left Doctor Who following just one series – something he apparently regrets – after undisclosed controversies behind-the-scenes.

Fair play to him for sticking by his guns, and giving a positive message about the show he’ll always be part of, even if he no longer watches.

After all: lots of planets have a North.

  • bar none but PC

    Speaking as a working-class Northener, that doesn’t sound ‘non-commital’ to me Phil! I’ll be sad if like Tennant, Whitaker loses her natural accent for something more anodyne, southern or RP.

  • DonnaM

    Oh, joy. As if the Battle of the Sexes wasn’t enough we’re onto Class War now. It’s a stirring victory for the proletariat, Comrades 🙂
    Being serious – good on him for finding a different angle and sidestepping the, ahem, noticeable element of the casting.
    I expect she’ll keep her own accent, as Eccleston and Capaldi have, but as long as she speaks comprehensibly (RP is at least that). Working class and Northern myself, but I don’t see it as anything to be either proud or ashamed of – I had nowt to flippin’ do with it 🙂

  • Ranger

    Sigh. Not only am I feeling defensive about being a woman, I now have to feel defensive about being southern and middle-class.

    • DonnaM

      Don’t feel defensive about any of it, Ranger – none of them are matters of choice 🙂

      • Ranger

        Sorry, feeling in a mischievous mood today, this was said very much tongue-in-cheek. I don’t feel defensive about being a woman, or southern or middle-class (whatever that means – aren’t all those who have to work to survive working class?). It’s just Eccleston’s professional northern-ness amuses me.

        • DonnaM

          My granddad would have called us “aspirational working class” and he was the fount of authority in our family: I suspect the sociologists would prefer lower middle for property owning shopkeeping types 🙂

          It does amuse me when people take pride in something, whether background or birthplace, that they can take absolutely no credit for.

          And if Mr Eccleston wants a list of “what could go wrong” with the Thirteenth Doctor… I dare say some of us who comment hereabouts could come up with a list…

          • The Lazy Womble

            “undisclosed controversies behind-the-scenes”- that’s what can possibly go wrong. But I am not assuming that this will happen.

          • DonnaM

            “Personality clashes” is another one – again, not assuming it’s going to happen, but if we’re listing possibles…
            Mediocre writing. Wafer-thin supporting characters. The endless danger of the show being used as a political football instead of a piece of television make-believe. Easy-optionitis instead of taking up a challenge in scripting. Fandom at war with itself and the middle ground disappearing from under our feet. That one’s pretty much a certainty already I suspect!
            Yes, I admit it – I’m a world-class pessimist!

          • The Lazy Womble

            I am trying to remain optimistic but I strongly suspect that you are right. If you are, and as the middle ground is where I am trying to stand, it might be approaching time to step aside. The programme will continue and it will be good or it won’t. I will continue to watch it. Or I won’t. But I can do without all the politics.

            I am not doing a Dr Moo and announcing my departure. But I shall probably comment in a different manner for now.

            I too am having an Eeyore day.

          • DonnaM

            I’m planning to watch – and comment on – the first few episodes. I’m still desperately hoping that my being gloomily prepared for the worst means I’ll be joyously surprised, but if I do find it all a bit dull, I’ll have to say so. I trust that around here, fellow commenters will accept “it’s a bit bland/Chibs still can’t write my kind of Doctor Who” at face value and not as a condemnation of a particular piece of casting!
            If, after the first few episodes, I’m not feeling the love for the new era, I’ll probably drift off as I did in a previous time. If you can’t say nice, say nowt. I’ll continue to read others’ opinions and appreciate their right to hold ’em, but my commenting will be restricted to matters of interest to me. If that’s not the Thirteenth Doctor’s first series – well it’s sad for me, but no great loss for anyone else.

          • The Lazy Womble

            Agreed. My comments about the politics mainly apply to comments made outside TDWC.

          • The Lazy Womble

            Also I meant that my comments will be more facetious. As you can tell, I have got off to a flying start!

          • DonnaM

            I’m all in favour of facetious comments1 However with tensions running as high as I expect on the two extremes, I might be labelling mine with a *sarcasm incoming* alert – just in the hope of avoiding the mud being slung.
            As you say, that’s kept to a minimum around here; it’s the reason TDWC is the only site I risk expressing an opinion on!

          • Philip

            Thanks DonnaM. It’s nice to hear you’re happy enough here to voice opinions. Although equally, how sad is it that you can’t elsewhere?

    • bar none but PC

      To misquote Eleanor R: ‘No-one can make you feel defensive without your consent.’ I would be proud to be you, Ranger, and hope your girls don’t inherit any of our tribal hang-ups!

  • The Lazy Womble

    I’m neither northern nor working-class, but I mumble a lot. Is that any good?