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Christopher Eccleston Talks About Doctor Who Fans & The A Word

It’s been a week since the hit BBC1 drama, The A Word concluded, but this is a series worth revisiting – as is this lovely interview with the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston.
Aside from official Q&As for the BBC, the only other time Eccleston was interviewed about The A Word was by a young filmmaker, Gerard Groves, who is himself on the autism spectrum. He’s also a big Doctor Who fan. His Doctor? The Ninth, of course! Groves says:

“After spending a year obsessing about [Doctor Who Series 1], especially as a 7/8 year old, I think it kind of gets burnt into your brain, and into you as a person, and it holds that very special place for you, almost like how a parent or a granddad or someone close to you would. It’s funny how TV can do that… I don’t know what it is about Doctor Who exactly but I was volunteering at the Doctor Who Festival a few months ago and what I noticed there was that there was a huge, huge autistic spectrum fanbase. And since Christopher Eccleston is not only a big name in [The A-Word] but also a big name in the Doctor Who world, so I thought he’d be a really good person to talk to; it kind of ties it all together.”

So what did he make of Eccleston? He explains:

“He was absolutely lovely. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking to. You often hear the phrase ‘don’t meet your heroes’ but it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I was scared, going up to interview him as you see in the film… but he was so lovely and so warm… He’s just a very genuinely nice man. I think he’s caring and I think his work means a lot to him; that when he hears how his work’s impacted someone it means a lot to him. He’s always thinking about his work but I think what that boils down to is thinking about people, and how people work. And I suppose when you’ve got someone whose job is people, and taking on those roles, you’re going to get someone who’s really nice and a people person.”

Written by Peter Bowker (Marvellous), The A Word dealt with how a family coped with finding out their son, Joe (Max Vento) was on the autistic spectrum. It was touching, clever, heartfelt, and – perhaps surprisingly – funny. There was a real warmth and caring to the series, and it immediately became something to look forward to each week.

Eccleston played Maurice, Joe’s granddad who struggles to come to terms with a very politically-correct world, while also treading around the minefield of his love-life; he’s joined by Morven Christie (Under the Lake/ Before the Flood), Lee Ingleby (Luther), Greg McHugh (Fresh Meat), Vinette Robinson (Sherlock), and newcomer, Molly Wright. Peter Bowker writes:

“[As] a dramatist, part of my job is to interpret and portray emotional states. I think the best drama is usually plot simple and emotionally complex. I think Happy Valley is a great example of this, as is Line of Duty, as is War and Peace. And it is in the emotional response to autism that most of the debate around the show has occurred, particularly in the contrasting responses of Joe’s mum and dad, Alison and Paul, played with extraordinary passion and nuance by Morven Christie and Lee Ingleby… Before I had written a word, I said that I wanted this show to start to provoke a conversation about autism. And so my wish came true, but what is interesting too is that it has provoked a conversation about character.”

The A Word‘s many fans are calling for a second series, but there’s been no word from the BBC yet. For now, we just need to keep our fingers crossed – similarly for a DVD release of the show!
You can download all 6 episodes of The A Word from the BBC Store for £9.99.

Philip Bates

Editor and co-founder of the Doctor Who Companion. When he’s not watching television, reading books ‘n’ Marvel comics, listening to The Killers, and obsessing over script ideas, Philip Bates pretends to be a freelance writer. He enjoys collecting everything. Writer of The Black Archive: The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang, The Silver Archive: The Stone Tape, and 100 Objects of Doctor Who.

Christopher Eccleston Talks About Doctor Who Fans & The A Word

by Philip Bates time to read: 3 min
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