When the long-running sci-fi TV series Doctor Who was revived in 2005, it introduced a modern version of the titular Doctor, a time-traveling alien from the planet Gallifrey with a penchant for the UK and its people. Christopher Eccleston, already a respected dramatic actor at the time, took on the main role, giving a more hardened yet fun flair to the character.
He turned the dapper Doctor, who always wore suits and strange outfits, into a rugged, romantic hero with a leather jacket, combat boots, and the entire universe in the palm of his hand. Despite leaving the show after a single, incredibly successful season, Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor remains one of the most beloved incarnations of the madman with a box.
9 “We’re Falling Through Space, You And Me. Clinging To The Skin Of This Tiny Little World, And If We Let Go… That’s Who I Am.”
The Doctor returned to British television in “Rose,” the first episode of the first season of New Who. While running from a group of living mannequins, Rose Tyler meets a strange man named the Doctor who holds her hand and tells her to run. Later on, he explains his true identity as a time traveler and invites her to have adventures with him.
It’s revealed episodes and seasons later that the Doctor had been companion-less for a long time when he meets Rose. Jaded, and finally done with the Last Great Time War, the War Doctor regenerated into his true Ninth incarnation, who still feels guilt over his unforgivable actions. Allowing himself to bond with Rose is what kickstarts the Doctor’s journey towards healing.
8 “You’re Happy To Believe In Something That’s Invisible. But If It’s Staring You Right In The Face… Nope! Can’t See It! There’s A Scientific Explanation For That: You’re Thick!”
As an impending war with the Slitheen threatens to end Humanity in “World War Three”, the Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, and her boyfriend, Mickey Smith, must find a way to stop the situation from escalating out of control. Things take a turn for the worse when the Prime Minister is found out to be an alien in disguise.
The Ninth Doctor is certainly not known for his tact. He’s much more practical and to-the-point than his other regenerations, which makes him lose his patience with the self-important humans he meets along the way. Eccleston’s Doctor has no trouble calling out stubborn people when there are innocent lives at stake.
7 “Well, Don’t Worship Me, I’d Make A Very Bad God. You Wouldn’t Get A Day Off, For Starters.”
In “Boom Town,” the Ninth Doctor, Rose, and Jack Harkness must stop a Slitheen survivor from destroying Earth as she tries to escape the planet. When the Slitheen, disguised as M5 agent Margaret Blaine, points out that she considers the TARDIS to be ‘technology of the gods,’ the Doctor tells her he would make a bad one.
Given his longevity, heroics, and knowledge of time and space, the Doctor has often been compared to a god, an analogy his Ninth regeneration completely rejects and his Tenth unconsciously embraces. Despite his efforts to be seen as a simple time traveler, the Doctor can’t escape the legends made in his name, something that would come back to haunt him later on.
6 “Your Wish Is My Command, But Be Careful What You Wish For.”
When Rose asks the Doctor if they can travel back in time so she can meet her father, the Doctor first seems hesitant about it, worried about how she’ll feel once she meets him. He agrees anyway, wisely telling her that her wish is his command, though she should be careful what she’s wishing for.
Their trip to the day Pete died in “Father’s Day,” eventually leads to important plot points in the following four seasons. The episode also explained the existence of fixed points in time, and how messing with them can completely derail the timestream and possibly ruin the fabric of time and space.
5 “Do You Know What They Call Me In The Ancient Legends Of The Dalek Homeworld? The Oncoming Storm.”
In “The Parting of the Ways,” when faced with his archenemies, the unfeeling Daleks, the Ninth Doctor makes sure to remind them of the meaning behind “the Oncoming Storm.” He taunts them, telling the Daleks that despite their claims of having purged all emotion, they’re still fearful of him and what he stands for.
‘The Oncoming Storm’ is a title that will continue to follow the Doctor across regenerations. It alludes to his role during the Last Great Time War and all his other encounters with the Daleks, the Timelords’ worst nightmare. The Ninth Doctor, in particular, always seems ready to face whatever is thrown at him and won’t hesitate to use stronger methods if there’s no other option.
4 “Time Travel Is Like Visiting Paris: You Can’t Just Read The Guidebook. You Need To Throw Yourself In. Eat The Food, Use The Wrong Verbs, Get Charged Double, And End Up Kissing Total Strangers.”
New companion Adam joins the Doctor and Rose in a space station adventure in “The Long Game.” When talking to Adam, the Doctor compares time traveling to visiting Paris, explaining that it’s the trial and error situation that makes someone experience it fully.
Above everything else, the Doctor values adventurous people who are always ready to give it their all; to be there through thick and thin. His companions are always spirited—or turn spirited along the way—and never hesitate to give the Doctor’s ideas a try. Funnily enough, the part about ‘kissing total strangers’ ends up happening to him in the future more often than he would think.
3 “Just This Once—Everybody Lives!”
Still stuck in wartime London, the Ninth Doctor, Rose, and Jack Harkness must work together to stop the Empty Child plague from spreading in “The Doctor Dances.” After reprogramming the nanogenes behind the plague to heal the afflicted, the Doctor happily shows his excitement to Rose, now that everyone is safe.
The Ninth Doctor is a man who just returned from a horrid war. His entire planet and race are no more, there’s blood on his hands, and he now has a rather pragmatic and pessimistic view of his dangerous adventures. For the first time in a long time, at the end of “The Doctor Dances,” he has hope. For the first time in a long time, everybody lives!
2 “You Lot, You Spend All Your Time Thinking About Dying. Like You’re Gonna Get Killed By Eggs Or Beef, Or Global Warming Or Asteroids. But You Never Take Time To Imagine The Impossible—That Maybe You Survive.”
In “The End of the World,” Rose and the Ninth Doctor get first row seats to the Earth’s destruction. Upon arriving in the year five billion, the Doctor muses about humans and their affinity for worrying about their impending deaths without thinking about the other option: possibly surviving.
Living for hundreds of years and having multiple lives gives the Doctor a different perspective on Humanity. He believes in humans more than anyone, knows what they’re capable of, and admires them for their qualities. The fact that Earth was able to be evacuated long before its death, and that humans are now thriving somewhere else says it all.
1 “Before I Go, I Just Want To Tell You: You Were Fantastic. Absolutely Fantastic. And Do You Know What? So Was I!”
The Ninth Doctor says goodbye in “The Parting of the Ways.” After absorbing the vortex energy that was killing Rose, a fatally wounded Doctor finally starts his regeneration process. Before succumbing to his body, he tells Rose that the two of them were absolutely fantastic, a loving reference to his catchphrase.
News of Eccleston leaving the Doctor’s TARDIS were shocking at the time, as Doctor Who had just returned after a long hiatus and seemed to be at the peak of its popularity. Despite citing a bad working environment as the reason he chose to leave, the actor has said multiple times that he’s happy with the role and what it meant for a new generation of Whovians. More than a decade later, the Ninth Doctor would return, not for the 50th anniversary special, but for a series of full-cast audio dramas starring him in new adventures.
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