Doctor Who Whirlwind

Hell of a week to be a Doctor Who fan.

First, the new series premiered in the UK on Saturday, to huge ratings.

Then, yesterday, with only one episode of the new series aired, the BBC announced the go-ahead for a second series, as well as an hour-long special episode to air at Christmas. (I’m not calling it a “Christmas Special”, since here in the US, that would bring to mind visions of an animated puppet Doctor singing about snow and toys.) This is it. Doctor Who is officially back, as more than just a one-shot.

Then, today, the shocker hits: Christopher Eccleston is quitting the role. Talk about your ups and downs! My friggin’ head is spinning.

There are precious few details. Some UK papers report a fear of typecasting, some report it’s a salary issue. Part of me thinks that it might be a ruse — it had earlier been announced that Eccleston had signed a two-year contract, after all…and the final episode of this season supposed ends in a cliffhanger where we don’t know the Doctor’s fate. What better way to preserve tension than by putting a big question mark over the lead actor’s participation?

But, in the end, the reality of it probably is that Eccleston is leaving at the end of the season, and that next season we’ll see a new Doctor. I’m hoping that they’ll sign Eccleston to do the Christmas episode, so that they can film a proper regeneration sequence (and, in fact, that may be why the special episode was commissioned, given the fact that the show never had a special in-between-seasons episode for any of its original 26-year run).

Rumors are floating around about the identity of the 10th Doctor. Current front runners are David Tennant (currently staring in BBC3’s Casanova(written by the executive producer/writer of the new Who, Russel T. Davies) and appearing as Barty Crouch, Jr. in the forthcoming Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), or Bill Nighy (“Billie Mack” from Love, Actually and Slartibartfast in the forthcoming Hitchhiker’s Guide movie). Personally, I’d love to see Nighy do it.

So, in the space of a week: elation and disappointment.

But still, in the end, the core fact remains: Doctor Who is back, there are 12 more episodes of Eccleston to enjoy, and another season on the way…..and that’s a good thing.

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