Christopher Eccleston played The Doctor for only 13 episodes of Doctor Who in 2005. Despite fan support, he left for reasons that weren’t clearly explained; he’s only said vague things about how he “didn’t agree with the way things were being run” or that he didn’t like “the culture that grew up around the series.” Now he’s given a more specific reason for his leaving the show in an interview with Radio Times magazine (via the Guardian).
As with most things in England, it all comes down to class:
“I wanted to move him away from RP (received pronunciation) for the first time because we shouldn’t make a correlation between intellect and accent, although that still needs addressing.
[…] I hope I’ll be remembered as one of the Doctors. I have no ill feeling towards the character or the series.” (Via)
Eccleston grew up working class in Manchester, and he (understandably) didn’t think using his natural accent would be a problem. He reportedly butted heads with then-showrunner Russell T. Davies about his Northern accent and eventually left the show.
He also spoke in the interview about the dearth of actors in England from working-class backgrounds, due in part to the high cost of education. He gave examples of two actors who went to posh schools: Eddie Redmayne (educated at Eton) and Benedict Cumberbatch (educated at Harrow).
“I had a sense acting wasn’t for me because I’m not educated. […] British society has always been based on inequality, particularly culturally. I’ve lived with it, but it’s much more pronounced now, and it would be difficult for someone like me to come through. You can’t blame Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch and others taking their opportunities but it will lead to a milky, anodyne culture. To an extent, that’s already happened.” (Via)
Hey, isn’t that Benedict Cumberbatch’s full name? Benedict Milky-Anodyne Cumberbatch? Of the Kensington Milky-Anodyne Cumberbatches?
Eccleston now stars in the thriller Safe House on ITV. As for Doctor Who, it has a different showrunner, and perhaps the BBC came around to Eccleston’s argument; they later hired two Scotsmen (David Tennant and Peter Capaldi) as The Doctor.