- Christopher Eccleston
In 2003, the BBC announced that Russell T. Davies would be responsible for bringing Doctor Who back to British screens. After a 16-year absence, on 26 March 2005, in a department store in London, Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor uttered his first word: ‘Run!’
Struggling to come to terms with his actions during the Time War, Eccleston’s Doctor was partly defined by his remorse over the loss of Gallifrey. Specifically cast for the ‘intensity and presence and emotion’ (Russell 47) he could bring to the role, Eccleston’s Doctor was a darker Doctor than any before him. His pain gave him a ‘brooding, dangerous edge that may explode at any moment’ (Chapman 190). As a ‘traumatised war veteran’ (190), Eccleston’s Doctor was raw in a way unfamiliar to long-time fans of the series. His first word would act as an extended metaphor for the series in which the tortured Doctor attempted to run away from his past crimes and towards redemption.
If any term can summarise Eccleston’s Doctor and the new series it is ‘regeneration’. Not only has the series and Doctor regenerated but so has the audience. Since its conception, Doctor Who has navigated generations through social change and technological epochs. The series has always sought to investigate, challenge and engage with the social and cultural concerns [End Page 244] that shape generations. Eccleston’s Doctor picked up the baton to guide the audience through the new millennium, an era which arguably reworked many past and present anxieties (such as genocide) and explored the ambiguities of technology through a focus on posthumanity. For a society just starting to seriously journey into cloning, artificial intelligence, space tourism and the rise of grand communication networks through the Internet, the new Doctor Who spoke not only of the future but contained echoes of the present. Thus, it is no surprise that Eccleston’s Doctor stayed close to Earth, with many episodes dealing with our world (Newman 114).
Ideas of the cyborg and mass assimilation had already been articulated through foes such as the Cybermen since ‘The Tenth Planet’. However, by 2005 the idea of being ‘post’ human seemed more plausible – as Cary Wolfe argues, the term ‘posthuman’ (although coined earlier) was popularised in the 1990s (xii). Many allies and adversaries encountered by Eccleston represented this pivotal metamorphosis from human to technological Other. Lady Cassandra (Zoë Wanamaker) from ‘The End of the World’ (2 Apr 2005) was supposedly a ‘pure human’ but rendered unidentifiable after considerable ‘upgrades’. Even Rose’s transcendent experience as Bad Wolf in ‘The Parting of the Ways’ (18 Jun 2005) transformed the companion from human to superhuman. Many plots implicitly dealt with posthuman facets such as life after death in ‘The Unquiet Dead’ (9 Apr 2005), hybridisation in ‘Dalek’ (30 Apr 2005), the cyborg in ‘The Long Game’ (7 May 2005) and nanotechnology in ‘The Empty Child’/‘The Doctor Dances’ (11–18 Jun 2005).
The Doctor himself, familiar in his humanoid form and Other as an ‘immortal’ super-intelligent Time Lord, represented another dimension of the human–superhuman binary – perhaps more relevant for modern audiences in an age of advanced prosthetics, enhancements and ideas of the Singularity. Yet if the posthuman condition engenders ‘anxiety about, and our enthusiasm for, technological change’ (Pepperell 1), the Doctor Who of 2005 certainly echoed dual fears and enthusiasms. This duality is vital, as Executive Producer Julie Garner explains: Doctor Who is neither ‘cynical’ nor ‘casual’ (Russell 40). However, if as Garner claims, the show is ‘all about what it is to be human’, there will inevitably be some dystopian concerns, especially regarding alterations to what it means to be human (40). N. Katherine Hayles remarks that the posthuman can provoke ideas of human finality as it speaks of ‘the end of a certain conception of the human’ (286). Eccleston’s series not only represented regeneration but also spoke of certain concepts of finality. The Time Lords were no more and humanity was also fundamentality changing. As Hayles notes, there is sublimity to the posthuman as it incites ‘terror and [End Page 245] pleasure’ (283). Many would argue that Doctor Who, a series that deals...