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BBC's anger at the vanishing Doctor Who

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BBC bosses are furious over Christopher Eccleston's decision to quit as Doctor Who after spending millions on merchandising which carries his image.

They had hoped to cash in on the show's popularity by exploiting the lucrative Christmas market with toys and other merchandise with the actor's distinctive features.

BBC Worldwide licensed Manchester firm Character Options to design more than 20 items. And a 12in action figurine of him is ready to be in the shops by October.

But by Christmas, Eccleston will have already been long departed as the Doctor his last appearance on television being in June and will have already been replaced by a new Doctor for the second series, rendering the merchandising obsolete.

There is also the embarrassing possibility that the actor's replacement will already be starring in the planned Christmas special.

Eccleston has said he does not want to become typecast, while friends said he thought the role of the Doctor was 'too effeminate'.

A BBC source said: 'Chris's decision to quit on artistic grounds is causing major waves.

'Not only was he seen as the saviour of Saturday night ratings, but also his face is crucial to the Christmas merchandising drive. What child is going to want to buy a Doctor Who action figure of the old Doctor when a new one is already on the television?' A spokesman for Character Options said: 'We are going ahead with all of our Christopher Eccleston-themed merchandising, about 20 items in all. We are hoping his departure will not damage sales.' The actor the BBC is lining up to replace Eccleston is David Tennant.

Tennant, 33, is the star of the raunchy BBC drama Casanova, which has attracted record ratings on BBC3 and begins on BBC1 on Monday.

It is written by Russell T Davies, the executive producer and chief writer of the new series of Doctor Who who also wrote the controversial Channel 4 series Queer As Folk about the Manchester gay community.

Last night friends said one reason Eccleston decided to quit Doctor Who was because he thought the part was 'too effeminate'.

They said he had grown uncomfortable playing such a 'fey' Doctor and was concerned that if he continued, he would lose out on gritty serious roles later in his career.

One source close to the actor said: 'Chris thought playing such a flamboyant Doctor was a laugh for a while and a real challenge.

'But he soon realised that being so outrageously camp in such a mainstream popular show was going to kill his career as a serious actor. Russell wrote a very fluffy, effeminate script, which is great for the show, but where does an actor go after that? Chris didn't want to be typecast as the camp Doctor Who.' Eccleston, 41, shocked BBC bosses this week by announcing he would not sign up for the second series of the show, which pulled in 10million viewers for its debut episode last Saturday.

His decision was a major blow for corporation bosses who had pinned their hopes on Eccleston and Doctor's assistant Billie Piper, who has signed for the second series, trouncing ITV in the ratings war every Saturday.

But Eccleston was said to be 'adamant' about turning his back on the Doctor even after he was offered a lot more money to change his mind.

Eccleston's northern upbringing also played a part in his decision. The actor, famed for gritty dramas such as Our Friends In The North and Cracker and films such as Shallow Grave is said to be unhappy at spending long periods of time away from his family in Salford, Manchester.

During the first series of Doctor Who, he split his time between Cardiff, where most of it was shot, and London, where more filming was done returning home only when a break from filming allowed.

He is now expected to return permanently to his four-bedroomed house in Manchester.


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  • APA 6th ed.: Simpson, Richard (2005-04-01). BBC's anger at the vanishing Doctor Who. Daily Mail p. 12.
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