New Doctor Who quits series, BBC searches for replacement actor

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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Success may be too much of a good thing for the future of storied BBC series Doctor Who. After the unexpected popularity of last Saturday's return of the series to BBC airwaves, the star of the show is calling it quits from fears of typecasting.

According to a report from the BBC, actor Christopher Eccleston, who injected a edgier and sexier image onto the title character plans to leave the series once his 13-episode commitment is over later this year. Eccleston told reporters that his last appearance as The Doctor will be for a December Christmas special.

The show, which debuted March 26 after a 16-year hiatus, was the highest-rated television show in the UK that night. With an estimated viewership of about 10.5 million at its peak, more than 44 percent of all television households in the country tuned in to see the new Doctor. "The audience's response for the new Doctor Who has been incredible and I am really proud to be part of it and I hope viewers continue to enjoy the series," Eccleston said in a BBC release.

But that popularity was a double-edged sword for Eccleston. With roughly half the population seeing him as Doctor Who, he feared that once typecast as a science fiction Time Lord, audiences may not accept him in other roles. At one year, Eccleston will be the shortest-lived Doctor after Paul McGann who starred in the 1996 telemovie.

But the television network airing the show wants more of the crowd pleaser. The BBC has committed to producing a second 13-episode run of the reinvigorated series and says it is in talks with actor David Tennant to take on the role. Tennant is a star of the BBC period drama, Casanova.

In the announcement of the renewal of Doctor Who, the BBC did say it re-signed series co-star Billie Piper, who agreed to reprise the role of the Doctor's sidekick for series two.