The REAL Ninth Doctor Who?

Rose Doctor

March 26th, 2015 marked the ten year anniversary of the original broadcast of the television episode “Rose” which relaunched the show Doctor Who, and a whole new generation heeded the call when our hero said “Run!” The 2005 “reboot” of the oldest science fiction show on television took the series in a whole new and refreshing direction; an injection of working class social realism that came as a shock to many older fans. This was exactly what was needed; unlike the 1996 effort to find a new audience for Doctor Who, Christopher Eccleston’s plain dressed Doctor managed to capture both hearts of American and international TV viewers.

Did you know, however, that “technically” Eccelston is the tenth Doctor? Nope, we’re not talking about John Hurt’s “War Doctor,” we’re talking about Richard E. Grant.

Richard E Grant Doctor 680

In 2003, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Doctor Who, the BBC produced Scream of the Shalka. The six part story was released weekly via bbc.co.uk between November 13th and December 18th, 2003 and featured Richard E. Grant as the voice of the new Doctor. Grant had already played the Doctor in the 1999 Comic Relief special Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death as the “Conceited Doctor,” but in 2003 he was officially the Doctor, and following December 2003 there was much speculation about him continuing the role in a live action movie or revival of the TV show.

DoctorWhoMagazine-Nov2003bUnlike Eccleston’s casual look, the 2003 Doctor continued the Victorian/Edwardian look that has been a common thread throughout the Doctor’s wardrobe choices, but this regeneration of the Doctor has a much darker and vampire like quality to him; he is also far more arrogant and far from happy.

The story opens with the TARDIS materializing in the village of Lannet in Lancashire. The Doctor, who has apparently been transported here against his will and openly complains about it, is locked out of the TARDIS and forced to examine his surroundings.

After determining he is in England in 2003, he is surprised to discover the village is silent and the inhabitants all living in fear except for a barmaid named Alison Cheney. The patrons and bar owner refuse to tell the Doctor what’s going on, so he leaves the bar and stumbles upon a lava statue and a homeless woman who is frightened. As the woman is beginning to fill in the Doctor on what’s been happening, a tremor strikes the area and the woman is killed by a mysterious force. Back at the TARDIS, the ground opens up and the Doctor’s police box is swallowed up into the lava below. Thus the adventure begins in which the Doctor must defeat the Shalka living in caverns beneath the village.

Grant Doctor and MasterScream of the Shalka finds itself in a strange place of limbo in which it is sort of canon and not at the same time. Despite being produced by the BBC, and Richard E. Grant being officially announced as the Doctor, the events and storyline set up of Shalka have been erased with the 2005 reboot. One of the most interesting concepts that appears in Shalka is that the Doctor’s companion is none other than the Master, well actually the soul of the Master contained in an android version of himself, and essentially prisoner to the Doctor. The Master is voiced by Derek Jacobi who later in 2007 episode “Utopia” would get to the play the Master briefly when it is revealed that Professor Yana was actually the Master in hiding.

Alison_cheneyThe Doctor’s other companion would have been Alison Cheney, voiced by Sophie Okonedo who later went on to play Queen Elizabeth X, aka Liz 10, in 2010’s “The Beast Below” and “The Pandorica Opens.” In 2004 Okonedo was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Hotel Rwanda.

The interior of this Doctor’s TARDIS is worth noting as it continues the Steampunk feel of McGann’s 1996 TARDIS, but achieves an amazing effect of making the console room seem endlessly cavernous stretching into darkness and shadows with a spiral staircase the circles the room upward into further darkness; aside from the doorway to the TARDIS exit, there are no visible walls or ceiling in this time machine.

Grant TARDIS

The TARDIS also seems to be not entirely under the Doctor’s control as unseen forces guide him to where he “needs” to be rather than where he “wants” to be, invoking a certain Quantum Leap approach to how our hero would find his missions.

Walter_SimeonIt is unclear whether Grant’s Doctor would have been as successful as Eccleston’s in breathing new life into the franchise, but Russell T Davies has stated that Grant had never been considered for the role in the television series, telling Doctor Who Magazine: “I thought he was terrible. I thought he took the money and ran, to be honest. It was a lazy performance. He was never on our list to play the Doctor.” Grant did, however, return to the show as Dr. Walter Simeon in 2012’s “The Snowmen” and the Great Intelligence in Simeon’s body in 2013’s “The Name of the Doctor.

The ninth Doctor that was Richard E. Grant holds a special place in the Whovian Universe as being dark, mysterious, and most definitely obscure. Occasionally you might get a rare glimpse of a diehard cosplayer portraying this unknown Doctor, and there are various pieces of fan art to be found that explore and expand this part of the Who mythos that never was . . .

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