When Christopher Eccleston, who grew up in working class Salford, took on the role of The Doctor, in 2005, he became the first generation to choose his natural Northern English, working class accent, than RP (received pronunciation), the standard English accent that dominates British entertainment. In an interview with Radio Times, Eccleston said:
"I wanted to move [The Doctor] 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..."Eccleston continued by warning that the industry is becoming increasingly difficult for those from poorer communities:
"I still feel insecure, like a lot of my working-class contemporaries. 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."Eccleston's observations, though, have not been limited to class, and accent:
"I confess I don’t watch much film or television drama but I’m aware of the predominance of white, male roles. It’s not just about the working class. There’s not enough writing for women or people of colour... It frustrates me when they insist on doing all-male Shakespearean productions – a wonderful intellectual exercise, maybe, but it’s outrageous because it’s putting a lot of women out of work."
Eccleston's warnings echo the voices of other British actors. Julie Walters, David Morrissey, and Stephen McGann have all noted a drought of talent coming from working class communities. As for Doctor Who, while current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, is using his Scottish accent, he is the first. Both Sylvester McCoy and David Tennant chose to play the role in RP. Either way you slice it, Eccleston's Doctor, no matter the accent, will be forever in Whovian's hearts. Thank you, Christopher Eccleston for all your gifts.
Doctor Who returned to television sets on this day, 10 years ago. After four Doctors, numerous companions, a 50th Anniversary spectacular, and year after year of Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels and Christmas Specials, let's take a look at the season (and Doctor) that began it all.
Happy Birthday, Doctor Who, and thank you to Russell T Davies and Christopher Eccleston.