Though fans knew early on that Christopher Eccleston wouldn’t reprise his role as the ninth Doctor in “Doctor Who’s” 50th anniversary special, it was a delight to see archive footage of him used. It’s quick, but seeing his face along with the other former Doctors was a very special moment.
Since that was possible, one might wonder why his face also wasn’t used during the regeneration of John Hurt’s War Doctor. According to showrunner Steven Moffat, it’s all a matter of respect.
“It was one thing to include [him] among all the other archive Doctors, as they flew in to save the day,” Moffat says in the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine, via Anglophenia. “In fact, it would have been disgraceful to have left anyone out — but placing him in that scene might have given the impression he’d actually turned up for filming, which would have been crossing the line.”
According to Moffat, “Not taking part in the 50th was a difficult decision for Chris, taken after a lot of thought and with great courtesy, and not respecting his wishes would have been grossly unprofessional and disrespectful to a good man and a great Doctor.”
In the end, the spirit of Eccleston’s Doctor was in the episode, and that may be what matters most, as Moffat adds, “Number nine may not have turned up for the celebrations, but there would have been no party without him.”