Billie Piper Reflects on Doctor Who, a Reboot She Didn't Think Would Last 3 Months

David Tennant and Billie Piper in Doctor Who.
David Tennant and Billie Piper in Doctor Who.
Image: BBC

Doctor Who has become an international sensation ever since it was rebooted by the BBC in 2005, turning actors like David Tennant and Billie Piper into household names around the world. But Piper, who played the reboot’s first companion, recently shared how she didn’t think it was going to last three months, let alone almost two decades.

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Piper recently sat down with Tennant for his podcast, David Tennant Does A Podcast With…, where she and her former co-star reminisced about being part of the Doctor Who reboot that has seen five doctors and over 20 companions over the course of 12 seasons and counting. Piper, who played Rose Tyler for the first two seasons of the show (with the occasional return in subsequent seasons, as well as audio dramas), said how terrified she and the others were that the series was going to be a failure.

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During her chat with Tennant, Piper said the new Doctor Who was a huge risk for the BBC—not just because it was using technology normally reserved for Hollywood productions, but because no one was sure whether audiences even wanted to see the series come back.

“When we started making it, everyone said it was going to be a failure. You just didn’t imagine it being on for longer than three months, imagining that 15 years later it’s still probably the biggest job you will have ever done, and you’ll still be talking about it and going off and meeting people and celebrating it, that was a big reach,” Piper said. “It was a huge gamble, and we were all quite aware of that when we were shooting it, which sort of meant we couldn’t enjoy it as much as we did in our second series.”

Of course, it didn’t take long for the truth to set in: People really liked the new Doctor Who. Unfortunately, Christopher Eccleston left the show after one season—citing a hostile work environment between himself and the showrunners—which meant Tennant was brought in as the Tenth Doctor. Piper joked about how Tennant was a walking Doctor Who encyclopedia, saying he was “obsessed” in a way she wasn’t before coming onboard. But both of them remarked about what it’s been like being part of a series that will forever remain one of the biggest (and most enduring) moments of their careers. Even if it makes them feel old sometimes.

“Well, it’s awful, isn’t it?” Piper said. “Not awful, but when you meet kids through the conventions who are like, ‘My name’s Rose. I was named after you when I was born 15 years ago!’ Oh my god.” Tennant added, “It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to imagining what it must be like to be a pop star.”

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Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who is set to return with its latest holiday special, “Revolution of the Daleks,” around the end of 2020.

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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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DISCUSSION

brianfowler713
Brianfowler713

It’s so weird hearing New Who described as risk taking or a gamble because all I see or hear is how safe the show plays it.

Sorry for generalizing but the show always seems to be about Cybermen or Daleks, or Cybermen versus Daleks, or Cybermen with Daleks. And the Master popping up now and then, of course.

The biggest gamble I can see, in my admittedly limited perspective, is casting Jodie Whittaker and Michelle Gomez.