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Leading man through with BBC’s ‘Who’

Pubcaster surprised by cult skein's success

LONDON — The BBC has commissioned a second series of sci-fi revival hit “Doctor Who,” but its star Christopher Eccleston will not be in it.

He confirmed late Wednesday — just four days after the show bowed on flagship web BBC1 with a 44% share and almost 10 million viewers — that he would not again take on the part of the Doctor.

Eccleston has completed 13 episodes of the £13 million ($24.4 million) skein and his last appearance is expected to be in a Christmas special.

Thesp said he did not want to be typecast as the 900-year-old Time Lord. He is the ninth incarnation of the Doctor since the show bowed in 1963.

Talks are taking place to replace him with David Tennant, star of BBC period drama “Casanova,” according to the BBC Web site. Others in the frame include Bill Nighy and Richard E. Grant, who starred in a BBC Web version of “Doctor Who.”

The pubcaster has been surprised by the success of the cult classic, which it pulled in 1986. It bombed when it was revived as a one-off film in 1996.

Speaking at a lunch with TV scribes earlier on Wednesday, BBC drama topper Jane Tranter said she hoped for 6.5 million viewers, “but there was a little voice inside whispering 4.5 million.”

She also hinted that Eccleston might not be back.

“I want to make ‘Doctor Who’ again, but there is a mischievous element to it in that you can keep regenerating the Doctor,” she said, referring to the character’s ability to regenerate into another body — a casting gift.

“I think Chris is fantastic, but we’ve still got another 12 episodes to go. People will have to wait and see what happens.”

“Doctor Who” is co-produced with Canuck pubcaster CBC. Commercial arm BBC Worldwide has clinched sales in Italy with paybox Jimmy and Prime TV in New Zealand. More sales are said to be in the pipeline.

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