Edgar Wright Had a Good Reason for Not Directing the Most Important Episode of Doctor Who

"It was a simple no, even though it would've been great."

Doctor Who Week

In the long list of TV industry “could’ve beens,” the trivia that Edgar Wright almost directed the first episode of the Doctor Who revival is high up there. A singularly stylish director who put his mark on genre filmmaking with his acclaimed Cornetto Trilogy movies and hits like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Wright has risen the ranks to Hollywood royalty.

But before he became a household name, Wright was the guy who directed Spaced, a beloved British sitcom that made him contemporaries with the would-be maestro behind the Doctor Who revival, Russell T. Davies.

“Russell T. Davies is somebody I've known for many years now,” Wright tells Inverse. “He always asks me [to work with him].”

Edgar Wright has a good reason for not directing the first episode of the Doctor Who revival.

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Doctor Who lore goes that Wright was offered the gig of directing the first episode of the Doctor Who revival, “Rose,” but turned it down because he was busy making a little movie called Shaun of the Dead — the zombie comedy that would launch Wright and his collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to genre superstardom. But Wright clarifies that, while he had a meeting with Davies, he actually said no because directing the episode would have prevented him from promoting Shaun of the Dead.

“I wouldn't have missed the Shaun of the Dead press tour for the world,” Wright says. “It was a simple no, even though it would've been great. It wasn't like I was doing it and then I bowed out. It was just the first question of, ‘We're doing this in 2004.’ It's like, ‘I don't think I can do it,’ you know?”

“Rose” was ultimately directed by Keith Boak, who also helmed two other episodes of Doctor Who in its first season. But production troubles in the first episode reportedly led star Christopher Eccleston, who played the 9th Doctor, to exit the show early — right before Doctor Who became a modern phenomenon. Eccleston has alluded to issues with a director in that first season, but never confirmed who.

Christopher Eccleston exited the show after one season over alleged clashes with the production team.


Would things have been different with Wright in the director’s chair? Would Doctor Who’s first modern episode have been slightly less embarrassing and slightly more stylish? Maybe. But Wright, who is an avowed fan of Doctor Who, tries not to think too much about that alternate timeline.

“Here's the thing,” he says. “Sometimes if I get asked to do episodes of my favorite shows, or get asked to do the installments of my favorite franchises, I usually have the same feeling as like, ‘It's existed perfectly well without me up until this point, and it'll be absolutely fine without me from this point on.’”

“It was really nice to be offered,” Wright adds. “I think my mum probably couldn't believe that I was saying no to it. But at the same time, it's gone on to a huge success. It's not like it needed me. They were absolutely fine without me.”

Doctor Who returns with three 60th anniversary specials, starting with “The Star Beast” on November 25.

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