Well, this hasn’t happened in nearly 21 years. The Doctor Who community lost a Doctor for the first time since Jon Pertwee passed in 1996 with the news that John Hurt, the ‘War Doctor’ from The Day of the Doctor has passed away at the age of 77.
That Doctor Who and John Hurt should have ever crossed paths, despite numerous other SF acting credits, all comes down to Christopher Eccleston’s reluctance in 2013, as Tom Baker had 30 years earlier, to come back to Doctor Who. This forced Steven Moffat to do a quick pivot, and a fair bit of retconning, to have a ‘War Doctor.’
This not only tied in and concluded the Time War subplot begun all the way back in The End of the World but also neatly worked it’s way forward by revealing that Matt Smith was not the 11th Doctor but actually the 13th, including the ‘hand’ from The Stolen Earth. When Smith left in the story which followed the 50th, The Time of the Doctor, Moffat was able to then also resolve the 12 regeneration limit set forth all the way back in The Deadly Assassin. That was some deft timey-wimey from Mr. Moffat.
But in order to make it work for the 50th it required an actor with gravitas who you believe had worn the weight of the endless conflict surrounding the Time War, and to that end John Hurt was quite a ‘get.’ He was amused, as a proxy for the audience, at some of the nonsense Smith and Tennant got up to in Day, but called them on it as well.
Fortunately for all of us The Day of the Doctor was not just a one-off for John Hurt. He appeared in several Big Finish audios reprising the role.
Thank you Sir John Hurt.