Looking back on the Tennant Era

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Guest contributor Tyler Davies looks at David Tennant’s era and some of the criticism.

David Tennant, as most people know, portrayed the Tenth Doctor for three series and several specials. He is arguably the most popular Doctor since Tom Baker, but in the years since heleft, there has also been some criticism his way. I believe it is due time to look back at the bumpy ride of the Tenth Doctor.

My personal Doctor Who experience began with Ten and Rose. To be more precise; ‘Tooth and Claw.’ I was flicking through the channels when I came across an incredibly terrifying creature chasing after a charismatic man on BBC. After that moment I was sold, Doctor Who was already my new favourite, but unlike others this one wasn’t just a phase. So the Tenth Doctor will always be special to me no matter what.

The first thing that strikes me about Tennant’s Doctor is how dissimilar his character is compared to the previous incarnations. You can’t pin down many specific characteristics that match the other Doctors, but there are still enough elements in him to make him recognisable. His fun-loving attitude is very common, but there is also a very intense side of him. Unlike Christopher Eccleston, who played the intense part in a subtle manner, Tennant had numerable scenes where he would yell fiercely or cry his heart out. Whether this was his own decision or the directors’ is something I am unaware of.

Some criticise Tennant’s era for having too many deaths. A lot of people exaggerate and say that a person died every episode. There is a point in there somewhere, because, true enough, a lot of people did die. In Classic Who there were many deaths too, but what’s different is there were more emotions around these deaths in New Who. It wasn’t always just Daleks killing random people on the street, most of the time the death would be pivotal to the story.

Of course there are some people that dislike the actor himself, but I truly believe that David Tennant did a great job. It also shouldn’t depend on whether the actor is likeable or not, it should depend on the characters persona and how the actor interprets the character. Perhaps they also disliked him because of his patchy beginning.

His debut series (Series 2), in my opinion, was definitely not worth bragging about, with only a few gems that can be genuinely be called “classics”. Despite this, David Tennant gave in a good performance and accumulated quite a few ‘Best Actor’ awards along with a strong fan base. The sore thumb in the series, for me, was probably the unsubtle romance that formed between Ten and Rose. Audiences weren’t ready to see the Doctor fall in love and neither was I. Rose served as a far better companion when she was just a friend in Eccleston’s series. Thankfully we were introduced to a new companion in series 3.

Martha Jones, sadly, also fell for the Doctor, but complaints aside, this series was in my opinion better than the previous one. David Tennant was given great scripts like ‘Gridlock,’ ‘Human Nature/Family of Blood,’ ‘Utopia’ where he could display his extraordinary acting abilities and also a growth in character. ‘Blink’ is also a great episode and has very high appreciation from fans and critics alike, even though the Doctor doesn’t actually have much to do in it. The series finale episodes were quite satisfying too, with the Master making his first appearance since the classic series and John Barrowman returning as Captain Jack Harkness.

The situation got even better though when Donna Noble returned after ‘The Runaway Bride.’ This time as a full-time companion in Series 4. Tennant and Catherine Tate had a sparkling chemistry which also reflected on the series. For me, it was by far the funniest series, but it also had a lot of important elements. For example it marked the beginning of the River Song mystery. I was completely intrigued by this and the curiosity level was bursting when she said she knew his actual name.

The most important part about the series though was the specials that followed. After the heartbreaking goodbye between Ten and Donna, he began the journey towards “the four knocks”. ‘The Next Doctor’ and ‘Planet of the Dead’ were average Doctor Who stories with Ten not getting too many memorable scenes, but things changed drastically with ‘The Waters of Mars’. It stays on to be one of the best episodes due to David Tennant’s brilliant performance and The Flood which were truly terrifying. I absolutely loved it and the “Time Lord Victorious” is one of the most intense moments of the series.

Intense is also the best word to describe Ten’s final moments. The Master resurrected, the human race transformed and the Time Lords returning. Russell T. Davies ended Tennant’s tenure on a very high note. The man himself, Tennant, also gave a great performance and made many weep. I didn’t shed a tear, but I was pretty heartbroken. It was also the first time I saw the Time Lords apart from the Master and the Doctor. They were not what I had expected and therefore it made it all the more surprising.

As Wilf knocked four times and Ten took some time to say goodbye I pondered (pun intended) whether I was ready to embrace a new Doctor or not. The truth was; I wasn’t at that moment. I had this amazing Doctor regenerating on my TV-screen, but for me it was more. It was the loss of someone special. Ten will always be my first Doctor. Not necessarily my favourite, but still he had, and always will have a very special place in my heart.