What if… Tennant had stayed for Series 5?
Guest contributor Nick Anderson looks into what might have been.
On 1 January 2010, Doctor Who fans around the world were forced to say goodbye to the Tenth Doctor, the Doctor for thousands upon thousands of people around the world (including me, although Smith and Tennant have been battling it out for top spot for weeks now). In his Christmas swan song, The End of Time, Parts 1 and 2, we watched the Tenth Doctor battle against the Master and the crazed leadership of Time War-era Gallifrey, before ending his life to save Wilfred Mott. But what if it went differently? What if David Tennant had opted to stay for one more year, one final series under the eyes of new showrunner Steven Moffat? Let me elaborate…
When pressed last year on the matter, Steven Moffat had this to say:
“I only had the roughest idea. Had David stayed for one final year, it would certainly have been his last, so my pitch was that it would start with the TARDIS crashing in Amelia’s back garden – as now – and a terribly battered and bruised Tenth Doctor staggering out.
Amelia finds him, feeds him fish custard (no that was for Matt, it would have been something more Davidy) and generally helps him. But we, the audience, can see he’s in a truly bad way. Dying maybe. Eventually he heads back to his TARDIS, and flies off.
But when he returns – many years later for Amy – he seems perfectly fine, and indeed doesn’t remember any of those events…And of course over time, we realise what we saw was the Tenth Doctor at the end of his life, about to regenerate. Events that we return to in Episode 13…”
Let that sink in for a second.
I’ve no doubt that there will be sections of the Whovian community who detest that idea, believing that Tennant was right to bow out when he did and allow a new Doctor and production team to effectively rebrand the show. There will be sections who would want to develop time travel technology to make this a reality, willing to give an arm or a leg (or, in true Tenth Doctor style, a hand…) to make it happen. Too obvious a Tenth Doctor pun? I’m sorry, I’m so sorry … (okay I’ll stop now!). I personally believe that Tennant was right to bow out on that fateful day in January 2010, but I’m intrigued as to the alternate history of the show if Moffat had been given creative control of the Tenth Doctor himself.
The Tenth Doctor and the Story Arc
The first major point to consider would be the “Cracks in Time” story arc of Series 5, a part of the much wider Silence arc that spanned the entirety of the Matt Smith era. Would Moffat have begun such a heavy arc in the knowledge that his lead actor was bowing out at the end of the series, or could he have carried the arc across regenerations to the later Eleventh Doctor? The latter is certainly an interesting consideration.
With Tennant still in the role, I have trouble seeing the Eleventh Hour and Victory of the Daleks ever being produced. Both were crucial to establishing the new Doctor, the former in a very literal sense whilst the latter pitted Matt Smith against the Doctor’s most fearsome foes. So much of Series 5 was devoted to establishing Matt Smith’s Doctor that it is hard to rewrite it for a Doctor that had been in the role since December 2005, but I believe ideas like the Cracks in Time and the Pandorica would have been carried across. The Tenth Doctor being confronted by an alliance of foes his incarnation had actually faced before being imprisoned in the best prison in the universe, the swashbucklingTennant being brought to his knees after four series … you’ll have to leave it up to your imagination to envisage how remarkable that would be.
The Tenth Doctor and Amy Pond
In this alternate Series 5, Amy would first encounter the Doctor at the end of his life before waiting years to see a younger version of the same man. Certainly has all the trappings of a timey wimey Moffat series, especially if Karen Gillan stuck around for Series 6 and witnessed the regeneration of the Tenth Doctor into the Eleventh. Would she tell him, or be forced into Series 6-style secrecy about his inevitable death?
Instead of the childlike and obviously alien Eleventh Doctor, Amy would be travelling alongside the heroic and charismatic Tenth Doctor (not to say 11 wasn’t heroic or charismatic). This sets up a different dynamic between the two; the Doctor wouldn’t be as alien as he was in the real Series 5 (…tasting grass in The Hungry Earth, really?), and the cavalier Tenth Doctor and Amy would traverse the universe for a single series before his regeneration. Just as Clara is going to experience the clear difference between Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors, Amy Pond would bridge the gap between David Tennant and whoever followed him in this alternate reality.
The Tenth Doctor and River Song
A small point that I thought of whilst writing this article, the likelihood is that Steven Moffat would still bring back the mysterious River Song for a Tennant Series 5. Again, the image of River Song and the Tenth Doctor battling the Weeping Angels is one that entertains the imagination, but would their dynamic be different if the Doctor wasn’t Matt Smith? From her comments in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, it is heavily implied that River’s main interactions were with the Doctor’s future incarnation(s), but to my mind at least it would make more sense for the pair to meet again under Tennant for continuity’s sake.
River Song is said to have pictures of every incarnation, and she clearly recognises Ten upon meeting him in the Library. Although Moffat heavily implied that the pair had adventures off-screen between The Waters of Mars and The End of Time, most notably at Asgard, it would arguably be much more satisfying for the audience to witness some of these adventures on the small screen. If her appearances in the series remained the same, we would have seen River Song and the Tenth Doctor interact on three separate occasions with potentially more occurring off-screen (or perhaps not if Ten didn’t embark on his pre-End of Time adventures). Could River’s description of “the future you, the real you” be reinterpreted to mean the older Tenth Doctor?
So, there we have it. There’s no accurate way of knowing how a Tennant/Moffat Series 5 would have unfolded – it could have been Tennant’s finest hour as much as it could have been his downfall as one of the world’s favourite Doctors. What this whole scenario is, however, is incredibly interesting. With David Tennant in the lead role for another series before bowing out, Matt Smith may not even be cast as the Eleventh Doctor. Instead of being afraid to change the show too much initially, Moffat could have cast an older actor and the history books could record Robert Carlyle or *gasp* Peter Capaldi as Doctor No. 11.
Tell me what you think in the comments! Allons-y!