5 of Tennant’s Best Doctor Who Episode Performances
Feature by Craig Sightings.
It’s David Tennant’s birthday this weekend, and to celebrate I thought I’d go through his era and pick out five of his best performances in Doctor Who episodes. So, without further ado…
The Girl in the Fireplace
Steven Moffat’s second story for New Who is another classic. This Series 2 episode sees the Tenth Doctor arrive in 18th Century France and falling for historical figure Madame de Pompadour (Sophia Myles). Their relationship develops in the most classic Moffat timey-wimey way of course. The most powerful moment comes at the end where the Doctor arrives to see her and, tragically, learns that she has died. The Doctor masks his utter heartbreak and Tennant fires on all cylinders.
Human Nature / Family of Blood
This Paul Cornell penned two-parter for Series 3 is unique as it features Tennant not actually playing the Doctor for a decent chunk of the duration. Instead we see what it would be like if the Doctor lived the life of an “ordinary” human, in this case a schoolteacher called “John Smith” in 1913 England. “John” falls in love with nurse Joan Redfern, but soon has to lose her as he has to resume his real identity as the Doctor (but not before seeing what their happy life together could have been). The conclusion shows us what happens when you get the Doctor is furious, and he decides to punish his villains (you really don’t want to make Ten angry!).
Not only what I believe is Russell T Davies best written episode, but also one of the best stories of New Who in general. This Series 4 episode was dubbed one of the “companion-lite” episodes due to overlapping production schedules that meant Catherine Tate had to sit this one out (aside from appearing briefly in the opening and closing scene). This left David Tennant to carry the episode, and he gives an absolutely incredible performance throughout. The highlight though is when the unseen monster has completely robbed the Doctor of control and Tennant has to portray so much through just his eyes as he is utterly helpless and faces a seemingly inevitable demise at the hands of a mob.
The Waters of Mars
Another Russell T Davies penned classic, from the 2009 specials. In this story we get to see the Doctor face yet more inevitable loss, this time on Mars in 2059. However, it leads the Doctor down a whole other path as he leans more and more into his darker nature until he becomes the “Time Lord Victorious”. This side of the Doctor is only shown briefly (a whole episode exploring this would have been great), but it nevertheless features brilliant acting from Tennant as he wrestles with his conscience.
The End of Time
Tennant’s final episode may not be perfect and rather divisive in the fanbase (especially that final line), but it’s hard to deny that it doesn’t feature one of Tennant’s best performances as the Doctor. From his heartfelt chats with Wilf (Bernard Cribbins) throughout, to facing off with his arch-enemy (again), confronting the Time Lords, and reluctantly accepting his fate, but not before a trip to visit his old friends one last time. There’s just a whole gamut of emotions for Tennant to play here, and it makes up for the script’s other shortcomings.