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The tenth Doctor Who


The announcement of David Tennant's casting was in no way a surprise - I can remember it being talked about quite confidently even before we knew Christopher Eccleston was leaving. The clues were all there: he was a rapidly rising star, known to be a Doctor Who fan, and crucially had just worked with Russell T Davies in Casanova. The only question was: how was he going to play the Doctor? The tenth Doctor is manic, energetic and cheeky. But he's also a mass of contradictions. He seems to have got over the survivor guilt of his previous self, and is far more proactive in the fight against evil. He's still the compassionate Doctor of before, but with a more ruthless streak - he'll spare a defeated enemy, but he'll only give them one chance. He's pragmatic and accepts that sacrifices might be necessary - but he also feels a deep, personal sense of responsibility for any loss. He knows he can't save everyone but it cuts him up when he doesn't. The flipside to this is a self-righteous arrogance - it's as if, knowing he's the last Time Lord, he's taken all of his people's powers and responsibilities onto himself. This is a character thread that reached its fulfilment in Tennant's final few stories. There's also a great sense that the Doctor is having fun on his travels, finding excitement and enjoyment in even the most dire situations - sometimes quite inappropriately - and also seeing the beauty inherent in the universe, even in terrible things. On the whole, Tennant's performance is engaging and emotionally involving, but his character was also prone to a number of irritating character ticks, catchphrases and mugging facial expressions. Whether this was a specific production decision or the actor's own choice, I don't know. He also dropped his own natural Scottish accent for a sort of comedy "mockney geezer" voice, which definitely became wearing on occasion. However, there's no denying that Tennant was extremely popular with the viewing audience, matching even the "classic" Doctors of the 1970s. This might partly explain why Tennant got to briefly reprise the role as the fourteenth Doctor in 2023. The behind the scenes reasons for this don't really matter here - what I will say is that Tennant, whilst still playing essentially the same character, was less annoying this time round - maybe the passage of years had added a degree of maturity to the actor and his performance. After a brief run of special episodes, which provided some degree of narrative closure to the character, Tennant left something of a clean slate for the fifteenth Doctor.

Best and worst TV stories

Adventures of the tenth Doctor Who

Adventures of the fourteenth Doctor Who