Fifty Years of Doctor Who, Part 11: The Tenth Doctor – David Tennant
David Tennant’s portrayal of The Doctor brings out the feels like no other doctor before him has. His performances have been some of the most intense and heartfelt I have ever seen. A master of his craft could only have delivered such incredible highs and heart wrenching lows. Unlike his predecessor, he had a slightly better grasp on his past horrors, but his anger burned colder. For all his mercy and forgiveness, he refused second chances and ruthlessly condemned his adversaries.
Tennant incorporated many aspects of the past doctors into his performances. Most notably the incredibly humanized performance of the Fifth, he also carried the authority of the First, the clownish and buffoonish nature of the Second, Fourth and Seventh. He was absolutely fond of his gadgets, this was decidedly a carryover from the Third and from the Sixth, and he adopted the bad habit of going the
wrong way. The only absence I see is the Eighth; however, I could just be missing them. One calling card of Tennant’s Doctor is a habit for getting things wrong. While he will inevitably come to the correct conclusion in the end, it is usually after clever observation by one of his companions. He freely formed meaningful relationships with each of his companions, no matter how briefly they traveled together, in some cases even if they didn’t travel together. It’s remarkable how everyone is a long lost friend, or a newfound friend. I would expect The Doctor to keep in regular contact with many of these friends if so many didn’t die.
Tennant appears to me to be the first to attempt to incorporate the multiple personalities of his previous incarnations. Previous actors took elements or traits from past manifestations, but usually as tribute or token character attributes, they were usually superfluous. With the past Doctors, they seemed to disregard their past, but with Tennant, he seemed to embrace his past. He spoke frequently about past adventures, at least frequently referencing his past adventures and companions. This tended to fall into his tendency to ramble. He frequently seemed to have severed the filter between brain and mouth. Often finding himself being somewhat rude and cheeky, this was marvelously fun, but not altogether unprecedented for the character.
To really appreciate the range Tennant poured into this character you should watch the entire body of work. However if you can’t, you should watch the following episodes. While in these seasons there are, in my opinion, better episodes, these I feel best highlight Tennant’s performance.
- “School Reunion” where The Doctor meets Sara-Jane again.
- “The Girl in the Fireplace” where The Doctor meets Madame de Pompadour and forms a fast bond with the French aristocrat.
- Finally “The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit” where The Doctor faces off with Satan himself.
- “The Shakespeare Code” where The Doctor plays with Shakespeare.
- “Human Nature / The Family of Blood” where The Doctor becomes human and falls in love.
- “The Fires of Pompeii” where The Doctor comes to terms with his destructive role in history.
- “Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead” where The Doctor meets River Song for the first time.
- “Midnight” where Tennant delivers one of my favorite performances.
- “The Waters of Mars” and “The End of Time Part One & Two” to watch his farewell.
David Tennant poured so much raw emotion into his Doctor it is impossible not to love him. He set a very high bar, and permanently set himself as one of the premier Doctors. Overall, I believe his performance as The Doctor has been the best we have seen in the last fifty years.