In the last few installments, we were able to delve more into Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), who were the main companions of the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), from Series 2 to 4. Now, it’s time to delve both into the Tenth Doctor himself and Tennant’s performance, from the moment he stepped out of TARDIS in 2005 until the moment he regenerated into the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) in 2010.
For me, the Tenth Doctor was and always will be my Doctor. For others, who had been watching the series since the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), they had to go through the cycle of saying goodbye to one, and getting used to this one, until they became more comfortable with him. For many, the Tenth Doctor and the Eleventh Doctor are the ones that many people start with, especially since the the show gained more momentum during the Tenth Doctor’s era, and became even more globally known during the Eleventh Doctor’s time.
Tennant, aside from being a lifelong Whovian, had worked with both Russell T. Davies and Julie Gardner in the series “Cassanova”, before he was asked to become the next incarnation of the Doctor. Tennant had already proved that he was a versatile actor long before “Doctor Who” came around for him, and the show also helped him showcase this as he was given enough material to be able to showcase what he can do. This allowed him to have a Doctor that was passionate, happy go lucky, funny, while still retaining a certain sense of gravitas and a dark edge.
The Tenth Doctor was born out of love, and is very much defined by his companions, who more or less helped shape him while keeping his darker tendencies in check. He was very much a tragic hero, and is often criticized for being overly angsty at times, and a hypocrite when left unchecked. He considered himself as a “wanderer, adventurer, daredevil and a madman”, he hated guns and violence and would rather talk a thousand words per minute before implementing what he considered the last resort, and had such a great sense of adventure to the point that he was fine with rushing headlong into an adventure without knowing the perils it might bring to him and his companions. He, however, was a very kind person, and tried to as merciful to his enemies as much as he could. He was pretty much adamant about not meddling in “fixed points” in time, more so than the Eleventh Doctor was. He was also really good at tinkering with gadgets, and made several to help him in out in the course of his tenure. He was also very agile, and more physical than the Ninth and the Eleventh Doctors.
His angst consisted mostly of the fact that he was the “Last of the Time Lords”, and was wracked with guilt over his actions in the Last Great Time War, and all the losses he suffered throughout his tenure.
If we accept the head canon that the Ninth Doctor actually went on more adventures in between his initial invitation to Rose in the first episode and when he reappeared with Rose accepting his invitation, then it is possible, that in real time, that this incarnation of the Doctor was pretty short lived. Of course, this is also taking into consideration that it seems that both the Eleventh Doctor and the Twelfth Doctor actually had longer lives in comparison to his.
Among the Doctors, he is also known for being “the man who regrets”, and being the “lonely god”, while I also believe that his actions also helped in the build up of establishing a more formidable reputation for himself among his enemies. Those consequences, however, will not be felt until the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure.
Now, before I go any further, please be reminded that from here on out, there will be SPOILERS!
Most of the Tenth Doctor’s story arc was closely linked to the three main companions of his tenure- Rose, Martha and Donna.
Coming off of the Ninth Doctor’s experiences with Rose, the Tenth Doctor’s early self was more adventurous, fun loving, and gave back to Rose by almost becoming good boyfriend material for her. However, all their adventuring around also had dire consequences for both of them, as they became a little bit more reckless, and not considering the actual repercussions of their actions. This, of course, is seen in the fact that they were kind of responsible for the birth of the Torchwood Institute, which was the reason why they got separated from each other at the end of Series 2.
Series 3 saw him still trying to get over the loss of Rose, and because of that, the Tenth Doctor wasn’t really his best when it came to dealing with his next companion, Martha. However, Martha did become his support system, and in a way, did help him to get over Rose a little bit. So now, the Doctor not only felt bad about losing Rose, but he also later on expressed his guilt and regret on how he treated Martha, and what happened to her family during “the year that never was”.
With Donna, the Doctor was clearly in a better place, especially as he had decided that he wanted to travel with someone who was just a friend, and made that explicitly clear before he and Donna set out on their adventures. Here, we began to see more of the Doctor’s darker edges, but thankfully, Donna was there to keep him in check. This pairing was my favorite as these two truly brought out the best in each other.
His darkness was also very much exposed in “The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End”, with Davros’ (Julian Bleach) proclamation that the Doctor, pacifist as he was, actually ended up turning his companions, from Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) to Martha Jones, into weapons who would do what needs to be done when he can’t do it.
However, this was nothing compared to the “Time Lord Victorious” persona that emerged during “Waters of Mars”, and which came out as all of his friends had to move on with their own lives, he had to give up Rose again, and worst of all, he had to wipe Donna’s mind of his existence so that she could live,and did so against her own will. The “Time Lord Victorious” persona was scary, wild, dark and dangerous, and very much like the pompous Time Lords on Gallifrey that he constantly ran from. Thankfully, he was kept in check again, but in the most horrible way possible, with Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan), killing herself.
Because of this, and the knowledge that the end was near for him, he decided to run, which he did, but ended up coming back to Earth and saved it once again from Rasillion (Timothy Dalton), the Time Lord President who wanted to save Gallifrey by turning all the Time Lords into “beings of pure consciousness” which would also affect everyone, including the Earth, as well.
After everything that he went through, however, it was only fitting that he ended up regenerating in order to save a friend’s life. He did, however, have a little bit of a tantrum at first, saying that it “wasn’t fair”, which I think, was still very much in character, because his lifespan as the Tenth Doctor was pretty short, and because he has one of the most human of the Doctors and was very attached to his current incarnation. This is also why I think that his long and destructive regeneration sequence was justified, as it seemed as if he was also still fighting it from happening, even at the very end. I also think that him checking up on all of his companions was justified, because this was the incarnation that felt the most lonely, and wanted to be able to make sure that all of his friends were alright and safe.
It’s because of this that I consider the Tenth Doctor as a tragic hero.
However, this Doctor was also happy go lucky, cheeky, charismatic and fun, and was very much a swashbuckling hero. In fact, during “The Day of the Doctor”, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), called this incarnation as “the hero”.
This Doctor was very much a pacifist, and tried to be one as much as he possibly could. He also had a knack for being very glib, and could talk down his enemies while enacting a “brilliant” plan that he had thought of on the fly.
Interestingly enough, as well, the Tenth Doctor’s incarnation was the first time the audience ever met River Song (Alex Kingston), whose character would rise to more prominence during the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure.
Also, before we go any further into things, let’s talk about the Tenth Doctor and his relationship with the TARDIS.
He actually inherited the TARDIS consoled desktop of the Ninth Doctor, and never really bothered to change it. So it still had the coral looking structures around it, and metal grating for the floor which actually had a lower step. Later on, the Tenth Doctor added these round sponge-like things onto a portion of her railings around the console itself, and later on, added a seat, which very much looked like a random yellow car seat that he haphazardly attached to her railings as well.
The Tenth Doctor had a small computer screen as a monitor which had Gallifreyan symbols on it, and random post-its stuck around the frame, with Gallifreyan symbols on it as well. He also had a rather large hammer or mallet, which he also used to hit certain portions of the console for a particular function, to get it to move.
He was accustomed to running around it, rarely sat down, and it looks like he usually was too busy with things to properly fasten things to her like the Eleventh Doctor does. In fact, it seems like the moments he does try to repair her or pay attention to her more is when he is lonely and has no companions on board.
However, according to Rose in “School Reunion”, he does stroke the TARDIS console a lot and talks to her nicely; talks about her having something akin to indigestion in “The Runaway Bride”; and after the events of “The Doctor’s Daughter”, he seems to have an understanding of why she brought him there. So, from this, I feel like the Tenth Doctor respected the TARDIS’ decisions, even though he may not understand her all of the time. It was also during his run that, thanks to River, he began opening and closing the TARDIS doors by snapping his fingers. (Also, he LOVED it when he discovered new stuff about her).
Tennant was given a lot of material to showcase his acting abilities, and I think that if you really want to watch at least one or two episodes that really shows off what he can do, it’s definitely “Human Nature/The Family of Blood”. Not only does it delve deeper into the definition of who the Doctor is, and gives Martha many opportunities to shine, it allows Tennant to showcase some of his finest acting work in the series. Another would definitely be “Waters of Mars” and “End of Time I & II”.
I have also made a Spotify playlist for the Tenth Doctor, which can be found here:
However, I think that the best tracks from Murray Gold that sum up who the Tenth Doctor is are “Song for Ten”, “The Doctor Forever”, and “The Doctor’s Theme Series 4”.
“Song for Ten”, which was composed by Gold, and was first performed by Neil Hannon, made its debut in “The Christmas Invasion”, where the Tenth Doctor picked out his wardrobe, and had Christmas dinner with Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke), and the Tylers. This song represents all the fun times that he had in his adventures, whether it be with Rose, or Martha, or Donna, but mostly the times he had with Rose.
“The Doctor Forever” and “The Doctor’s Theme Series 4” both sum up the Tenth Doctor perfectly. Both still have strains from “The Doctor’s Theme”, showing that the Tenth Doctor is still very much haunted by his past. “The Doctor Forever”, though, is more playful, epic, and adventurous; while “The Doctor’s Theme Series 4” is more haunting and dark. These two tracks perfectly sum up the fact that he is adventurous, and epic, yet is haunted by his past, and a tragic figure.
In the end, the Tenth Doctor was a pacifist, adventurer, daredevil, quick and glib, tragic hero that was quick with his wits, and came up with plans on the fly. He oozed charisma and confidence, and could become dangerous at any given moment, especially if he didn’t have his friends around him. He was larger than life, epitomized geek chic, and was a hero whom people either looked up to or was afraid of. This incarnation was, probably, in Nu Who, one of the most human Doctors of all, with a particular zest for life, and a spring in his red or white Converse sneakers. Also, Tennant’s tenure will probably be known as being part of the “Golden Age” of Nu Who, as the Russell T. Davies era peaked and ended also with Tennant’s tenure of the Doctor; so it is no wonder than the Tenth Doctor, to this day, seems to be a fan favorite of Nu Whovians and Classic Whovians alike.
What did you think of the Tenth Doctor and David Tennant’s performance? Let me know in the comments below, and remember to be civil and respectful to everyone!
The Christmas Invasion (Well, at least the last twenty minutes)
The Girl in the Fireplace
The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
Human Nature/The Family of Blood
The Fires of Pompeii
The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End
Waters of Mars
The End of Time I & II
“Well…(begins to explain something)….well…(corrects his previous statement from before”.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“I don’t want to go!”
Well, yeah, you could. Yeah, you could do that, of course you could. But why? Look at these people: these human beings. Consider their potential. From the day they arrive on the planet, and blinking step into the sun. There is more to see than can ever be seen. More to do than – no, hold on… Sorry, that’s the ‘Lion King’. But the point still stands…..Leave them alone!
By the ancient rights of combat, I forbid you to scavenge here for the rest of time. And when you go back to the stars and tell others of this planet, when you tell them of its riches, its people, its potential, when you talk of the Earth, then make sure that you tell them this…[shouts]…it is defended!
No second chances. I’m that sort of a man.
I gave them the wrong warning. I should have told them to run, as fast as they can. Run and hide, because the monsters are coming – the human race.
Don’t challenge me, Harriet Jones. ‘Cause I’m a completely new man. I could bring down your Government with a single word….No, you’re right. Not a single word. Just six. [To Alex] Don’t you think she looks tired?
-“The Christmas Invasion”
You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world!– “Tooth & Claw”
Hello, Sarah Jane…..Goodbye, my Sarah Jane!- “School Reunion”
I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay; you wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone that you– [breaks off] You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on. Alone. That’s the curse of the Time Lords.-“School Reunion”
Well I’m the Lord of Time-“The Girl in the Fireplace”
I’m burning up a sun just to say goodbye… And I suppose, if it’s my last chance to say it… Rose Tyler…(transmission ends.)- “Doomsday”
Some people live more in twenty years than others do in eighty. It’s not the time that matters, it’s the person.– “The Lazarus Experiment”
People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.-“Blink”
No one’s ever meant to have that power. If a Time Lord did that he’d become a god—a vengeful god. But she was human. Everything she did was so human. She brought you back to life. But she couldn’t control it. She brought you back forever. That is something, I suppose. The final act of the Time War was life.-“Utopia”
(Talking about Gallifrey and the childhood of the Time Lords) The Doctor: Well, perfect to look at, maybe. And it was, it was beautiful. They used to call it the Shining World of the Seven Systems. And on the continent of Wild Endeavour, in the mountains of Solace and Solitude, there stood the Citadel of the Time Lords. The oldest and most mighty race in the universe. Looking down on the galaxies below, sworn never to interfere, only to watch. Children of Gallifrey were taken from their families at the age of eight, to enter the Academy. Some say that’s where it all began, when he was a child. That’s when the Master saw eternity. As a novice, he was taken for initiation. He stood in front of the Untempered Schism. It’s a gap in the fabric of reality through which could be seen the whole of the vortex. We stand there, eight years old, staring at the raw power of Time and Space, just a child. Some would be inspired. Some would run away. And some would go mad. Oh, I dunno.…Oh, the ones that ran away! I never stopped.-“The Sound of Drums”
I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I’m 903 years old, and I’m the man who’s gonna save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?-“Voyage of the Damned”
That’s what I am: just a traveler. Imagine it: no tax, no bills, no boss. Just the open sky.-“Voyage of the Damned”
I don’t know! Isn’t that brilliant? I love not knowing! Keeps me on me toes. It must be awful being a prophet, waking up every morning, “Is it raining? Yes, it is. I said so.” Takes all the fun out of life.-“Fires of Pompeii”
That’s how I see the universe. Every waking second I can see what is, what was, what could be, what must not. It’s the burden of a Time Lord, Donna, and I’m the only one left..-“Fires of Pompeii”
That’s just it. Don’t you see, Donna? Can’t you understand? If I could go back and save them, then I would, but I can’t!…[pauses] I can *never* go back. I can’t. I just can’t. I can’t..-“Fires of Pompeii”
You need to get yourself a better dictionary. When you do, look up “genocide”. You’ll find a little picture of me there, and the caption’ll read “Over my dead body”…. I never would. Have you got that? I… never… would. When you start this new world, this world of Human and Hath, remember that. Make the foundation of this society a man who never would!- “The Doctor’s Daughter”
River, you know my name. You whispered my name in my ear! There’s only one reason I would ever tell anyone my name. There’s only one time I could… Why? Why would I give her my screwdriver? Why would I do that? The thing is, future me had years to think about it. All those years to think of a way to save her, and what he did was give her a screwdriver! Why would I do that?! [peels back a panel to reveal a set of green lights like on the suits, realizing why his future self has given River the screwdriver] Oh, oh, oh! Look at that! I’m very good! – “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”
But there are laws. There are laws of time. Once upon a time there were people in charge of those laws, but they died. They all died. Do you know who that leaves? Me! It’s taken me all these years to realise the laws of time are mine, and they will obey me!…….We’re not just fighting the Flood, we’re fighting Time itself! And I’m gonna win!
Isn’t anyone going to thank me?
[Cold and triumphant] For a long time now, I thought I was just a survivor, but I’m not. I’m the winner! That’s who I am. The Time Lord Victorious! Adelaide: And there’s no one to stop you? The Doctor: No. Adelaide: [disgusted] This is wrong, Doctor! I don’t care who you are: the Time Lord Victorious is wrong! The Doctor: [arrogantly] That’s for me to decide…….Adelaide:Is there nothing you can’t do? The Doctor:Not anymore. – “Waters of Mars”
[Bluntly to Wilf] I’m going to die….I can still die. If I’m killed before regeneration, then I’m dead. Even then, even if I change, it feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away… and I’m dead…. It’s not that I’m an innocent. I’ve taken lives. I got worse, I got clever. Manipulated people into taking their own. Sometimes, I think a Time Lord lives too long.
[Angrily at Wilf who is stuck in the radiation booth] OK, right, then, I will. ‘Cos you just had to go in there, didn’t you? You had to go and get stuck, oh yes! Because that’s who you are, Wilfred! You were always this. Waiting for me all this time! [still angry at Wilf] Well, exactly, look at you. Not remotely important. But me… I could do so much more! So much more! But this is what I get, my reward. And it’s not fair! [resigned to his fate] Oh… lived too long…Wilfred. It’s my honour.- “End of Time”