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Why David Tennant Leaving ‘Doctor Who’ Kind Of Sucks April 9, 2009

Billy, Paddy, Johnny, Tommy, Petey, C-Dog, Sly, Paulie, Chrisy and Davey.

Clockwise from top left: Billy, Paddy, Jonny, Tommy, Petey, C-Dog, Sly, Paulie, Chrisy and Davey.

(And why Matt Smith deserves a decent chance)

As Easter approaches, so does the beginning of the end for one of the most beloved actors to play The Doctor – David Tennant. The girls love him and the blokes feel that he could be their mate. He dresses like a dandy yet exudes a shambolic ‘Gen-X’ vibe. He’s an incredibly gifted actor and his comedic and dramatic work on Doctor Who, film, other TV and the stage, is pretty damn exceptional.  He gives lots of time to charities and seems to have his head firmly on his shoulders. He attracts most demographics. He’s been an amazing Doctor. He’s probably a dead-on person, the sort that would buy you a pint if you were short on cash. But those aren’t the reasons why it kind of sucks that David Tennant is abdicating from ‘Who’. It’s a good time for the torch to be passed to another; that’s the enduring, fascinating element of the character. It’s a tough old life, being Gallifrey’s Prodigal Rebel Child, and the nature of the beast is all about change. You can’t fight nature.

(The mantle must be passed but it doesn’t mean that Blast-From-The-Past-Doctors can’t return. NOTE – I made a donation to the CIN charity for using this clip. Cos I’m a nice, moral girl (stop snickering, People That Know Me) and it’s a good cause. Karma, baby.)

Why it kind of sucks is because Tennant was really the first actor that made public what every ‘Who’ fan already suspected but couldn’t get confirmation on- that being The Doctor is a bloody brilliant gig. If you can’t be an actual Timelord, then playing him is the next best thing. He treated the role like a treasured heirloom that had been passed down to him and declared happily, “it’s the best job in the world”, “a dream come true” and “I have my own TARDIS!”  He spoke about running amok in a long, multi-colour scarf and standing in line for Tom Baker’s autograph as a boy. Tennant was one of us, a true ‘Whovian’, and he flew his geek-flag proudly. Not for him was the exasperated head-shake, eye-roll and subtle (or not, in some cases) put-downs that some of the other actors partook in when asked about their time as The Doctor. Funnily, his example has led some of those very same actors to do a complete 180 and now wax lyrical about how enjoyable their turn was; Tennant made it okay to be proud of it. Either that or they have mortgage payments coming up and need some ‘cameo-cash’. He described obsessive fans as ‘exuberant’ instead of ’sad’, ‘annoying’ or ‘pathetic’- personally, I love the show, obviously but I don’t always like the more ‘exuberant’ fans. For some, ’scary’ and ‘needs to get a life’ doesn’t begin to do them justice. Apparently, he’s a good sport for posing for pictures with people that ask politely at appropriate times and he routinely and profusely thanks his many admirers for being so generous towards him. Eccleston revived the part and saved it from the barrel marked ‘Jokey Pop Culture References’ with his Proper Actor status and gave it gravitas. Tennant then took that a step further and made being a fan-boy (or girl!) enjoyable. Basically, it was cute to hear him talk about writing essays in school about how he wanted to be The Doctor and all that lark. He’s had to tell stories like that so much that I kind of cringe for Tennant when an interviewer asks him to tell these anecdotes yet again. Fair play though, he always reacts like it’s the first time. Like I said; he’s a good actor.

Is it any wonder he is the only Doctor, since the hey-day of the 70’s, to topple Sir Tom of Baker in the ‘Favourite Doctor’ polls?

(I want to take a moment to insist on how very important Eccleston was in the part and say how much I loved him as The Ninth Doctor. While he wasn’t a fan of the original series, did just one year and can sometimes come across a bit grumpy or standoffish, he made people sit up and take notice because here was a well-known actor with an enviable film resume that chose to ’slum it’ on a Sci-Fi TV show that had been a source of mirth for decades. Big risk for an actor but you’ve got to gamble big to win big. As for accusations of his slightly spiky personality – not everyone is as outgoing as Tennant, it’s not entirely fair to compare the two. Just because they’re both card-carrying members of this elite club doesn’t mean they will have the same experience or outlook while playing the part. A lot of actors are surprisingly shy and don’t come off that friendly in person. Don’t diss Chris – he’s an essential component of why the programme is back on the air and so popular.)

I don't need to think of a clever caption. That T-shirt says it all.

I don't need to think of a clever caption. That T-shirt says it all.

For instance, what makes Tennant’s first year so very wonderful and unique is not the episodes themselves, although there’s a lot of great ones, but a particular part of the DVD special features where he films his family watching ‘The Christmas Invasion’ – his debut episode (and the induction of the annual Christmas ‘Who’).  He’s excited and nervous, awaiting the response of his typical Scottish family. His Mum makes a running commentary on the action (”There’s Mickey at work!”), someone else (his Auntie, I think) is telling her to pipe down, his Dad is sitting in the designated ‘Dad Chair’; paper crown perched on his head and laughing at the useless attempts to quiet his wife.  This could be loads of peoples’ families at Christmas – sitting around, watching telly while digesting a huge meal and ’shush-ing’ those talking over the programme . It just so happens that a member of this family has taken on one of the most famous roles on TV and his life is about to change. Of course, this is before Tennant inevitably had to get a wee bit more protective of his privacy and the privacy of his loved ones but watching them witness their son/uncle/nephew go from ‘that bloke from that thing’ to fully-fledged pop-culture icon is really endearing. I appreciate that he filmed and shared the moment. My Mum does the running commentary thing too, I think most Mums do. It’s hot-wired into their DNA or something.

And they don’t give him a pass just because now he’s The Tenth Doctor, a magazine cover-boy and a bona fide celeb from the moment he bursts out of the TARDIS; not a chance! When a certain purposely-bad play on the title is uttered by a character, there’s “Oh dear’s!” and groaning. There’s also criticism of his lack of navigation skills (”You’re not the best driver are you?”). Hysterical. It makes sense that Tennant is so seemingly down to earth (no purposely-bad pun intended) if these are the people that surround him, that have a hand in forming his positive attitude and helped him accept the fact that, yes, he IS a little boggle-eyed. He’s a normal guy in an extraordinary situation but that giddy normalcy is what viewers are drawn to.

Christmas at David Tennant’s House – The Moment When You Become Very, Very Famous But Your Family Still Makes Fun Of You And Groans At The Terrible Puns On Your Show:

(Watch till 4:48 for the ‘Mum and Dad’ review of their sons’ first episode. It’s classic.  As much as I do like Tennant, he can’t take the pole position in my heart away from Tom Baker. However, I think I may have a crush on Tennant’s Dad. *’DT’s Dad for Doctor Number Twelve!!!’*)

This one goes to 11...(Had to be done!)

This one goes to 11... (Had to be done!)

I have faith that Matt Smith will be a great Doctor. The show is the BBC’s jewel; Steven Moffat is a very, very smart man, a worthy successor to The Honourable Russell T Davis (Who I will also miss dearly. Much love, Russ, even though you made me cry with the whole ‘Flowers for Algernon’ story-line for Donna. You owe me toilet-roll, Mister!) Knowing that The Moff gave up writing a script for Spielberg to take the job as show runner means the love and commitment is there.  It’s in the safest of hands and I doubt they’d give Smith the part if there was even the slightest chance he’d be awful. I urge all the Tenth Doctor devotees to give the new guy a fair shake (A fair shake is at least 3 episodes in scientific TV time ratio measurement) and continue to watch after Tennant leaves.  When my man Baker left, I thought I’d never love again but Davison did win me over. And at 7 years of age, I wasn’t as forgiving as I am now. (Never you mind how old I am, nosey-parker. Ah hell, I’m 33. Jesus did his best work at 33 so it’s cool)

David Tennant - "Seriously! Please! Listen to me!! I need to leave! I want to try new challenges in my career!" Insane 10th Doctor Fan Monster - "We shall keep you here, Doctor. FOREVER..."

David Tennant - "Seriously! Please! Listen to me!! I need to leave! I'm grateful but I want to try new challenges in my career!!!" Insane10thDoctorFanMonster - "We shall keep you here, Doctor. FOREVER..."

Where Smith has the proverbial big shoes to fill is the way he’ll publicly handle what being The Doctor entails; the decent way to deal with fans and autograph hunters, and how to tell the difference between the two. To decipher who is crazy about the show and who’s just plain old crazy, in his everyday life. To take gentle digs at it, without coming off as superior or snotty. This is the stuff that Tennant was superb at and he has set that bar very high. This is now what the punters expect, right or not. The biggest reason some actors become married to one particular role is because they never stop moaning and fussing to any available ear about how everyone only sees them as That Role. Waa, waa, waa. Whiners are wieners, man and I don’t want to hear it – go call a Waaaambulance, mate. I have every confidence that Tennant will thrive in his post-’Who’ career, mainly because he has embraced and owned his Doctor-Era and, for the most part, has avoided bitching about the downside. He’s earned the goodwill and people who have enjoyed him as The Doctor will look forward to seeing him in other things now and will continue to support him. I’m very sure of this; so sure that if I’m wrong – I’ll eat my floppy, Fourth Doctor hat, with some Fifth Doctor celery on the side.

The Man, The Myth, The Scarf. The Fourth Doctor.

The Man, The Myth, The Scarf. The Fourth Doctor.

I wish Smith the best of luck and am pulling for him to be a huge success; he’s a good actor and I’m looking forward to seeing him in the role. Although, it did my ego no favours whatsoever to realize he would be the first actor in the part who is younger than me but that’s my issue and it won’t matter anyway when I watch his Doctor as I regress to about 10-years-old when I see that Blue Box. There’s some prejudice against him due to his age but that opens the door for an interesting slant on other characters not taking this Doctor seriously at first (what do you wanna bet that someone calls him ‘Junior’ at some stage?) Like how in the past, the writers made plot points of Tennant’s lankiness and Eccleston’s ears.

"I may have ears that create enough of a breeze to blow cards around and make a mess, but my next incarnation won't have a bum. So that's fair"

"I may have ears that create enough of a breeze to blow a deck of cards around and make a mess, but my next incarnation won't have a bum. So that's fair"

It puts The Eleventh Doctor’s physical identity at odds with his actual experience because he’s really 900-plus years old. I think that’ll be great fun. The ‘Time Crash’ dialogue (from the 1st clip) illustrates a universal truth; young boys can’t wait to be older and grown men always want to be boys. Here’s a being that can actually make that happen for himself. It does make a lot of sense. It’s also an angle that kids can truly identify with. I remember being small and stupid grown-ups being dismissive of my opinions, getting waited on before me in shops though I was ahead of them in the queue, telling me what to do and how to behave when they themselves broke all their own rules. I reckon they’ll love Smith’s Doctor for that aspect.  In fairness, it’s all about what the kids think. It’s really their programme now, I’m just happy I get to go along for the ride.

If I can be so bold to make a suggestion to Mr. Smith, (I’m pretending that he would actually read this or give a damn about what I think, even though he should. Like every other person with a television and an interest in Sci-Fi who is on the ‘Net – I’m givin’ ya pearls here, kid. Gosh, aren’t you lucky? Lucky, lucky you!) the best way to handle the transition is to take a leaf out of Tennant’s play-book. Not in terms of onscreen performance but rather to take the job seriously enough to have fun with it – off-screen.


Nobody's having as much fun as this guy.

Most of us won’t get the chance to get paid to play at fighting evil aliens or time travelling or flying a TARDIS or have an endless stream of beautiful travelling companions and be the hero that saves the day.  So, as you’re the Chosen One, please, for Gawd’s sake – have a blast with it all and throw yourself into this with every fiber of your being. Don’t be the guy who wins the lottery and miserably goes on with his daily grind. Everyone secretly hates those people.  Swot up on your ‘Who’ history as you will be tested on it and it’s best to be prepared. Talk about the show and the fans in glowing terms and then do a funny sketch on some late-night show poking good-natured fun at it, them and yourself.  In doing this, the Who- Hungry masses will take you into their collective bosom quicker than you can say, “Colin Baker got a bad rap, the poor man”.

I can’t guarantee that it’ll sweep peoples’ minds of your closest predecessor’s legacy, and it shouldn’t, but with a little bit of work, you’ll be just fine.  Then, further down the road, there will be tearing of cloth and gnashing of teeth when you decide to lay down your Sonic Screwdriver and it’ll be the new guy’s turn to get roasted while he earns his place. (Tennant’s Dad perhaps? I’m starting to seriously like that idea.)

Matt Smith Interview.

I like this Smith fellow – he’s got a striking but quirky presence and not knowing all that much about him piques my interest to see him aboard the TARDIS. He’s got a mellow way in his manner and speech; a change from the breakneck, Mercurial, metabolism-like-a-blast-furnace quality that Tennant has, so it’s good that he’ll most likely be very different. I can only hope that despite Smith’s youth and ‘alternative rocker’ looks, they don’t give into the temptation to make next year the ‘Smooching-est’ series/season ever.  Sorry, I can’t help it; I hate the new trend of ‘Kissing-Tag Doctor’. He’s not a cosmic Don Juan, he’s not Capt. Kirk (I like Kirk, but…) and he’s not the milkman of eye-glint legend. (Hmmm, is there any chance you know a woman by the name of Nadya Suleman, Doctor? That’s about the only way to explain that freak show. But, I digress..) It makes the very, very odd time when he actually DOES feel something romantic for a character so much less special. ‘The Aztecs’ is especially memorable for the plot line of The First Doctor getting engaged – against his will naturally, but there was *something* to it nonetheless. Wow, I am such an uber-geek. I can’t cook either. Thank Odin I have a cute bum.

Matt Smith debuts as the 11th Doctor Christmas 09 - or so I'm lead to believe. Give the lad a chance. He'd watch if you were the New Doctor. Probably.

Matt Smith debuts as The Eleventh Doctor New Year's 2010 - or so I'm lead to believe. Give the lad a chance. He'd watch you if you were the New Doctor. Probably.

On a final note; whoever is in charge of the new ‘Batman’ franchise, if you’re going to use The Riddler character for one of the upcoming movies; cast Tennant. Bottom line, there really isn’t any other actor who has all the qualities necessary for it.

(Who am I kidding? I wanted Alexis Denisof for ‘Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic’ and nobody listened. Nobody listens to me and quite rightly too; I may be absolutely correct but I’m just a chick with a computer, a website and a few festival flicks under her belt. For now…)

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Sam Tweedle April 9th, 2009

Brilliant write up. Makes me think that this is the time that I should finally write the article on the final days of Bill Hartnell that I’ve been meaning to write forever. The time is probably right.

Did you hear the rumour that Matt Smith’s first companion is Donna’s grandfather? Apparently he’s going to be going travelling with the Doctor in some upcoming adventures.

Brenda Burnley April 10th, 2009

An altogether brilliant write up. Thoroughly enjoyed reading every word. Keep the articles coming ! Look forward to reading them each week.

Howard April 11th, 2009

Loved the article. I may be a new Dr. Who fan but even I recognize that an actor that looks to be in his mid 20’s vs another who looks to be 40 or so doesn’t make much difference when the character is 900. In fact, when you go back in Dr. Who history, I’ll bet there wasn’t any actor who looked a day over 250. No complaints about youth then. I agree, let’s give the new guy a chance.

Erin April 12th, 2009

Awwww, that’s great news, Sam. I love Bernard Cribbins. He damn near broke my heart at the end of that year’s finale. That sad, teary face! And they gave him the funniest line too – “She won’t let me have a web-cam. She says they’re naughty.” Tea-from-nose-spoutingly funny! Don’t tell me any more though; I’m trying to enjoy what surprises I can now that I know the regen. is coming. With ‘Who’, it’s common knowledge (worst luck) but spoilers in general are a big downside of working in this field. You tend to hear all the twists before you get to see them – had the endings of ‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘Fight Club’ and others ruined for me that way, which was utter balls, if you’ll excuse the phrase. I’m excited to read about Good Old Billy Hartnell, that curmudgeonly old crank. I say that with affection.

Howard, I like your thinking. The point is – it’s meant to be upsetting when a Doctor dies. If the audience is cheering for you to buy the space-farm, then it’s a very bad sign indeed. As in, when Colin Baker’s Doc popped off. Till the end of my fan-days, I will stick up for Colin’s 6th Doc. Lots of behind the scenes politics and rubbish during his time or so I’ve read, which will always squeeze the life out of creative projects. More or less, all the other actors got to be a part of a show that the people working on it wanted to succeed. Colin Baker had the unfortunate luck to be part of a show that everyone wanted to fail.

PS – Thumbs up for ‘Planet of the Dead’. I don’t do reviews but I liked it. Even though it’s business as usual with the kissing of foxy ladies, which I’m beginning to suspect Tennant has written into his contract. “He will knock four times”. Ahhh, that’ll be Smith then, on the dressing room door – ‘Oi, you, Tennant. OUT!” :-)

If you like reading funny, witty ‘Who’ reviews, check out Marie Phillips’ blog –

rich scales September 23rd, 2009

Im one of the picky ones I guess, but I do think David Tennant was terrific (although his character is the 11th doctor not the 10th, he regenerated to himself, but he did regenerate.), but some of the storys were baffling as his character was at times. Ok, why did he say , about the daleks of all things “you commited genocide” to his “twin”. We know for a fact he WOULDNT have had anything but joy in getting rid of Davros and the Daleks, basically because they want to murder the human race for nothing………….sorry that was a weak softy softy moment. Also , why oh why can a timelord use regeneration energy to heal themselves ………..but we have seen 9 changes? if this is the case..why didnt a previous character do it? seems like a cop out excuse………..which unfortunately RTD tended to do a lot (remember the master and everyone chanting “doctor doctor” then missing out on a year of everything…………god that was lame)

Lula Lara January 1st, 2010

sorry, but I find this ‘new’ doctor SO ugly (understatement)!!! and that interview on YouTube: I want to hit him, don’t know why… he irritates me: so that was me watching the doctor… sadly…

Jenny January 3rd, 2010

I love Tennant lots and lots, and many tears were shed during End of Time part 2, but I really am excited for Matt Smith. One thing I think I am going to miss is most of the other characters, which seem unlikely to come back. It’s like we’re getting a brand new show, unlike the switch from Chris to David. But I do like Matt, I think he’s adorable and he’ll do a splendid job.

Also, I’m all for Alexis Denisof for the next 007.

[...] I watched Ten’s finale (which didn’t disappoint) and found some interesting thoughts here. Really, the reason Ten was so much fun is that it was the first Doctor who really took New Who out [...]

Daniel November 17th, 2011

David Tennant needs to regenerate as the 11th doctor

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