It’s 10 years since Tenant first appeared on our screens as the 10th Doctor. If one Googles ‘List of top Doctor Whos’, David Tennant’s much-loved 10th Doctor frequently vies for top place against Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor, and quite often he wins.
David Tennant is loved by the masses – in particular the fangirls – for his witty tenure laced in grief. It was a tenure characterised by his love for Rose Tyler, his banter with Donna Noble, the frequent return of classic-era monsters, and a tumultuous amount of grief. Boy, was it a sob-fest.
But David Tennant’s 10th Doctor, in hindsight, sucks – though, admittedly, this could probably be argued for every single Doctor thus far. But he does suck for a lot of reasons, most of which swirl around the character of Rose Tyler.
Theirs was a Doctor/companion dynamic quite unalike anything the show had seen previously, and one which the fangirls gripped onto and refused to let go of. Even now, five years since his official departure, fans of Tennant’s Doctor harp on about ‘the good old days’ and talk about the show as though it began and ended with his Doctor.
But it didn’t. Doctor Who was around for a long time prior to David Tennant, and it had some pretty brilliant Doctors before him.
Tom Baker was loveable; William Hartnell was grumpy; Paul McGann was mysterious. But most of them were brilliant.
And so, too, were the Doctors since Tennant: Matt Smith was witty and heartbreaking simultaneously; John Hurt was charismatic and broken; Peter Capaldi was dark with a heart(s) of gold.
For many fans David Tennant was ‘their’ Doctor, but this article is going to explore why he isn’t the pinnacle of Doctor Who. The 10th Doctor may have been a fan favourite, but surely all Doctors are, albeit simply with different fan groups.
His overuse of catchphrases
Let’s face it, the 10th Doctor had a lot of catchphrases.
‘Wibbly Wobbly, Timey-Wimey!’
‘Trust me … I’m the Doctor.’
‘I’m so sorry…’
‘What? What? WHAT?’
It’s fair enough that a Doctor will have a catchphrase – after all, it’s something that will help viewers to recognise the distinct Doctors, especially those that are not regular viewers, and almost all of the Doctors have had something of a similar effect – but such an abundance of phrases is quite unnecessary.
The ‘Allons-y!’ catchphrase, in particular, felt like fan pandering once the Doctor had accomplished his goal of meeting someone named Alonso – surely every subsequent rendition of this incessant phrase becomes obsolete?
Admittedly, the 10th Doctor didn’t use the phrase timey-wimey as much as the 11th Doctor, but he did coin the term, so the blame lies with him and him alone (well, Steven Moffat is also to blame) but his frequent use of ‘I’m so sorry’ quickly became annoying. It’s safe to say that he was sorry about a lot of things.
He said it over 120 times, in fact, as this video nicely illustrates:
After watching that, ‘sorry’ doesn’t even sound like a real word anymore. Sorry about that.
The fact that Rose overshadows EVERY other companion
The 10th Doctor was joined by some pretty fantastic companions. Donna Noble was simply a delight throughout the fourth series; Jack Harkness was as charismatic as ever when he returned in series 3 and then again in series 4; and Wilfred Mott was pretty damn amazing. Even Martha became engaging, once she stopped mooning over the Doctor.
But every one of these companions are forgotten about whenever a fangirl mentions Rose. People seem to forget that the 10th Doctor had other companions, and other dynamics that often worked better than that of him and Rose.
The chemistry between David and Catherine is unrivalled, and it’s only the recent relationship between Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman which shows signs of eclipsing it.
Surely Donna is the perfect companion, in that she and the Doctor were simply just mates. But she is forgotten because of the Doctor’s so-called ‘love’ for Rose.
Even when Rose is absent, she persists throughout the 10th Doctor’s tenure. She entirely overshadows Martha for the entirety of series 3. The finale of series 4 – and Donna Noble’s heartbreaking goodbye – is ruined by the prolonged and repeated goodbye for Rose. Even the 10th Doctor’s regeneration is stalled by him wanting to see Rose one last time.
Perhaps, then, it’s for the best that Billie Piper only returned as the Moment in the 50th anniversary special, rather than Rose herself. Another (!) reunion between Rose and the 10th Doctor would have ruined what was a stunning celebration.
Fans need to remember that the 10th Doctor had 11 other companions.
The fact that the show survived beyond him
Steven Moffat has publicly stated that the stakes were high when he took over Doctor Who back in 2010 – indeed, the show could very well have ended had Matt Smith not filled those large boots bequeathed by David Tennant.
But surely such a notion is absurd. Doctor Who had survived nine other Doctors, so even if Matt Smith didn’t work he could have been quickly replaced and the show would have easily continued.
Many thought that nobody would be able to replace David, but three equally brilliant Doctors have appeared since his departure and the show is still as strong as ever. In fact, it is pretty much a given it’ll be on air for at least another five years.
Russell T Davies recently said:
‘It’s now impossible for it to ever be axed. It’s certainly heading that way. Could you imagine if it was axed now? There would be uproar in the streets. Twitter would be set on fire.’
Even Davies himself has admitted that Doctor Who will continue for an unmeasurable amount of time, showing that Matt Smith proved the naysayers wrong by entirely eclipsing Tennant’s performance. David Tennant … David Tennant who?
Series three is just … terrible
David Tennant’s debut series may have been a complete success, but its followup was the worst series to date. Having a terrible series surely means he sucks as a Doctor, right?
It is positively a dire run with nary a good episode. Yes, ‘Blink’ is brilliant, and ‘Utopia’ is stunning, but that’s about it. Even the return of the Master is overshadowed by Martha’s ultimately pointless traipse across the world. And she did that entirely for the 10th Doctor. Boy, he just sucks!
Instead series 3 is characterised by mooning looks from Martha, bewildered responses from the Doctor, and a complete dedication to Rose that is quite unfair to both Martha and the viewers. Rose left – get over it.
It would have been fair enough if her departure soured the Doctor for an episode or two, but to have it course throughout the entirety of series 3 and ruin an otherwise brilliant companion is completely unjust.
When Martha returns in series 4 – and even has a turn in Torchwood – she is a completely different woman, and the companion that she would have been from the onset. If she didn’t fancy the Doctor, and if the Doctor didn’t harp on about Rose all the time, series 3 could have been much better.
Admittedly, some naff episodes such as ‘Human Nature’ and ‘The Family of Blood’ would take a lot to make them halfway decent, but having Martha not love the Doctor would have made them a hell of a lot easier to watch.
The 10th Doctor has nice hair and a cheeky smile, but that’s about it. Donna Noble had it right when she described him as ‘just a long streak of nothing, y’know, alien nothing’. He isn’t that much of a catch.
His blatant misreading of Martha’s signals
What best way to follow a much-loved companion who fell in love with the Doctor with a carbon copy, albeit one which was nowhere near as loved by the fans.
The Doctor is simply harsh to Martha throughout series 3, even if he probably didn’t mean to be. This is perhaps most noticeable in his bed scene with Martha during ‘The Shakespeare Code’.
Martha quite clearly wants more from the Doctor but he is entirely lost in his grief for Rose – going so far as saying Rose is better than Martha. He pretty much slaps Martha in the face whilst remaining entirely oblivious to her growing lust for him.
Martha quite freely gives up a large proportion of her time, nearly sees her family die, and gives up her studies and future all because of her obsession and subsequent love for the 10th Doctor.
Her tenure on the TARDIS ends when Martha recognises how unhealthy her relationship with the Doctor is – but the Doctor is still oblivious to this, even after she lays it all out for him.
What’s more, the Doctor forgets her instantly when she leaves, even though Rose lingered annoyingly for the rest of his run. And when she does pop up again, preparing to destroy the Earth to stop the Daleks’ plan, he pretty much calls her stupid and that’s it for their interaction. To top it all off, during the Doctor’s farewell tour he stops and speaks to Rose, but simply watches from afar as Martha and Mickey battle a Sontaran.
Theirs was a relationship that simply didn’t work, and one which could quite easily have been so much better if Martha didn’t fall in love with him.
Hell, if the Doctor had simply said sorry to her for how he treated her, fans may have forgiven him more. After all, he was quite taken with saying sorry …
Ultimately, because of his prolonged departure and regeneration
If Christopher Eccleston’s departure had set a tradition for overlong, drawn-out, and quite tedious regenerations, one which had continued to Tennant and then Smith, Tennant’s extremely boring swan song could quite easily be forgiven.
But he didn’t, and so it can’t.
No other Doctor has been given such a drawn-out regeneration. It was first hinted at (in universe, at least) A WHOLE YEAR before his actual departure by appearing to introduce the next Doctor.
Of course it was all a ruse, but the Doctor began to question his upcoming death in the following episode when Carmen stated his song was ending. And even after that it still took a further three episodes, and a 20-minute segment, before Tennant finally morphed into Smith.
The specials were quite unnecessary, aside from ‘The Waters of Mars’, that is. That is a brilliant episode, but the rest are rather rubbish. Even ‘The End of Time’ pales in comparison to other regeneration stories. It’s too long, for one thing. It should have been reduced to an episode and aired side-by-side with ‘The Waters of Mars’.
In the case of the 10th Doctor’s regeneration there is an abundance of fan service, which seemingly indicated that the show was ending, when obviously it wasn’t. That much fan pandering simply isn’t necessary. Smith’s departure saw the fleeting return of several monsters, yes, but aside from a brief reprieve by Karen Gillan, that was about it. And it worked so much better.
Simply for giving us some naff specials and an extremely long pre-regeneration farewell tour, the 10th Doctor positively sucks.
Do you agree that the 10th Doctor sucks? Let us know in the comments.