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Today marks ten years since David Tennant’s first series as the Doctor - it’s ten years of the Tenth Doctor. The Tenth Doctor is one of my favourites, and one who holds a special place in my heart; he was, after all, my first proper Doctor, and the incumbent Time Lord when I really grew to love Doctor Who.
To celebrate, then, I’ve picked out my Top Ten Tennant… times. (There isn’t really a good synonym for “scenes” that preserves the alliteration, sadly.)
1) “Did you miss me?”
The very first time we saw the Tenth Doctor was at Christmas - and what a present it was. Anticipation has been building for nearly forty minutes when he finally appears - yes, we’ve had teases here and there, but never a proper look. As the Doctor enters, it’s immediately a moment of triumph; the Doctor’s arrival is signified as we begin to understand the Sycorax, breaking down a boundary that the rest of our heroes had faced so far.
Right from the off, the Doctor is charming. It’s a lot of fun to see him on screen, whether it’s casually dismissing the Sycorax so he can catch up with Rose, Mickey and Harriet Jones, or destabilising everything the Sycorax had achieved so far with just the push of a button. The simple fact of the matter is that David Tennant as the Doctor is a genuinely charismatic and entertaining character - where Chris Eccleston last year was more withdrawn, making the audience approach him, David Tennant’s Doctor has been designed to be loved, right from the off.
2) “Hello, Sarah-Jane.”
School Reunion, by Toby Whithouse, was the first time that the modern Doctor Who had ever really interacted with it’s past. The return of Sarah Jane was a huge deal - one of, if not the, most popular companions ever (and, rather wonderfully, she remains as such to this day) was going to be in Doctor Who again!
There’s a real sense of legacy to this scene, and a palpable poignancy; both Tennant and Sladen do amazing work in this episode, but it’s particularly clear here. It was lovely to see the Doctor and Sarah, running up and down corridors together, just like they used to. (On a related note, David Tennant’s sheer enthusiasm as he sees K9 for the first time in this episode is one of my first Doctor Who memories.)
3) “Rose Tyler, I - “
I think this was probably an obvious one - after all, it’s one of the Tenth Doctor’s most iconic moments, there’s no way it wouldn’t make this list, no matter which parallel world you’re on!
It’s the culmination of a two year plot arc, and it is heartbreaking. All of us in the audience have watched these two characters travel together, and grow together, ever since the show returned; it was with the Tenth Doctor that we really saw the depth of feeling these two characters had for each other. And yet, in the end, the Doctor and Rose were ripped apart from each - it was cruel, it was unforgettable, and it was wonderfully written by the fantastic Russell T Davies.
4) “I’m not just a Time Lord. I’m the last of the Time Lords.”
Gridlock, I have always maintained, is something of an underrated gem. There’s a lot of clever things going on beneath the surface, which it doesn’t really get recognition for - people typically remember it for the traffic jam storyline, or the cameo appearance by the Macra, as opposed to it’s ruminations on faith and community.
What it also has, though, is an extremely poignant look at the Doctor’s past, and the effects of the Time War; rather cleverly, Russell T Davies centred this exposition around the Doctor initially lying about Gallifrey. It was a nice twist to bring something new to this backstory, and gave us an added extra little bit of insight into the Doctor’s character.
5) “Let’s hope we can find our heroes in smaller places…”
There are a lot of pretty fantastic moments in @paulcornell‘s seminal episodes, Human Nature and The Family of Blood; frankly, I could have picked out any number of them, and they all would have been at home on this list. (This one in particular is pretty great.) However, there’s something quite charming about this scene, which is why I chose it above the others.
Here, the Doctor is not the Doctor. He’s John Smith, a human man - a teacher at a boys school in 1913. The Doctor used the chameleon arch to rewrite his genetic data and become a human, in an attempt to avoid the pursuit of the Family of Blood. In essence, the character in this scene is an entirely different man - and yet, right here, we see the same ingenuity and heroism we expect from the Doctor shining through. Apparently, and quite understandably, this was a very difficult scene to set up and stage - but I’m so glad that the production team carried it out, because it is astonishingly effective.
This concludes part one of this post - check back at 1pm to view part two, where I’ve selected another five brilliant moments from the Tenth Doctor’s tenure.
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