Just a year ago, the idea of David Tennant returning as the Doctor would have been madness. Doctor Who continues to progress, and although previous residents of the TARDIS have returned for Multi-Doctor specials, the character has never regenerated (degenerated?) into a previous incarnation of himself.
But returning showrunner Russell T. Davies has torn up the rulebook to give fans what they want: Tennant back in a sharp suit and Converse sneakers, the return of Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble, and three special episodes celebrating the 60th anniversary. year anniversary of the show.
The first of these, “The Star Beast,” will air in November. So what better time than now to look back at the Tenth Doctor’s top ten adventures?
10. The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit
Best known for the debut of the Ood, this tenth Doctor/Rose Tyler adventure focuses on a malevolent and mysterious creature known as “The Beast.” Over the course of the two-part story, we learn that the monster is “the truth behind the myth” of the devil and that his monstrous, horned face has been assimilated into human culture. When we finally see him, the beast lives up to his reputation and looks like a fugitive DOOM. Sure, the CGI might look a little strange, but we respect the ambition. Plus, the Ood are very cool aliens.
I always love it when Doctor Who experiments with his storytelling, with “Midnight” a script that would work on both stage and television. The story sees the Doctor trapped on a bus on an alien planet along with random passengers and some sort of evil force trying to force its way into their minds using crowbars.
Tennant gets to showcase his acting chops throughout, has a great supporting cast, and has some of the most truly unsettling moments in the Tenth Doctor’s series.
8. Death and the Queen
It’s always worth remembering Doctor Who is not just a TV show and there is a wide range of novels, comics and audio adventures. In 2016, David Tennant returned to the show for the first time when he and Catherine Tate returned for a series of Big Finish Adventures.
Death and the Queen is the best of the bunch, telling an imaginative story that would require too high a budget to portray in live action. No previous Big Finish experience is required to enjoy it, and if you’re curious about the audio adventures, this is a great place to start.
7. The End of Time, Parts One and Two
The Tenth Doctor era is often criticized for being too sloppy and there are many episodes where love saves the day, but even these critics wiped away a tear at the Tenth Doctor’s two-part regeneration story. Few doctors have ever pulled at the heartstrings so hard. The Doctor made a tour of his former comrades to say goodbye and admit, “I don’t want to go…”, which seemed to come equally from the Doctor and Tennant himself.
6. The water of Mars
All is not well at Bowie Base One. “The Waters of Mars” is the second special from 2009 and shows how the Doctor comes to terms with the revelation that death is imminent for him. The result is a look down a darker path for the Tenth Doctor, as he believes that as the last surviving Lord of Time, the laws of time no longer apply to him and he can change history as he sees fit.
In addition to the great characters, The Flood has a scary villain and a lot of very cool near-future sci-fi imagery.
5. The Day of the Doctor
Tennant wouldn’t be gone for too long after his regeneration, returning for 2013’s The Day of the Doctor along with Matt Smith’s Eleventh and John Hurt’s War Doctor. But even when Tennant takes the spotlight in a multi-doctor episode, he impresses, and we can’t get enough of his heated interactions with Smith.
We also got lots of fun references to Tenth Doctor episodes and the return of Billie Piper, albeit as The Moment and not Rose Tyler. The series has a long history of multi-Doctor episodes, so we suspect Tennant will return for more episodes even after his time as the Fourteenth is over.
4. Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead
Stephen Moffat was on a winning streak throughout the Tennant years and it was no surprise that he was chosen as showrunner for The Eleventh Doctor. This two-parter shows him at his best, with a high-profile villain in the Vashta Nerada (creepy astronauts later became something of a Moffat motif), the murderous setting of a planet-sized library, and the debut of Alex Kingston as River Song.
“River Song” later became a key element of recurring seasons, with the very clever twist that this first appearance is also technically her last. River dies in this episode, although as a time traveler she spends most of her time with the Doctor in future episodes. A true highlight of the show’s sixty-year run.
3. Army of Ghosts / Doomsday
Russell T. Davies chose the finale of the first season of The Tenth Doctor to plunge him into a three-way war between humanity, the Cybermen and the Daleks. The stakes – the possible extinction of humanity – couldn’t be higher, and all the storylines and character development storylines culminate in a solid blockbuster action spectacle (for a BBC budget).
But for fans, the most memorable moment isn’t an action scene, but rather the Tenth Doctor’s emotional farewell to Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler. She ends the episode trapped in a separate universe where the Doctor “burns a sun just to say goodbye”. And if their last words to each other are cruelly cut off? Sorry, there must be a little dust in the air *sniff*.
It’s perverse that Tennant barely appears in one of the best episodes of the Tenth Doctor. Blink introduces the best Doctor Who monsters in decades, the Weeping Angels, who have the simple but stunning trick of only moving when you’re not looking at them. Carey Mulligan is excellent in the lead role in the episode and there is an argument to be made that this is the scariest episode in the entire series.
“Blink” went on to win a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and was voted second best Doctor Who story ever of Doctor Who Magazine (“The Day of the Doctor” was number one). It is worth every award that comes his way.
1. The girl in the fireplace
It’s easy to forget that this was the case in the early Tennant years Doctor Who in turmoil. The revival had been a critical success, but Christopher Eccleston’s departure after a single season (and the resulting negative publicity) left Tennant with big shoes to fill. The early signs were positive, but it wasn’t until this all-timer that the audience realized that the tenth was the real hit.
“The Girl in the Fireplace” is also the kind of story that few others show Doctor Who could succeed by combining an abandoned 51st-century spaceship with 18th-century Paris, a host of murderous clockwork androids, and a touching plot that makes clever use of time travel. This would also win several awards and remains, at least for us, the best Tenth Doctor story.