More Relatable Than Ever?

Review of The Doctors Revisited - Tenth Doctor

It still feels really weird to me to think of David Tennant's Tenth Doctor as an "old" or "past" Doctor. Since it was his episodes that cemented my fandom, and I don't think of myself as having been a fan for very long, even though it's been five years now, at a gut level I can't help but think of them as quite recent. Yet it's been nearly four years since Tennant's last appearance. So it was with a strange combination of "walk down memory lane" and "didn't we just get these episodes?" that I watched as BBC America Revisited my Doctor.

Whether it's because this Doctor isn't yet very far removed, or some other reason, the list of interviewees in this episode is longer than any other: Doctor actors David Tennant and Peter Davison; Companion actors Freema Agyeman, Noel Clarke, and John Barrowman; Companion family member actors Camille Coduri, Bernard Cribbins, and Jacqueline King; supporting character actors David Morrissey, Dan Starkey, and Adam Garcia; writers Neil Gaiman and Tom McRae; and producers Marcus Wilson and Steven Moffat. All had glowing things (as always) to say about this particular Regeneration, and how he differed from all who came before.

The Tenth Doctor was a starkly different man from the Ninth. Less someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he had an easier manner—like someone you'd know, it's pointed out—and was someone the audience could relate to, in terms of both fashion sense and mode of speech. Yet the darkness was still just under the surface. He doesn't cut his enemies much slack ("no second chances"), nor the friends who have disappointed him. As Tennant himself put it, "He can destroy a government by whispering in someone's ear. That's the essence of the Doctor. That sums him up."

When the special turned to Companions, it gave a brief overview of Rose and how her relationship with the Tenth Doctor changed from the one she'd had with the Ninth. However, as she had already been given some serious mindshare in the previous episode, much more time was spent with Martha and Donna.

Martha often gets short shrift among the fan base (I'll admit I never completely warmed to her myself), but was actually a damn good Companion. She saved not only the Doctor, but the entire world, and grew up enough in the process to assert herself and get out of a toxic relationship (sorry, Doctor, but pining for Rose didn't make you very good company). As actress Agyeman points out, Martha is the only modern Companion to date to leave the Doctor on her own terms, which tells you something about her strength of character.

Then there was Donna. She came along just when the Doctor needed a buddy—and a conscience. She served admirably in both roles, and the Doctor in turn took her on adventures her dreamer's heart really needed to blossom. The two click on some important, basic level, and just "get" each other—which leads to the humorous bickering that makes them sound like the stereotypical old, married couple. The perfection of their relationship makes her departure all the more tragic.

I'll admit I was surprised when one more person was added to the list of the Tenth Doctor's Companions, and it wasn't anyone from the Specails. It was Wilf, Donna's granddad. It makes a certain amount of sense, given how their paths were so intertwined, but I certainly hadn't expected it. Who doesn't like to see a little love for Wilf, though?

The third segment moved on to enemies, choosing only two. First was the Cybermen. Since Ten's first season was only the second of the post-Hiatus era, it's no surprise that the second major Big Bad to return from pre-Hiatus times cropped up at that point with much fanfare, and a new backstory. Then there were the Sontarans, another throwback. It's the Sontaran aggression and lust for war that makes them frightening, though it's perhaps sheer numbers that pose the largest threat.

Summarizing this Doctor, the episode notes how broad a range his personality exhibits. He has a distinct romantic side, and can be silly and charming. At the drop of a hat, though, he can turn dark and scary, flashing that alien nature to rip your comfortable view of him to shreds. He's the ultimate swirl of light and darness.

Capping off the special, Moffat introduces the episodes to follow. This time it's the two-part finale to Series Four, The Stolen Earth and Journey's End. RTD spent a fair amount of time patting himself on the back at what was effectively the end of his term as showrunner, but Moffat brushes that aside as his due. I'm not quite that forgiving, but there are certainly some interesting spectacles here, not least of which is the cliffhanger between episodes. It came as such a shock at the time it even made the news (in the UK). Whatever you may think of it, there's no arguing it made a splash.

It's no secret the Tenth Doctor holds a special place in my heart; I'll always be a little biased toward him. Even objectively, though, I think anyone who enjoys the show but hasn't seen Ten should give him a whirl. He's the kind of bloke you can imagine having a pint with—even if it is on some far-off moon just before a deadly alien siege begins.

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