Monday, 18 November 2013

Doctor Who at 50: The Tenth Doctor (2005-10)

David Tennant (1971-  ) played the Tenth Doctor in 47 episodes airing over three seasons and a subsequent series of special-length episodes. He appeared in more episodes than any Doctor since Peter Davison and had more screen-time in the role than any Doctor since Tom Baker. He also reprised the role in web minisodes and on The Sarah-Jane Adventures before returning in the 50th anniversary special. He had three long-running companions and a number of short-term ones and recurring allies. The Weeping Angels and River Song also debuted during his tenure.

The Tenth Doctor (2005-10)

Doctor Who had returned to BBC screens in March 2005 to huge ratings and critical acclaim. The BBC was pleased and commissioned two further seasons and a Christmas special in short order. However, Christopher Eccleston had announced that he was standing down at the Ninth Doctor before the season had even finished airing, prompting Russell T. Davies to have to quickly find a replacement. Whilst several actors were considering (including, according to rumour, Bill Nighy as an older Doctor) Davies's first choice was David Tennant, whom he had worked with on the ITV mini-series Casanova. Tennant, a fan of the show since childhood, did not formally audition and was instead offered the role off the cuff at a screening event. He said yes immediately.

Tennant's appearance came at the end of the finale to Eccleston's season, via a specially-filmed segment inserted into the episode months after the rest of it was shot. He then immediately began filming the 2005 Christmas special and the next season. To preserve continuity, Billie Piper continued in the role of Rose as his companion. Tennant was immediately popular, with fans and critics praising his enthusiastic and energetic performance which contrasted with Eccleston's more reserved and intense demeanour. During Tennant's first season the Cybermen also returned (for the first time since 1988's Silver Nemesis) and the season concluded with a monstrous three-way battle between humans, Daleks and Cybermen on Earth in the Torchwood Institute.

The success of the show led to the BBC requesting not just one but two spin-off shows. One would air at a later time than Doctor Who and would be darker, more adult and edgy. The other would be a children's programme. Davies had been working on an idea for an SF drama series when he was invited to take over Doctor Who, so combined this idea with Doctor Who's continuity to create Torchwood. This new series would see a secret organisation tackling alien threats to Earth whilst the Doctor was elsewhere. John Barrowman returned as Captain Jack Harkness (last seen in the final Eccleston story). The series aired for two full seasons before falling foul of reduced BBC budgets in the wake of the financial crisis: its third season, a mini-series called Children of Earth, aired to popular and critical acclaim in 2009. A fourth, Miracle Day, was a co-production with the American Starz network which aired in 2011 and was again a ratings smash, but the critical reception was more mixed. Since then the show has been on hiatus.

The Cybermen returned in Rise of the Cybermen, their first appearance for 18 years.

The second spin-off show was conceived whilst Davies was working on the second new season of Doctor Who. To complicate Rose Tyler's relationship with the Doctor, Davies wanted to bring back classic companion Sarah-Jane Smith (played by Elisabeth Sladen), who had travelled with the Third and Fourth Doctors from 1974 to 1976 as a way of demonstrating to Rose that she might not be anything special and would one day be left behind as well. Impressed by Sladen's enthusiasm and performance, not to mention the very positive fan reception to the news of her return, Davies proposed The Sarah-Jane Adventures, a new drama series for CBBC. This spin-off began airing in 2007 and finished in 2011 after five seasons, ended only by the sad news of Elisabeth Sladen's premature passing.

Back on the main show, Davies and Tennant proved a winning team. Through three full seasons of the show (from 2006 to 2008) they delivered both ratings success (frequently bringing in more than 10 million viewers per week, figures unseen since the 1970s and unheard of for a modern British drama) and critical respect, with episodes penned by Steven Moffat being particularly highly regarded. Blink, The Girl in the Fireplace and the Silence in the Library two-parter (which introduced the character of River Song) were all proclaimed as classics. The show also won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation for three out of the four years that the Tennant era was eligible. The show even finally succeeded in cracking America: SyFy dropped the show after two years, so it was transferred to BBC America. The BBC America network was rapidly gaining kudos and critical appeal and Doctor Who proved its ace calling card, delivering impressive viewers (compared to its subscription base).

Blink is the most critically highly-regarded episode since the show's return in 2005. It was written by Steven Moffat, introduced the Weeping Angels and won a Hugo Award.

After the fourth season since the show's return, it was decided to give Tennant a much-needed break. Instead of a full fifth season, a series of TV movies was commissioned. However, during the planning process both Tennant and Davies decided they wanted to leave the show. The TV movie format and the resulting greater budget allowed Davies to send Tennant out with a massive bang in a story that revisited the Time War and the Doctor's greatest enemy, the Master (now played by John Simm). Tennant spoke publicly of the difficulties of the decision and how he had wrestled with it, reflected in his final line as the Doctor: "I don't want to go!"

With the mutual departure of Tennant and Davies, Steven Moffat was appointed as showrunner. After a casting process, the role of the Doctor was given to Matt Smith. But Tennant's involvement was not over: three years later it was confirmed that Tennant and Billie Piper would return for the show's 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, to air on 23 November 2013.

Season 28/Series 2: 25/12/05, 15/4/06-8/7/06  (14 episodes)
2.X: The Christmas Invasion (1 60-minute episode) ***½
2.1: New Earth ***
2.2: Tooth and Claw ***½
2.3: School Reunion ***½
2.4: The Girl in the Fireplace ****½
2.5/2.6: Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel (2 episodes) ***
2.7: The Idiot's Lantern ***
2.8/2.9: The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit (2 episodes) ***½
2.10: Love and Monsters *
2.11: Fear Her *
2.12/2.13: Army of Ghosts/Doomsday (2 episodes) ***½

Season 29/Series 3: 15/12/06,  31/3/07-20/06/07 (14 episodes)
3.X: The Runaway Bride (1 60-minute episode) ***
3.1: Smith and Jones
3.2: The Shakespeare Code
3.3: Gridlock
3.4/3.5: Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks **½
3.6: The Lazarus Experiment
3.7: 42
3.8/3.9: Human Nature/The Family of Blood ****
3.10: Blink *****
3.11/3.12/3.13: Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords (3 episodes) ****

Season 30/Series 4: 25/12/07, 5/04/08-5/07/08, 25/12/08, 11/04/09, 15/11/09, 25/12/09, 1/1/10 (14 episodes, 5 TV movies)
4.X: Voyage of the Damned (1 60-minute episode) ***½
4.1: Partners in Crime
4.2: The Fires of Pompeii
4.3: Planet of the Ood
4.4/4.5: The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky (2 episodes)
4.6: The Doctor's Daughter
4.7: The Unicorn and the Wasp
4.9/4.10: Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead ***½
4.8: Midnight ***½
4.11: Turn Left ****
4.12/4.13: The Stolen Earth/Journey's End (2 episodes, second episode is 65 minutes) ***
4.14: The Next Doctor (1 60-minute episode) ***½
4.15: Planet of the Dead (1 60-minute episode) ***½
4.16: The Waters of Mars (1 60-minute episode) ***½
4.17/4.18: The End of Time (1 60-minute and 1 75-minute episode) ****

The Tenth Doctor regenerated at the end of The End of Time, having absorbed massive amounts of radiation in order to save the life of Wilfred Mott.

The Tenth Doctor's Companions and Recurring Allies
Rose Tyler (Billie Piper): Seasons 28, 30 (2.X-2.13, 4.11-4.13)
Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman): Seasons 29-30 (3.1-3.13, 4.4-4.5, 4.12-4.13, 4.18)
Donna Noble (Catherine Tate): Seasons 29-30  (3.X, 4.1-4.13)
Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke): Seasons 28, 30 (2.X, 2.3-2.6, 2.12-2.13, 4.12-4.13, 4.18
Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman): Seasons 29-30 (3.11-3.13, 4.12-4.13)
Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins): Season 30 (4.1, 4.12-4.13, 4.17-4.18)
Sarah-Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen): Seasons 28, 30 (2.3, 4.12-4.13, 4.18)


Paul Weimer said...

I noticed you pulled out the red stars for Blink. :)

It is probably one of the single best stories ever in Doctor Who

Anonymous said...

"Partners in Crime" was such a fun episode. Why no rating?

Adam Whitehead said...

Haven't seen it :)

dredd i knight said...

Yes great run from Tennant, and Blink is my favourite Dr story ever... The run up to it with the Family of Blood story line is also a killer story... They combine some great time travel ideas, real tension, and powerful emotional impact..

Anonymous said...

Scifi Channel's handling of the American broadcast of Doctor Who's revival was godawful. I don't know how aware of this you are in Britain but...the alleged "Scifi Channel" is basically run by a bunch of network executives that got stuck with it from other departments by their parent company. They don't actually like running a "science fiction channel".

Well, it's the whole debate about, "do we craft a perfect 'for the fans' schedule and set of original series, or, do we make stuff which is more broadly acceptable, to get higher ratings?" -- each has a valid argument to make. You can't just have the entire channel devoted to hardcore fans who know the difference between the Troughton and Pertwee.

The problem was....they had no real focus. "family programming", "women viewers", WHAT exactly? I mean you've seen their schedule: what exactly were the flagship original shows on Scifi Channel since 2005ish? They dropped Stargate, BSG turned to mush, then they made some BSG clones which failed.

Either way...well...a show about "everyday family gets superpowers" seems like "family programming" but they didn't have a show like that. Their concept of "broader" stuff was just..."Ghost Hunters" or reality programming. Just this month head of original programming Mark Stern was finally fired - this may mark a sea change in how the entire network runs.

At any rate, they mishandled the American airing of Doctor Who.

First, they needlessly made minor edits purely for squeeze in an extra commercial (They did this to their ORIGINAL programming too: they forced Stargate to stop running its full opening credits purely to get one more commercial in - was money really that tight?)

I remember it distinctly: I'd seen "The End of the World" via Canadian broadcast at my Boston-area university. Yet when that episode aired on Scifi, they...cut out the entire scene explaining the Jukebox that plays "classical music" such as Britney Spears's "Toxic". So when it later came back from commercial playing "Toxic" in the background, many of my friends were deeply confused.

--The Dragon Demands

Anonymous said...

But edits for time are at least understandable.

Rather....Doctor Who is a classic scifi staple. And maybe they still thought of it as "that show with cardboard and tinfoil props that gets run at scifi conventions" the Tenth's Doctor's first season, the show was a major hit in Britain. Fans were extatic over it. Surely, ANYONE would recognize, objectively, that it was a major property?

Instead, they aired it at bizarre times in the afternoon - like 4 to 6 PM, when everyone is either driving home or just sitting down to dinner. "Primetime" airings at 8 PM or later? No. They never put it in a good slot. Yes, by 2006 BSG was getting those slots - on Fridays. Why not air it in primetime on some other day of th week?

It felt like...they were intentionally giving it a bad timeslot just to burn it off. Why? Given that it was a hit in Britain, didn't they have to pay a lot of money for the rights to it? Wouldn't they want to get the most out of that?

I mean...god..."Doctor Who" is right up there with "Star Trek", as a franchise. And they were IGNORING it....why?

So it was a "good riddance" move when it transferred over to BBC America, and really became a flagship title for the channel over here.

But...thinking back to the Ninth/Tenth Doctor era on Scifi Channel...they were running it in a bad time slot at 4 PM, often inconsistently, and badly edited for time. The worst part in some ways that...when Scifi Channel airs stuff, even today, they put a generic 10 second trailer in front stating "A Scifi Channel Original series"...but they do that even for *blatantly imported* series such as Doctor Who. Heck, even today, they do that for Canadian imports such as Continuum and Lost Girl (in the past year Scifi/SyFy has been loosely rebuilding itself a importing better shows from Canada. Though "Defiance" is actually nice).

--The Dragon Demands

Anonymous said...

Casanova was on BBC3 not on ITV.

Aside from that a very good read.