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
3.4/3.5: Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks **½
3.6: The Lazarus Experiment
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)