David Tennant’s 10th Doctor is to the new series what Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor is to the classics; an immensely popular and charismatic figure who can portray both the light and dark sides of the Time Lord, who is synonymous with the show and the role in the minds of the casual viewers. David Tennant’s time playing the part also developed the concept of the Doctor as a kind of manic pixie dream guy which began with Paul McGann in 1996. These are the episodes that in my view stand out as being the best from 10’s era.
Although this episode focuses more on Sally Sparrow, played brilliantly by Carey Mulligan, David Tennant delivers a chilling warning of the Weeping Angels from across the years to Sally and Larry, as a DVD extra hidden in each of Sally Sparrow’s DVDs. The 10th Doctor’s facial expression when Sally gives him the information he needs to survive in the final scene of the episode has been turned into a meme, and for the briefest moment, we get some 10/Sally Sparrow ship tease as the Doctor seems to consider taking her with him. The scene where the Doctor talks to Billy (Michael Obiora) shows, in my opinion, the Doctor’s arrogance and disconnect from the people around him, which would prove a near-fatal flaw in future episodes.
This episode is phenomenal because it completely subverts every trope the new series had come to rely on and showed the Doctor at his most powerless. After a futuristic tour bus is stranded on an uninhabitable world, something starts knocking on the walls and one of the passengers begins to repeat every word that is said. Everything the Doctor does turn against him, to the point where the other passengers nearly throw him out of the bus at the episode’s climax. David Tennant shows us his Doctor’s major flaw which is his arrogance, as well as being by turns afraid of the creature and the other passengers and enraged at their reaction to him. This episode is perhaps the best example of the “anyone can be a hero” theme of the Russell T. Davies era as the hostess (Rakie Ayola) makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the Doctor and the other passengers from the creature.
The heartbreaking scene from this episode where Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) says goodbye to the 10th Doctor was voted the greatest moment in sci-fi by the readers of SFX magazine. I included it on this list because it was just such an iconic moment, as the Doctor must say goodbye to the love of his life. The 10th Doctor’s relationship with Rose set the standard for all other Doctor/companion relationships in Doctor Who’s new series, and while 11 and Amy and 12 and Clara come close, no other TARDIS team has for me captured the boundless enthusiasm and spirit of adventure that 10 and Rose did. In this episode, the Doctor attempts to save Rose by sending her into Pete’s world but she returns and doggedly stays by the Time Lord’s side. David Tennant’s scream when Rose is nearly pulled into the void is a spectacular piece of acting.
The Family of Blood/Human Nature
In this episode, the Doctor becomes human and lives the life of a teacher in 1913 England with no memory of his adventures. Over the course of these two episodes the human Doctor, John Smith, falls in love with Joan Redfern (Jessica Hynes) a nurse at the school where he teaches. Meanwhile, the Family of Blood terrorize the school and the surrounding town to get the Doctor’s remaining regenerations. There is quite a powerful musing on the nature of courage here, as war looms on the horizon and John Smith must choose whether to turn back into the Doctor or live a life with Joan Redfern. David Tennant’s acting as the terrified John Smith is nothing short of miraculous. In contrast to most Doctor Who, here the war is something that must be faced, which can also be seen in John Smith’s choice to become the Doctor again. We also see that the Doctor was well capable of destroying the Family all along, but chose to hide from them out of kindness, perhaps the major theme of Doctor Who’s new series.
Famous for the return of Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) this episode saw the Doctor and his companions investigate some strange occurrences at a local high school where the Doctor runs into Sarah Jane again. I had never seen Elisabeth Sladen play Sarah Jane until this episode aired. Her performance absolutely stole the show. From Sarah Jane and Rose’s bickering which turned into friendship, to the touching nature of the Doctor’s relationship with his companions seen through both women’s eyes, to the unctuous and manipulative headmaster/alien leader played superbly by Anthony Head, this episode is for me the very best of the 10th Doctor and of the new series as a whole. Bonus points for K-9 returning and shooting down a pack of winged bat people. The Doctor’s goodbye to Sarah Jane was utterly heartwarming, and I had never seen the classic series at that point. I also liked how Mickey (Noel Clarke) decided to join the Doctor and Rose on their travels by the end to prove he was more than just “the tin dog”.
Which 10th Doctor episodes are your favourite? Have I missed any out? Please leave a comment below and remember, THE LAWS OF TIME ARE MINE, AND THEY WILL OBEY ME!