I watched the finale of one of the greatest character performances ever seen on the small screen.
I’m not whistling Dixie, either.
Some could argue that portraying a character that was created almost 50 years ago, has had 9 actors play the part previously, countless episodes, scripts, and books written bout the character, and a fan base that rivals Star Trek could be almost a cookie-cutter experience. But when the actor who plays the character has a lifelong love of the character and a diverse acting experience which includes playing lead roles in the Royal Shakespeare Company, well then a national institution is born.
- The character: Doctor Who
- The Actor: David Tennant
How good was David Tennant as Doctor Who?
For starters, David Tennant made 75 television appearances during the 2009 holiday season leading up to the BBC airing of his final two-part episode. Enough airtime where people thought Tennant would have had to have been a Time Lord to make all the appearances.
Dr. Who has not only been rebooted as a franchise, but has evolved from a cult classic to a National Instituition.
Doctor Who Key Ingredients:
1) Most of that can probably be attributed to the fact that the special effects finally caught up to the writer’s imagination. There hasn’t been any styrofoam set parts falling over during taping since the show rebooted in 2005.
2) Budget – the BBC was willing to put more money into the project than the glorified mix & match set parts.
3) The new, old story – the stories are complex yet tangible, historical yet applicable, outreaching yet interwoven. Classic characters such as The Master, The Time Lords, Daleks, Cybermen make appearances, typically with homages to their original looks and plot lines. Fans before the reboot appreciate the authenticity; fans after the reboot learn to appreciate them for the first time. When Tennant interacts with them, his and appreciation for their history radiates in his face.
3) Emotions: Love & Sex & Passion – the doctor showed more than analytical praise for his traveling companions. A rumored myth was that the Doctor gets “younger” with every generation. The writers seemed to have taken full advantage of it. The Doctors have gotten younger, and it hasn’t been lost on female audiences that Tennant caught the eyes of ladies. Tennant not only was more gregarious and flirtatious, but The doctor actually fell in l-l-lo…lo-lo…with Rose and was heartbroken when she was gone.
4) About the people – a page out of the Star Trek – The Next Generation playbook – The rebooted Dr. Who franchise pay more attention to relationships than did their predecessors.
5) David Tennant – When Christopher Eccleston originally took over the Role as the Doctor when the franchise booted, he brought vitality and flare and proved to the BBC that Doctor Who could once again become relevant. When David Tennant took over, the show exploded in popularity like nothing it had experienced in its history. A classically trained actor with a childhood love for Doctor Who, Tennant exuded a zest, wit, and intertwining charm that displayed a range of emotion never before seen in the Doctor. For the first time, the Doctor looked and felt as though he walked with the natives of Earth not because he had to fix his ship but because he fell in love with the human race. With his portrayal, the Doctor’s ideology was more identifiable. And because of it, the stories were able to go deep into thought as well as emotion, so long as The Doctor winked, smiled, and saved the day.
There were moments in Tennant’s run as Doctor Who where the philosophy in the script could have been published and placed along side some of the greatest texts in history.
I’m still not whistling Dixie.
Doctor Who is now a national treasure once again in the UK. The US got Alan Greenspan and the New York Yankees, the UK got Doctor Who. I’m just glad we get to share.
Take a listen to David Tennant describing his final episode as the Doctor:
At this point I’m a little scared for David Tennant’s future. The good news is that he got to star in a pilot for an upcoming US TV show. The bad news is that it was for NBC. Either way, Tennant will be brilliant. He’s officially my favorite actor.
As for what I learned from David Tennant:
If my days don’t exude this type of effort, they’re not good days. He’s a standard for how I should live my life.