Goodbye Tennant

This weekend saw the passing of somewhat of an icon in television.  David Tennant spent three seasons playing one of, if not the most recognizable television character in the world; the Doctor.  Say what you want about Jack Bauer or Jack Shephard or Jack Tripper (needed a third Jack,) the Doctor has been around longer and enjoys a world wide audience.  I'm not saying we Yanks can't appreciate a good show, but it's another one of those soccer/football things.  (Yes, the World Series of baseball, where America plays...America.)

Tennant played the 10th Doctor.  Beginning in 1963, Doctor Who was able to get around the problem of contracts and aging actors by transforming the character.  He's an alien, after all.  The writers created a way that he could regenerate himself, thereby continuing the story.  To date there have been eleven Doctors and eleven actors have played them.  All but two have had an on screen transformation.  The 1996 movie featured Paul McGann as the 8th doctor and then nothing until 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the 9th.  We saw Sylvester McCoy (7th) turn into McGann so we know the movie to TV cross over is canon.  We just didn't see 8 become 9.

Eccleston's run was short lived, only one season.  I was so taken by his run, having been a childhood fan of Doctor Who, that when he regenerated after one season, I was already predisposed into disliking David Tennant.  It's natural, you don't like change, but it's a part of life.  I wanted to be excited about seeing another Doctor, but I just liked Eccleston's moody, manic, jolly and action oriented Doctor so much that I was worried a new one would be back to the same old goofy, hackneyed Doctors of yore.

But Tennant proved me wrong.  He was every bit as dark and emotional as Eccleston and while his Doctor was seemingly smarter, maybe even nerdier, he was also not without his mysterious past which he rarely shared.  For four years, Tennant touched a great many lives as the Doctor, especially his companions.  Rose was always the 9th's companion and she left after one season with Tennant.  We also spent time with Mickey, Captain Jack, Sarah Jane, Martha Jones and Donna Noble.  Oh, Donna.  I dismissed her at first like I did Tennant but she grew so much as a character on the show that by her final episode I was distraught at the knowledge that she would be leaving.  Many fans responded that her story wasn't finished, but the show runners disagreed, leaving her last part to play at the very end of Tennant's run a small and insignificant role overshadowed by her own father.

Which leads me to the Doctor's final days on Earth.  I think in previous episodes, it was assumed that the Doctor, while not immortal, was at least a long lived fellow.  By the end of "The End of Time" he says he's 903 years old.  Fans of the show in previous decades must have known he was able to regenerate himself, but I wasn't privy to the media blitz (if any) surrounding the replacement actors.  I don't know if there was knowledge before hand that Baker would be replaced by Davison and when.  I have a rose-colored vision of fans being completely blind sided by the transitions; a death to their beloved Doctor only to be reminded that he can rub some dirt on it, walk it off and keep on truckin'.

But what happened with Tennant was sad, and I mean that in the literal way not in the "man, that was lame" way.  It was morbid and depressing.  It was like watching someone die.  Doctor Who stopped regular series production in 2008, this after Tennant announced he was leaving the show.  2009 saw only four specials, the last of which would see the 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith.  This meant for a whole year, we knew Tennant was gone and we only had four shows to mourn his eventual loss.  We weren't sideswiped by it.  We weren't surprised.  We were told again and again that he was leaving and we had only a couple episodes in which to celebrate how much we loved him.  It made the last 15 minutes of "The End of Time" pretty horrible to watch.

First off, he goes back to all his old major companions to say goodbye or his version of it.  He saves Martha and Mickey from being shot by a Sontaran.  He saves Luke Smith who tells Sarah Jane.  He gives a note to Captain Jack that the man about to sit next to him at a bar is named Alonso.  He gives Donna's family (at her wedding) a winning lottery ticket.  He sees Rose in 2005 and says she's going to have a great year.  Then he goes back to his TARDIS, fires it up, begins glowing a little and finally says, "I don't want to go."

A flash of yellow energy, a change in features, a bit of goofiness and a "Geronimo!" and we now have our 11th doctor.  I didn't want him to go either, but doing it this way made it hurt.  I blame Russel T. Davies.

And who knows, Matt Smith may be the best Doctor of all time.  He may be so witty and charming that inside of six episodes we'll have forgotten Tennant entirely.  I'm hopeful, but I doubt it.  Tennant will always be my Doctor.  It was Baker at first because he was the first one I watched, and had the show never revived I would have stuck with that.  But Tennant's run became, to me, a great example of what the show is and I hope Smith and Moffit take over and run with it as fast as they can.  Moffit's credited episodes were some of the best the show had.  I hope the two of them continue to make me want to watch.


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