This weekend, the 10th Doctor’s era came to a close with the conclusion of “The End of Time.”
Now, as fans across the world get ready for the Matt Smith era to begin on “Doctor Who,” we take a moment to look back on the best stories from David Tenntant’s tenure as the Doctor.
Listed here are my top eight stories from the David Tennant era.
8. The Waters of Mars
A new series story that captures the feel of a classic Patrick Troughton “base under siege” story. An isolated group of humans faces a threat from an alien virus that is carried by the water. The story evokes the sensibility and dread of the Troughton years stories with the new series’ solid effects, directing style and character emphasis. Unlike many of the specials, “Mars” has no moments that drag or keep the story treading water to pad out its running time and the ending with the Doctor decides its time to fully embrace and expand his role as Time’s Champion is among Tennant’s best work in the series. Easily the best of the four specials for 2009.
Another story that captures the feel of the second Doctor’s era with an isolated group of humans facing an alien threat from without and (possibly) from within. Technically it’s a marvel, watching as various actors repeat lines together in perfect sync and the sense of dread that permeates the entire story is wonderfully achieved. It’s nice to know that the new series can still achieve old-series level scares by simply having a well crafted story with well drawn characters.
This one makes it only for the classic series call back to the Macra. That little moment had me jumping and down for joy as Davies pays homage to the classic series with a great reference that old series fans will delight in, while new series fans won’t be left out. Another story that’s essential told on one-set, though it’s re-treated to be various aircars stuck in a giant traffic jam in New New York.
5. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
The first entry by Steven Moffatt on the list (all three of his Tennant era offerings will make this list…) Again, the series captures the base under siege mentality with the new series sensibility. Part one is definitely stronger than part two, but overall I didn’t mind so much. Alex Kingston does some nice work here in a solid guest star role and it should be interesting to see her come back in the future. Moffatt clearly shows why he’s the best writer the new series has found and how he could be the Robert Holmes of the new century.
I’m sure some of you are screaming because this one isn’t in the top spot on the list. And I will admit that it’s a solid, chilling and effectively done Doctor-light story. It’s a template for how to do Doctor-lite stories and not have them feel like you’re missing the central character too much. The weeping angels are creepy and effective monsters and Sally Sparrow is the best non-TARDIS companion we’ve seen on the new series. But in the final debate, there are just three other stories I liked a lot better…including one more by the best writer this series has, Steven Moffatt.
3. School Reunion
This is the way to pay homage to the series history without alienating your new fanbase who may not know who K-9 or Sarah Jane are. Throw in Buffy alum, Anthony Stewart head as the bad guy and you’ve got a near perfect episode. Tennant is still growing into the role of the Doctor here and I’ve got to admit I prefer his earlier, more restrained work that we see here (and in his early block of stories) to the excesses that come later. It’s not that he’s a bad actor, but there were times later in the run that the zany Doctor bit was pushed a bit too far for my liking. The scene with Tennant and Head by the pool is one of the more chilling and memorable of the era. It was also the story where Mickey began to grow as a character and not just Rose’s jealous boyfriend.
2. The Girl in the Fireplace
There’s a reason Steven Moffatt won three straight Hugos and why many of us are eager to see what the show will look like under his leadership. “Girl in the Fireplace” is one of them. Combining elements of horror (the clockwork aliens are some of the most visually arresting of the entire new series run) along with a solid, character driven storyline that gets into the nature of the “wibbly, woobly, timey-wimey” and you’ve got one of the nicest surprises of the Tennant era. The story is completely captivating and I found myself falling in love with it the first time I saw it–and have each time I’ve watched it since.
1. Human Nature/The Family of Blood
Paul Cornell adapts his seventh Doctor New Adventures story for the tenth Doctor in a story that boils down the Doctor to his basic core character elements and examines them. In much the way that “Superman II” helped define Superman by taking away his powers, so does this story help define the Doctor by stripping away some of the elements that make the Doctor the Doctor. Superbly acted by all parties, the first half is a bit more solid than the second (as is the case with most two parters from the new series), but it’s still so much fun and such a delight that you won’t really mind that much. Tennant shows some solid moments as both John Smith and the Doctor and seeing his dark turn in the story’s final moments makes me wish we’d seen more of this side of the 10th Doctor.