DOCTOR WHO - The early days of the Tenth Doctor - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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DOCTOR WHO - The early days of the Tenth Doctor

Tom Pheby revisits David Tennant's early days as the Tenth Doctor.

On reviewing the first few episodes of the David Tennant era it's clear just how much the show has progressed significantly. It's hard to look back and be completely positive about everything in those early days. Thanks to Eccleston's premature departure it was like starting from the beginning all over again and it could have proved a massive mistake. A Christmas Invasion saw the regenerating hero spend most of his time in bed, leaving Rose Tyler to fill the breach rather unsuccessfully. When the Doctor finally joins the fray the episode is all but over and we are not given enough evidence to decide if he truly has the credentials to make a success of the role.

Three and a half months later, series 2 began and we had our first proper adventures with the Tenth. The trip to New Earth, although entertaining, was an odd way to properly start a new era, lacking dramatic impact and relying heavy on laughs. The following week we we're off to 19th Century Scotland so Tennant could slip out of his 'mockney' accent and into his native Scottish tongue, more Billy Conolly and less Ray Winstone. Tooth and Claw seemed to have been scheduled as the antidote to the previous episode, but some elements felt quite out of place in Doctor Who.

It's clear from these opening stories that it's Billie Piper's Rose who is the continuity holding the early episodes of the Tenth's era together. Russell T Davies had created a very strong character, capable of carrying the series herself, so she acts as the cement between the bricks, allowing a nation of new viewers who had never experienced a Doctor's regeneration the time to adjust to such a drastic change.

In School Reunion we respectfully revisited Sarah Jane Smith (played by the wonderful Elizabeth Sladen) and the antiquated K-9. The episode provided much nostalgic glee, and also introduced hints of a darker side to this young Doctor, and the harsh reality he faced every day. "Humans decay. You wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone you...", not so much an apology for discarding old assistants but a reminder to the viewer of the burden of being immortal.

Tennant was quickly managing to pull it off and find his place in the show, and in doing so he was making Doctor Who more popular than it was before. By the time we reach The Girl In The Fireplace he is the Doctor through and through, and was attracting more attention than I suspect anyone involved in the production thought he would. The Scot gave the Doctor a new energy and dynamic that had been missing, his take on the Time Lord was wide eyed and seemed to be permanently surprised. At times this Doctor could be a little over the top, excessively chatty and, dare I say it, a little hammy, but when given the right material Tennant played it superbly. Constantly showing the necessary intelligence, grit, curiosity and pathos that the role demands.

Tennant's time in the TARDIS just got better week after week, series after series. Although many go straight to his time with Rose, and the 'love story' the two of them shared, although it provided some fantastic episodes for me it was never totally believable. My favourite overall time from the Tenth came with Catherine Tate as rough diamond Donna Noble. It worked mainly because of the genuine chemistry between the two leads, added with Tate's ability to make a shopping list sound amusing. Her involvement was a masterstroke which gave us many many high points.

Tennant will always remain a brilliant Doctor, someone who truly embraced the role and propelled it forward. What he achieved in that first year was nothing short of spectacular, kick-starting Doctor Who's journey towards new heights of global fandom. The Tenth Doctor is, quite rightly, always near the top in every 'Favourite Doctor' pole that gets published nowadays, in fact it's usually a two horse race between David Tennant and my personal favourite Tom Baker.

I was sad when David Tennant announced he was leaving the series, but that's the reality of Doctor Who that we are forced to accept every few years. Still it was exciting to see him reappear as a guest in The Day Of The Doctor (alongside Chinny and Grandad), it was just like old times in an ever changing Whoniverse.

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