As we approach the 51st anniversary of Doctor Who Andrew Jero casts a critical eye over each of the Doctor's eras, starting today with the Tenth, David Tennant.
Over the next 12 days I will be revisiting all the Doctors and their
eras. Looking at their best and worst episodes, what worked and what
didn't, their companions and their adventures. I'll give you my personal
opinion on each, and how I rate them compared to the other Doctors and eras of the show. I'll work through them in ascending order of personal preference. So today we start with what is personally my least favorite era of Doctor Who (and I shall explain to you why as we go on), the era of the Tenth Doctor.
Let's start with one of the best stories from the Tenth Doctor's era, Midnight. I actually think that this is easily the best episode to come out of all of the Russell T. Davies time on the series, which is only made better by finally getting a break from one of the worst companions ever, Donna Noble. By this point in the series every damn companion was the "most important" one ever - it all started with Rose, but we’ll get to her shortly.
Midnight is an interesting story about a train ride, which brilliantly uses
Doctor Who’s ability to be very scary, and pulls it off awesomely. We never
find out about the 'thing' banging on the door and the sides of the train,
but we get some truly horrifying sequences with the Doctor and Sky. The
end where we realize that nobody knew the name of the hostess that had saved
everyone was beautifully done, but unfortunately I always felt that nothing else in the Tenth Doctor's era came anywhere close
to the quality of Midnight.
Midnight also gives David Tennant a chance to actually act, something he is more than capable of and does so splendidly. You see, my biggest problem with his era was not his Doctor or Tennant himself, but rather the companions; Rose, Mickey, Martha, Donna, none of whom ever had the same quality to them as the companions I grew up with, such as; Tegan, Adric, Romana and Peri. The new companions have often been given terrible dialogue, and as much as they attempted to put them front and center, they never seemed to be anywhere as interesting, or as well acted as the ones I mentioned (yes, even Adric).
I said we'd get to Rose, and we may as well get it her the way now. Rose is probably the thing which taints David Tennant’s run as the Doctor the most. She never truly leaves, and just becomes uninteresting to watch on screen. Billie Piper’s performance was not terrible at first, but by Doomsday (and again in Journey’s End) she is famously bad... like Ken Dodd in Delta and the Bannermen.
It makes me cringe to think that the same character we saw in An Unearthly Child would later pick up some random blonde and fall in love with her. Now I know the Doctor changes, but really? Season twenty eight (series two) makes me cringe constantly. From the Doctor and Rose in Tooth and Claw (a story that if it was given to just about any other Doctor/Companion combination would’ve been a smegging awesome episode!), to the - I’m not going to even call it acting in - The Idiot’s Lantern, it was uncomfortable viewing. Finally ending with one of the worst episodes of Doctor Who ever - Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. I should like it in the same way that many fans love Earthshock, we lose Rose after all, but NO! She continually pops back up. It's like the show can't survive without her. The writers really should’ve left the character alone.
Moving on, let's look at Human Nature/Family of Blood. This was originally a book in the New Adventures range featuring Seven and Ace. I think this one works quite well, possibly because David Tennant's performance as John Smith is really convincing. If the rest of the supporting cast had acted half as good as he did then this would’ve been an absolute classic, but it's let down by the wooden and poorly scripted companion, Martha, and a poor choice in casting for the 'family'. John Smith’s romance with Nurse Redfern works because they look like they would be a great match for each other. They have a lot of chemistry, the kind which the Tenth Doctor and Rose had none of.
Moving on, or moving back indeed, to Smith and Jones. An episode that gives us a clean break from the Rose storyline and allows us to take in a new companion, who, and let’s be fair, is only slightly better than Melanie Bush! However, I think this episode remained true to Doctor Who’s past, it was a simple science fiction tale that you don’t have to try and think too much about. Although it does seem that by this point in the show every single species we encounter is from the 'Dark Times', such as the Plasmavores. Smith and Jones nearly did us a huge favour by almost getting rid of the Sonic Plot Resolver, or is that Screwdriver? But unfortunately they chose to keep it.
I know many of you will likely disagree with this, but let me share what I believe to be two of the worst episodes from the Tenth Doctor's era - Turn Left and Blink. Turn Left is honestly my least favorite Doctor Who story of all time. As a viewer who couldn’t stand Donna, it can’t be a big surprise that a lot of my disdain towards this episode comes out of it focusing mainly on her! Add to it, that Turn Left includes the return of Rose...well shoot me now!
Why couldn't they just leave her alone? I wouldn’t despise the character of Rose anywhere near as much as I do if her storyline ended at Doomsday. But come on? Get over her already. She’s not interesting, and was a poor choice as the 'audiences door'.
Turn Left then segued into the two part series finale The Stolen Earth/Journey's End, and if it wasn't enough that Rose and the Doctor ran to each other like something out of a cheap tacky romance movie, Donna gets her turn to become the "most important" person ever in the universe when David’s Doctor uses a regeneration to heal himself for Rose, ugh. He accidentally fuses his spare hand with Donna to create yet another Tenth Doctor! Yay…
Another problem here is that they bring the Daleks back, yet again. Using them every season was a poor choice, and as a result, almost all the Dalek stories from 2005 to 2013 are crap, there are very very few exceptions.
Now let's look at the mess that’s been voted the second best story twice in a row, Blink. I just don’t understand what there is about Blink that is good. I really don't. Firstly there is hardly any Doctor in it at all, so it's not really Doctor Who is it? 90% of it is just a generic science fiction story. But worst of all, the Doctor is replaced by a terribly written and annoying main character. I do not understand the admiration for Sally Sparrow at all.
One thing that Blink did give us was the Weeping Angels, and their concept is fine, but it really doesn’t work for me until Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone. Overall Blink is just a really boring and uninteresting story where nothing happens. Nothing. The Doctor has his TARDIS returned to him, that’s it. Thanks.
Why this scored higher than almost any other episode of Doctor Who is confusing to me. Personally, it sits at number eight on my all time bottom ten list.
To summarize, as an incarnation the Tenth Doctor is painfully marred by the continued appearances of Rose and her family. Add to that an horrendous array of scripts and supporting 'actors' and we get, what in my mind, is easily the worst era of Doctor Who to this day.
Score out of ten for the David Tennant era: 2/10
Andrew Jero lives in Iowa and has a very strong love of both Red Dwarf and
Doctor Who. He enjoys acting and writing plays, television scripts,
and short stories. Follow Andrew on Twitter.