Doctor Who: The Trouble With Ten

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Dr. Moo prepares to be very unpopular.

David Tennant’s interpretation of the Doctor is a fan-favourite, there’s no denying that. He consistently ranks high in fan polls and you could make a genuinely strong case that he’s as iconic as Tom Baker. But I think the 10th Doctor is a self-righteous, sanctimonious, insufferably smug, arrogant and hypocritical git who takes the moral high ground despite not having any right to do so.

It seems only right that I explain why it is that I feel this way about him. After making such bold claims it would be inexcusable for me not to justify them! Note that this is in no way an I HATE TENNANT article (in fact David Tennant’s portrayal of the character is almost always perfect), this is merely an opinion piece explaining why I dislike this particular incarnation of the Doctor. It is only my opinion and any Tennant fans out there please bear that in mind as you read this.

Don’t you think she looks tired?
Nine had a spot of bother with the Slitheen family. Alongside him was a politician named Harriet Jones, with her assistance he managed to defeat them and stop their plot to blow up the Earth and sell it as scrap. Throughout the harrowing ordeal he was trying to figure out why he recognised her and then it dawned on him.
"I thought I knew the name. Harriet Jones, future Prime Minister. Elected for three successive terms. The architect of Britain's Golden Age."
Well not anymore! After the Sycorax invasion (more on that below) the newly regenrated Ten convinced the aliens to leave, but as they set off Jones contacted Torchwood (run at this time by one Yvonne Hartmann) and had them blow the Sycorax Rock to smithereens.

Understandable, I think we can agree? While I’m not condoning her extreme measures we can all agree that given the circumstances it’s a response you can forgive her for. But no, Ten decides he can’t have the people of Earth defend themselves so he takes it on himself to interfere and fiddle with human politics by walking to her aide and bringing down her government with just six words.

And by taking down Jones’s administration he paves the way for the up and coming politician Harold Saxon to run for election. We can only imagine how different the events of Children Of Earth would have played out had Jones still been in power – that’s right, Ten is responsible for Ianto’s death; you can trace it right back to his actions here.

Come the episode Army Of Ghosts he’s even passing judgement on the parallel world’s version of Jones, someone he hasn’t met and has no way of knowing anything about. Literally the one and only thing he can say about her is that she exists – that’s all he has to go on, yet he still tells Pete to keep an eye on her.

No second chances?
Still with The Christmas Invasion for this one; less than an episode in and it’s already full of problems! (However I do rather enjoy the episode and think it’s one of the best debut episodes for any Doctor – an article I may do some other time perhaps?)

We all know how it goes by now: the newly regenerated Ten wakes up and immediately defeats the Sycorax leader in a swordfight and agrees to spare his life if he agrees to leave Earth in peace. As he walks away the Sycorax leader gets up and goes for the attack so 10 throws a satsuma in such a way to open a trap door (it all makes sense, I promise) and kills the Sycorax leader declaring the now-infamous words…
"No second chances. I’m that sort of a man."
Remind me how long that lasted? Not even a single story! The very next thing he does is meet up with his old enemy Cassandra and by the story’s end he’s given her… a second chance. He can’t even be more than a day older than when he was making that declaration and here he is breaking it already! At least try Doctor, most of us can make a new year’s resolution last at least a week.

This isn’t the only time either. He offers second chances to everyone from Dalek Sec, despite seeing what the Cult Of Skaro have done, to the man who (as far as he knew) killed his daughter in cold blood, even to Davros for goodness’s sake! He even allows himself a second chance after he changes a fixed point in time by ignoring the consequences and going off messing around, getting married to Liz 1 among other things. Then there’s the flippant way he dismisses it – “So much for history!” Not to mention allowing himself a second chance at even death itself, but more on that later.

Rose and Martha
Reasons for why I consider Rose Tyler the worst companion the Doctor ever had – even worse than Peri, Mel or Adric – is something I won’t go into here, not least because if I were to begin we’d be here until the end of time and I would only be getting started.

Yet 10 loved her. Not like how Twelve loved Clara, on this occasion it’s not a close friendship but an actual romantic attraction. Despite nearly nine centuries of age difference. I guess I can understand where this comes from to a certain extent: She was there for Nine when he had to deal with the supposed end of the Time War and his (false) belief about what the War Doctor had done. If someone helps you out of such a situation developing feelings for that person is not unusual. I may not like the fact Russell T Davies took the story in that direction but it happened and we have to get over it and move on. In fact, the separation between the two and their last scene on the beach is one of Ten’s best scenes.

I can excuse him for feeling sad about being separated forever. What I cannot excuse though is the way this was followed up with the next companion Martha Jones. Ten makes it clear that she’s not replacing Rose despite having already given her an uncomfortably long snog. Then the first place that he takes her in the TARDIS is… exactly where he first took Rose. This is said to be just the one trip but then he takes her to the past as well, then somewhere else, still in the past before FINALLY getting her back home – and the entire time he’s leading her on. When Martha finally leaves she tells him about her romantic feelings for him and I’m sorry but I just don’t buy his innocent act. He knew full well what he was doing.

This is only made worse when you consider how hard she had it as Ten’s companion. Doting over him in 1913 for goodness knows how long, spending an entire year on the run with her family imprisoned, getting trapped in the past by the Weeping Angels… Rose never had anything as tough as any of these things to contend with. And yet Ten simply doesn’t care at all. The least he could do was tell her she was barking up the wrong tree but no. He couldn’t even do that.

What a nasty and unpleasant thing to do. Good on you for getting out of there Martha!

More than just a Time Lord
At the conclusion to The Waters of Mars we see Ten decide to take charge of time itself to save Captain Brooke and her surviving crew members. With the odds stacked against him he succeeds and comes out on top – but at a cost.

This moment is everything I dislike about Ten in one place: here is his most arrogant, selfish, consequences be damned moment of them all. And yet I love the scene and would put the story firmly in my top five of all time because of it. Maybe that’s because it’s one of only a handful of times his negative traits are emphasised as actually being negative?

No, I’ve put this here because Ten is so often depicted as a messianic figure and his flaws are never pointed out. Quite the opposite in fact! Characters call him such things as “The Lonely God” or “The Sainted Physician” and one one occasion he literally defeats Satan. Contrast to Eleven or Twelve, both of whom are frequently called out as the flawed heroes they are, rather than what we had to put up with with Ten.

Meta-crisis regeneration
Ten was the first Doctor to avoid changing while regenerating. In the two-part epic The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End he gets shot by a Dalek and begins to change but after getting to the point when his body starts to change he does something different.
"You see? Used the regeneration energy to heal myself, but soon as I was done, I didn't need to change. I didn't want to, why would I? Look at me! So, to stop the energy going all the way, I siphoned off the rest into a handy bio-matching receptacle, namely, my hand, my hand there, my handy spare hand!"
So that’s an entire regeneration wasted all because, by Eleven’s later admission, he was suffering from vanity issues.

This is one of his twelve possible transformations, leaving only one more left, and he’s just wasted it. An entire other incarnation of the Doctor was robbed from us and now we’ll never get to see what sort of (wo)man was waiting because he was too proud and too selfish to face his end with dignity.

Plus this had the additional side effect of separating him from Donna. So there’s that too.

Second regeneration
This is Ten at his most hypocritical. To quote his words to Rose from the 2005 Children In Need short:
"Rose, it’s me. Honestly, it’s me. I was dying. To save my own life, I changed my body. Every single cell, but still me."
There’s a noticeable contrast to what he says to Wilf in The End of Time:
"Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away. And I’m dead."
The End of Time portrays regeneration as a proper death but this doesn’t hold up even by Ten’s own admission. But is that enough for you? Let’s speak to some other Time Lords and see what they have to say.

True to form, it’s Twelve who is perhaps the most blunt:
"Death is just Time Lord for man flu."
Or, if you want to go classic, Cho-Je explains:
"I’m not dying, merely regenerating."
And while he’s not a Time Lord, unless – Plot twist! – Chris Chibnall turns out to be his next incarnation, Steven Moffat said:
"If I’d been Bernard Cribbins in that thing, I’d be saying, ‘Doctor, I’m actually going to die. You’re going to get a bit younger and stupider hair, OK? You can let me out and you can get a reset. Selfish bastard.’"
When the time comes he accepts his fate and agrees to save Wilfred, but only after whining about how much more his current incarnation could do. Then we get to a point in Who History even lower than Sylvester in a Colin wig: Ten’s “Farewell Tour”, setting out to visit all his companions (and even some people like Jessica Hynes who had never traveled with him or even met him before) lasting for a record twenty minutes between the event behind the regeneration and the actual change.

Then there’s the final scene with Ten as he changes and it’s just so over the top. We were meant to be sad about him dying but by this point we just wanted him to get it done with. The music Vale Decem added to the sheer explosiveness of the regeneration and Ten’s final line “I don’t want to go!” all comes together in a manner that serves to mark the occasion as the passing of a god.

Worse still it was almost as though Davies and Tennant were setting out to sabotage Matt Smith before he even got started, as if to say Tennant was the best Doctor and nobody else can come close. Thankfully what happened next was The Eleventh Hour and Smith blew all his critics away from the word go, but that doesn’t excuse the build up to his predecessor's exit.

Final thoughts
I love all of the Doctor’s incarnations but for me Ten embodies all the character’s faults and not enough of his strengths. For that reason he is less like the Doctor than any other incarnation as I feel that, for all the reasons I’ve discussed, he simply is not true to what the character is about.

However we can’t end on a negative! I may not be the biggest fan of Ten but he has loads of people who are and there’s no denying they’re a loyal bunch. So allow me to finish with this quote from the man himself David Tennant:
"I have such fond memories of watching "Doctor Who" when I was a kid and growing up, that if I've left anybody anywhere with memories as fond, then I feel like I've done my job."
And whatever you or I may think about his interpretation of the character, isn’t that what playing the Doctor is all about?

Thank you David Tennant for giving us the 10th Doctor. You may not be my favourite, or even close to it, but your influence in relaunching the show and bringing it to a new audience cannot be denied.

When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.

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