The 10th Doctor: A Timey-Wimey Retrospective
June 18th, 2005 would mark the final appearance of the 9th doctor. Regenerating in his place was diminutive Scottish actor, David Tennant. His first episode was “The Christmas Invasion”, and by the end of his tenure at the completion of “The End of Time” some five years, he would have left an indelible mark in Doctor Who history.
After the defeat of the Sycorax at the conclusion of the aforementioned Christmas special, The Doctor and his companion, Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) resume their travels across time and space. They visit “New Earth”, 19th century Scotland, 18th century Paris, and even a parallel universe to current day Earth. Danger of course awaits at every stop, in the form of foes both new and old; The Lady Cassandra, a werewolf, the shape-shifting Krillitanes, and clockwork droids, The Wire, Satan, and the Abzorbaloff. Series 2 also marked the return of The Doctor’s emotionless nemesis in silver.
“Torchwood” is a recurring theme referenced throughout the series, hinted at in a similar manner as “Bad Wolf” in series 1. In the third episode, “School Reunion”, a familiar face to watchers of the show during the time of the third and fourth Doctors makes an appearance, along with a certain tin dog. In the series finale, “Doomsday”, the Battle of Canary Wharf is waged between two titanic, evil races, with humanity caught in the middle. The majority of the episode takes place at the facilities of a secret organization initially established to defend Earth against alien and supernatural threats. It has since become something greater and darker. Though the day is eventually won, it would come at a heartbreaking cost, not only to The Doctor but Rose as well. In the final scene of series 2, The Doctor, now alone and shell-shocked is taken by surprise when a woman in a wedding dress materializes in the TARDIS control room.
My take: The duo of Billie Piper and David Tennant is a magical Doctor/companion pairing and my favorite since Tom Baker and the late Elizabeth Sladen. Speaking of which, “School Reunion” has become one of my all-time favorite episodes, and not just for the nostalgia factor. The writing was excellent throughout (episodes 10 and 11 being the only weak(ish) points for me) with multi-layered stories from start to finish. The chemistry, humor, and even the sadness and tragedy are all elevated from the previous series. The character growth, particularly Mickey (Noel Clarke) from bumbling idiot to hero is noteworthy. The two-part finale, written by Russell T. Davies, was simply fantastic, and unless you’re a Cyberman, you’ll probably be in tears by the end; another “parting of the ways” as it turns out. I just watched it again while writing this, so trust me on that.
The Christmas, 2006 episode, “The Runaway Bride” is our introduction to Donna Noble, played by Catherine Tate (see series 4). After the conflict brought about by the Empress of the Racnoss is resolved, Donna refuses The Doctor’s offer to travel with him, but tells him not to travel alone and that he needs someone to stop him, just in case.
In Episode 1, “Smith and Jones”, we are introduced to medical student, Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman). It also marked the first appearance of the intergalactic mercenary police known as Judoon, as well as a blood consuming Plasmavore. At the episode’s end, The Doctor, still reeling from the loss of Rose Tyler, gives Martha the opportunity to go on one trip with him. That “one trip” ends up taking them to London in 1599, and then in the following episode to New New York in the year five billion and fifty three. From there it’s off to 1930 New York City, England in 1913, and the end of the universe, with requisite stops to present-day Earth interspersed throughout.
Episode 3, “Gridlock”, saw the return of everyone’s favorite giant-head-in-a-tank, The Face of Boe, who gives The Doctor the cryptic message, “You Are Not Alone.”
Episodes 4 and 5 take us to New York in 1930, where creatures we thought previously destroyed have returned and are up to their usual diabolical schemes. The Weeping Angels make their first terrifying appearance in episode 10, entitled, “Blink”, and the final three episodes deal directly with the “Saxon” story arc as well as the meaning of The Face of Boe’s final message. The now immortal Capt. Jack Harkness returns and we learn the true identity of Professor Yana. Martha has to travel the world for a year in an attempt to defeat the Toclafane and their “Master”. At the conclusion of the series, The Doctor, once again alone, and deep in reflection, pilots the TARDIS away, only to be crashed into by a star liner with a familiar name.
My take: From the moment The Doctor grabs Martha’s hand in “Smith and Jones” and yells, “run!”, there seemed to be instant chemistry between the two, and even though it lasted only one series, they made for quite an entertaining pair. The storylines started getting even more complex, with additional back stories and more recurring hints and nuances throughout. High marks go to “Blink”, written by Steven Moffat; an excellently imagined episode with a great antagonist. This is another of my all-time favorites. Episodes 2 and 7 were probably the only real disappointments, and Episodes 8 and 9 fell a little flat at times, but they’re still definitely important episodes in the overall timeline. By the time you’ve watched the finale, you might just be blown away by the way the stories have all woven together over the 13 episodes. But just you wait…
After the poignant 2007 Christmas Special, “Voyage of the Damned”, which takes place on the star liner that crashes into the TARDIS at the end of “Last of the Time Lords”, The Doctor meets up with Donna Noble in episode 1, “Partners in Crime”. At its conclusion, Donna, disenchanted and disillusioned with her life since her first encounter with The Doctor, now jumps at the chance to travel with him.
Vesuvius in 79 AD is the reunited duo’s first port of call, where volcanic creatures, the Pyroviles are using Mount Vesuvius to attempt to conquer Earth. From there, the Ood-Sphere in the year 4126 is the setting where, as it so happens, humans are the villains. After the Ood have been freed, Ood Sigma calls Donna, “Doctor-Donna” and informs The Doctor that his “song” is coming to an end. Martha Jones returns to the fold in the episodes 4 and 5. Now a full-fledged doctor, and working with UNIT, she calls The Doctor to ask for his help in investigating ATMOS, which turns out to be a cover for a Sontaran plot (a “stratagem” if you will) to wipe out humanity.
Martha travels along with The Doctor and Donna to the planet Messaline, where The Doctor’s DNA is forcibly taken from him to form a female soldier. Donna names her “Jenny” because The Doctor refers to her as a generated anomaly. When the trio leaves Messaline, Martha asks to be taken back home, not being able to handle any more death and loss. The Doctor responds to a message on his psychic paper in episode 8, “Silence in the Library”. The greatest library in the universe, circa 51st century is the setting for this and the follow up episode, “Forest of the Dead”. It also marks the appearance of Professor River Song, who reveals it was she who left the message for The Doctor. She also claims to know The Doctor, though he has not met her… yet. In “Turn Left” Donna goes back in time and remakes a decision that creates an alternate universe with major changes in history. A mysterious blond girl appears, and with her help, Donna is able to go back and “turn left”. The blond girl whispers a two-word message in Donna’s ear for The Doctor just before the universe is set right. The two-part finale of the series, “Stolen Earth” and “Journey’s End” is essentially a culmination of all four series; chock full of twists and turns, revelations, and endings. 27 worlds, including Earth have gone missing, which The Doctor traces to the Medusa Cascade (mentioned throughout the series), where a great evil, along with its creator, have returned once again and subjugated the planet. Only a massive effort of a great all-star team of companions past and present can overcome this foe and save the universe. Prophesies of the past come to fruition and by series end, The Doctor finds himself, once again, alone.
Three holiday specials would air between Christmas 2008 and November 2009. On December 25th, 2009, “The End of Time” part 1 aired, with Part 2 airing on January 1st, 2010. In these episodes we would see the return of Gallifrey as well as another of The Doctor’s greatest nemeses. As in the finale of series 4, The Doctor enlists the help of his past companions and friends. They are victorious in the end, but The Doctor, knowing he must regenerate soon, journeys to see his friends one last time is his current form. He then sees Ood Sigma who tells him that the universe will sing him to sleep. The Doctor enters the TARDIS, utters, “I don’t want to go”, and then, the inevitable happens.
My take: Catherine Tate showed not only her strong comedic background, but also brought a tenderness and vulnerability to the role of Donna. When coupled with David Tennant it made for a very entertaining double-act. Donna’s grandfather, Willfred Mott was such a fantastic addition to the fold and was so beautifully played by Bernard Cribbins. His final conversations with The Doctor in “The End of Time” are heart wrenching. Weak points are few; the specials, “Planet of the Dead” and “Waters of Mars” being two of them.
As far as complex, emotional, well thought out storylines go, I really don’t think you could ask for much more from these three series as a whole. Series 4 in particular set a high standard, not just for Doctor Who, but in my opinion, television shows of all genres. You’ll often get moments of hilarity and heartbreak in the same episode. The manner in which the stories are all interwoven is brilliant. The subtle hints and references are ingeniously slipped in. The music is also very well done and is an excellent compliment for setting the tone, be it light or dark, funny or otherwise. The characters really get under your skin, for better or worse, and you can’t help but get emotionally attached to them. You can clearly tell how much of their heart and soul all those involved put into creating this show and if you haven’t yet seen the David Tennant episodes, I highly recommend you watch them. Over and over again.
Next month: The 11th Doctor: Series 5, 6, and 7.
Greg “Wibbly-Wobbly” Randolph