He is, or was, my Doctor. Number 10, swirling through space and time like a mad man possessed by both purpose and whimsy. He was that, and then David Tennant walked out of the TARDIS and away from the hordes of nerds and geeks and whovians — he had had enough, it was time to put it all aside, “so sorry, ta-ta”, he didn’t want to be typecast.
In Tennant’s absence the show has survived, but not thrived — trading gravitas for moments of over-caffeinated silliness. Oh sure, Matt Smith has had his shining moments, as has new show-runner Steven Moffat, and last season was a momentous step in the right direction, but it just isn’t as deep and this Doctor doesn’t seem to feel so much as he riffs and observes what feeling would be like. That’s a judgment mostly levied against Moffat though, not Tennant’s thoroughly adequate replacement. It also isn’t a judgment against Tennant, one can’t really blame him for the new direction or for leaving. The desire to set out and make something more out of a career is understandable, and it is, after all, Tennant’s career and his life, but he never had a chance of out running Doctor Who and sometimes it doesn’t really feel like he’s even trying.
Let me explain, a career as and after Doctor Who seems to be something akin to the TARDIS itself, it really is bigger on the inside. See, every project done before or after serving as “The Doctor” surely finds itself fighting for the second line of a biography and that’s because the first line is invariably occupied by the phrase, “best known as the Doctor”.
So, what has Tennant done to try and fill in the space underneath his time as “The Doctor”? Not nearly enough — sure Fright Night, his biggest attempt at US stardom (if you discount the un-aired pilot, Rex is Not Your Lawyer that he did for NBC) was fun and better than most people said it was, but lets be honest — Tennant was simply playing “Goth Doctor Who” in that, down to his trademark “Wehll”.
Hamlet, a filmed stage play from 2009, was so meaty and dramatic that it made me watch Hamlet for 4 hour — trouble is, Tennant was playing the “Shakespearean Doctor” in that, another subtle variation on his interpretation of the last of the Time Lords. As a fan of his work as “The Doctor”, that was a splendid thing to behold, but a bit sad in retrospect — after all, few actors can get away with playing the same role repeatedly and those that fail often become caricatures of their former selves and former talents.
To Tennant’s credit, his turns in The United, and upcoming projects like The Decoy Bride, and the newly announced BBC America series The Spies of Warsaw feel like slight departures, I know The United was, but they also seem boring. Granted, an actor can’t solely pick roles that excite and titillate their fan base, and I’m sure Tennant has his reasons, but goodness, half of his CV reads like a Lifetime movie reject bin and few things on it seem like any sort of challenge. Romantic comedies, voice work, and period pieces are edge-less corners, safe picks that won’t offend or distract.
I’ve abandoned Bad Wolf Bay fantasies, timey wimey half explained re-re-generations, and the possibility of any other severed Time Lord limbs waiting to spawn another number 10. David Tennant isn’t going to ever play “The Doctor” again in any sort of significant way but the least he can do is play something challenging or exciting every once in awhile, something that reminds us that he is an actor, not just a guy who played a Time Lord. Though he left Doctor Who not wanting to be the guy who stayed too long, right now, he’s the guy who left too soon and the only thing he can do about that is to make his post-Who career count.
The above is the sole opinion of the author and not NerdBastards.com, so in other words, he is the one you wish to call asshole, not the rest of the staff.