TV Review: Doctor Who (David Tennant)

I had long heard good things about Torchwood and since it was playing on a cable channel I had already paid for I set up the PVR to record it. Also, I had seen the Tennant/Barrowman kissing at Comic-Con clip on YouTube which was intriguing. But, because I’m that kind of person, knowing that Captain Jack got started on Doctor Who made it difficult to just dive into Torchwood. Then because I’m a Merlin fan I had tracked down Midnight.

Merlin was all done on the 19th (December 2009) or so, so… Nothing to do but download the entire modern Doctor Who seasons 1-4 and as many specials as were available at the time (End of Time was just about to air). I had, of course, seen Eccelston on Heroes but that left me indifferent so I started with the Jack-relevant episodes of season 1. Interesting. I was out of town visiting relatives at the time so Torchwood was on the PVR at home and I wasn’t interested in the gymnastics involved in getting that to my laptop so I started in on the Tennant years. Tennant is fabulous and his Doctor is magnetic. For his sake I tolerated the just-a-pretty-face Rose. Martha started off well as an intelligent strong and independent minded med student who throve under pressure. Unfortunately, the defining characteristic of her tenure as companion was her soppy unrequited love of the Doctor. All her considerable energy seemed to be directed at the Doctor looking for signs of emotion that didn’t exist. Yes, she saved the world, but only by following exact orders. At no time did her self generated actions save the day. One of my favourite scenes comes at the end of Martha’s time as the Doctor is magnificent in his grief over the fallen Master. It was also at this moment that I became a Murray Gold fan. In fact, “This is Gallifrey, Our Childhood, Our Home” is currently my favourite song. Unusual, as I’m not usually one for instrumentals.

Then came Donna. Of course she had started somewhat abrasively in the Runaway Bride before Martha, but her return was stellar. The other of my favourite scenes in the whole modern series was in her first episode where the Doctor and Donna rediscover one another and mime a conversation through the windows of a room. Donna is not so confident in herself as Rose or in her skills as Martha but she does more with what she does have. Like Sarah Jane, but without any tools or support, she has been investigating unusual phenomena independently. Against all odds she finds the Doctor and barges back into his life in a somewhat anti-companion moment on his part and immediately becomes his best friend sans longing or fuss. She asks questions and makes connections not basely solely on emotion. She provides a valuable different perspective and grounds the Doctor where he would otherwise be carried away by events or passion.

Time and again she helps solve the problem of the week without simply executing the Doctor’s instructions, independently investigating and synthesizing both answers and key questions. Can you tell that she’s my favourite companion? 8)

I had seen a couple of Catherine Tate’s “I am not bovvered” skits, including the one with David Tennant, referred by people impressed with the wordplay, but that’s all I knew of her beforehand.

The end of her tale is extraordinarily sad and her death which is not a death is worse. The fan cries out, “Fix it!!! Let her remember!”. If the Doctor can turn himself human (a la Family of Blood) then turn Donna Timelord enough that she can remember. Rose’s Doctor is mostly human with a Timelord’s mind and no brain melting issues. Donna need not be turned so Gallifrean that the issue of what two unrelated specimens of an almost extinct species should be doing comes up. A depressing contrast to Rose’s optimal happily ever after. And no, just being rich doesn’t make it better because Donna’s still her vapid unrealized petty self.

Tennant’s time ends with a long protracted emotional denouement. As he embarks on this segment after suffering a fatal dose of radiation, he says that this is his reward. He visits each of his former companions in turn and gifts them something small but important. It’s not the length of the journey that I begrudge, I just thought that there should have been more dying along the way. A wince, a stumble, a pulse of energy and less striding about. We didn’t need a repeat of Daniel’s death by radiation but you wouldn’t think he could just shake it off until the very end. That aside I suspect a sizable portion of the audience echoed his “I don’t want to go!” with “We don’t want you to go either!”. Done is done though and even if Matt Smith doesn’t immediately win our hearts he at least doesn’t put his first foot wrong either.

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