The 2006 Round Table: Tennant’s Extra

We conclude the 2006 Round Table discussion with debate about the new Doctor himself, David Tennant…

A few of the guys have been itching to get onto this subject, so let’s get right into it with Daniel – “Fantastic! I think he was great as the Doctor. The first time I saw the pictures of David Tennant I was not very convinced. But seeing him in action changed that. He was very convincing and brought a lot of humour into the series.”

Brian, too, is enthusiastic, noting “He has easily found his way in my top favorites to play the part.”

Steve Preston says “I’ve found Tennant’s Doctor to be on the whole very good. He has demonstrated an enigmatic quality coupled with a zest for life that enlivened the stories of series two no end. In addition, his popularity with the wider general audience has allowed the show to retain a strong following and excellent viewing figures. It will be interesting to see how much of that success was due to Piper when series three returns without her.”

So it’s all plusses! We all agree! Don’t we…?

“When he uttered that famous last line, ‘Barcelona,’ I thought David Tennant might just be the best Doctor ever! But he isn’t,” says Nigel Parry, “He’s very good with the quiet moments. His last sorrowful look just as he knew he would never see Rose again was heart breaking. He is sometimes good at anger; his fury at the Cat Nurses in ‘New Earth’ was very powerful.

“However, why is it that he feels the need to be so over the top at times? His ‘I’m not listening’ rant at Eddie Robson in ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ was forced and his ‘drunken’ scene in ‘Girl in the Fireplace’ was far too much.”

Crivens! What does Gareth think? “Less assured, more obviously a performance than Eccleston’s if I had to sum it up. Where the material is top notch though, he shines – Girl in the Fireplace has the lot allowing him to show his range in a very understated way.”

Anthony has concerns about the material, rather than the performance. “I think he has been served some poor fare in series 2. For instance, The Christmas Invasion he was missing for the most part of the episode and the less said about his ‘proper’ debut in New Earth the better. He shines better when he’s the focal point, although thought of as comparatively weak, The Idiots Lantern showed him off best along with The Satan Pit two-parter where he is trying to take control.”

It’s unfortunately not just Ant who is thinking along these lines. Simon Mills: “His portrayal in The Christmas Invasion showed great promise (what we actually saw of him, that is) – I loved the serious “no second chances” attitude underlining his manic gurning; a nice contrast that reminded you of exactly what the Doctor is all about. But then came New Earth and ruined it all with a mildly entertaining story but far too weak to properly introduce a new Doctor to the world. A more fitting start would have been Tooth and Claw.”

So, David Tennant is good, some of his stories have been a little weak? Barnaby knows a thing or two about writing and acting. “His persona is certainly based on the template he created for ‘Casanova’. However, his one downfall – and it’s not the most major one – is his lack of real anger. When Eccleston was annoyed or angry, he really looked like he meant business. Unfortunately, when Tennant displayed his righteous indignation at something, he looked like a teenager stamping his feet.”

“Such enforced jollity is not endearing, it is very irritating,” observes Nigel. “David Tennant is a terrific actor, and is often compelling as the Doctor – possibly his best performance was in The Impossible Planet/Satan Pit for me. When he’s good, he’s very, very good. If he just calmed down a bit, he would be so much more likable,”

Gareth Kavanagh is quick to agree here, commenting that “He’s less good at switching between the full on pisstake of villains and acknowledging the seriousness of the situation. Rise of the Cybermen and Age of Steel’s end sequences being the worst example of this. Oh and the less said about the whole ‘Humaaaans! Amazing! I’ve got all their records etc etc’ outbursts, the better.

“So. Not quite there yet, but plenty of promise.”

Well, in fairness he had a tricky job in following Christopher Eccleston, didn’t he? Brian has a confession of Pythia-like knowledge to make: “Christopher Eccleston brought the show back, and what a successful job he did of it too, but as good as he was I’m glad he only did one year. In fact I remember saying to a friend when he got the role that I had hoped he would only stick around for one.” I can’t help thinking that knowledge would have been more useful around 18 months ago, but still. “With David Tennant – from his first words to his last – he just was the Doctor. Chris made me believe that he was the Doctor about half way through, where David never let you think he wasn’t.”

Christopher Eccleston eh? Surely we’ve forgotten about him by now? What do you think, Simon? “Looking back at Christopher Eccleston ‘s doctor now, I realise what an excellent actor he is and the quality he brought to the part with the guilt-laden gravitas of the last Time Lord. David Tennant lacks the gravitas, but can show the steel when needed.

“Besides, he wears a long coat – and the Doctor should ALWAYS have a long coat!”

Barnaby: “You can’t have Tennant happily ribbing his enemy in one line and then delivering deadly threats in the next line with no bridge from the silliness to the seriousness. It just doesn’t ring true. It’s a very fine balance portraying an eccentric character like the Doctor. That said, I love Tennant. I genuinely love his take on the Doctor. He’s a whirling dervish of eccentricities grounded in enough realism to make him appeal to every age group.”

Well, the conversation has finally died off. Attractive nurses have come to remove us from the recreation room, and poor Steve is mumbling something about monarchs. Before we’re all given our medication and sent back to our rooms to watch “Countdown”, however, I leave it to Kasterborous designer Anthony Dry to sum up David Tennant’s impact.

“I like him. Sure he’s not yet up there with Davison or Pertwee for me but he’s close. He sounds like Dick Van Dyke on speed and does some really odd things but its not until you watch some of the older serials that you realise most of the Doctors did do odd things. I think in series three if they make him the focal point and set him off in new situations, – i.e not Earth – he might be able to mold his character more.”

And with that, we were off…

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