David Tennant’s Happy (Melancholy) Ending

Tennant as 10

I wanted to take a few moments to talk about what I really enjoyed about the DOCTOR WHO finale, “The End of Time.” I fear my last piece might have looked a bit too negative, since it focused a lot on…well, the negative. But there was plenty to enjoy about David Tennant‘s swan song – especially the star himself.

It is impossible to underestimate the value of Tennant to the franchise. He is an enormously charismatic actor. When you think about it, the 10th Doctor could be seen as an overgrown, hyperactive child – constantly in motion and chattering. Tennant never settled for merely reciting a line when he could shout it while breathlessly running in circles. And I was totally fine with that, because Tennant made it charming rather than annoying. He is a very capable actor. Whenever the scripts gave Tennant a chance, he always sank his teeth into the quieter moments, and imbued his character with a melancholy almost as powerful as his mania. It is largely due to his performances that the image of the Doctor as a lonely god is so firmly etched in the public’s mind. True, Sylvester McCoy‘s brilliant personification of the Seventh Doctor was largely responsible this character element, but the loneliness was not played up nearly as much in seasons 25 and 26 as it was in this year’s 10th Doctor specials.

I think Tennant’s best work ever came during “The Waters of Mars” and especially EoT. As knowledgeable and powerful as the Doctor is, he was on his heels for the final two stories, actually fearing for his life. “I can still die,” the Doctor told Wilf in that devastating coffee shop scene. “If I’m killed before regeneration, then I’m dead.” Tennant’s eyes were red-rimmed with dread and he breathed deeply as he pondered the prophecy. He even suggested that he might be getting what’s coming to him. “I did some things that went wrong,” he admitted, and Tennant seemed to be near blubbering. We’d never seen the Doctor like that before — so vulnerable. So scared. So…human. “I got worse,” the Time Lord admitted. “I got clever — manipulated people into taking their own [lives]. Sometimes I think a Time Lord lives too long.”

Cribbins as Wilf

And Tennant’s scene partner, Bernard Cribbins, kept up with him, emotion for emotion. He was heartbreaking when he pleaded with the Doctor: “I don’t want you to die.” There was such shame on Wilf’s face as he realized his well-intentioned blunder would be the instrument of the very death he had been trying to prevent. There was no need to actually mention the fact that Wilf knocked four times on the door; the guilt was in the actor’s eyes. Wilf’s final, feeble wave goodbye was heart-rending, capping the absolutely shattering work from Cribbins and Tennant. “I could do so much more!” the Doctor shouted when the end was nigh. No doubt – but Tennant could not possibly have done better work.

I also give full marks to executive producer Russell T Davies for penning the scenes that gave Tennant room to breathe as an actor. Davies likes his sentimental scenes (sometimes bordering on melodrama) and, truth to tell, I have enjoyed them, too. (Don’t even get me started on the way he ripped 10 and Rose apart in “Doomsday”; I’m trying to be cool here…) It was significant that the Doctor allowed himself to visit Rose as his last act. One could call it a happy ending. And, as far as “I don’t want to go” goes? Best. Last. Words. Ever.


Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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