Top Five Reasons David Tennant Isn’t Leaving DOCTOR WHO… Yet

Once more, the Doctor Who rumor mill is stuck in overdrive, with speculation running rampant that David Tennant is vacating the TARDIS. This time, it’s fueled by the cliffhanger ending of this season’s penultimate episode, broadcast Saturday in the U.K. (us poor Americans will have to wait weeks yet before Sci Fi gets around to airing it).

Since both the Beeb and Tennant have yet to officially confirm or deny that he’ll still be around when Steven Moffat takes over as showrunner in 2010, some fans are understandably alarmed. Not me, though. I’m not a bit worried. In fact, I’m almost certain Tennant won’t be leaving for at least another couple of years. Here are five reasons why:

#5. Yes, that cliffhanger at the end of “The Stolen Earth” was pretty darned shocking (I’m avoiding any overt spoilers for those who are on the Sci Fi Channel broadcast schedule), but the reality is that David Tennant is still signed on for four more specials over the next year. In fact, he’s already filmed the Christmas special (WARNING: Link is to spoiler footage). Given that, it seems pretty unlikely that we’ve seen the end of our beloved Tenth Doctor, no matter how it looks.

#4. Catherine Tate has confirmed that she will not be returning for another season as companion Donna Noble. Which means we’re going to have to get used to yet another new companion in the TARDIS. It’s likely that the upcoming specials will feature a series of one-shot guest stars, with a new regular companion settling in when the next full season commences in 2010. So are they going to want to introduce a new Doctor at the same time they’re bringing a new companion on board? Seems unlikely, as in the past cast departures have been staggered to provide some continuity. When Nine became Ten we still had Rose around to help us get used to the new guy. And likewise when Rose departed for her parallel universe the Tenth Doctor was there to introduce us to the next companion (and the next).

#3. With the departure of showrunner Russell T Davies, producer Phil Collinson and executive producer Julie Gardner—the trifecta responsible for making New Who such a success—the series is facing huge changes. Some have even wondered if new helmer Steven Moffat would want to start fresh with a brand new Doctor (with most speculation centering around James Nesbitt, star of Moffat’s Jekyll). I’ll admit that when I heard Davies was leaving I was greatly afraid Tennant would consider that his signal to jump ship as well. But now that Moffat’s on board I’m far less worried. After all, Moffat is: a) an experienced showrunner in his own right; b) a veteran Who writer responsible for some of the modern series’ greatest episodes; and c) a fellow Scot who, by all accounts, gets on famously with Tennant. And if I were Moffat? I’d want to sustain a little continuity for my first season. Starting the 2010 season with a new production team and a new Doctor and a new companion? That’s an awful lot of new to pull on their faithful viewers all at once.

#2. The British media are reporting that the BBC is prepared to offer Tennant up to up to £100,000 per episode. That may not sound like much compared to what some high-powered American TV stars make, but when you consider that the Beeb is a publicly-funded network (more akin to our American PBS than the commercial broadcast networks), that’s a whole lotta moolah. The story hasn’t been officially confirmed, but given the success of Doctor Who and the popularity of Tennant’s Doctor in particular, I’d say it’s pretty credible.

#1. And the number one reason I don’t believe David Tennant is leaving Doctor Who? Because the man loves being the Doctor. If you’ve ever watched the Doctor Who Confidentials or Tennant’s own video diaries (included on the series DVDs), his abiding love for all things Who is plain to see. (In the latest Confidential he was grinning like a kid and taking pictures with his cell phone the first time he saw <*insert spoilery supervillian name here*> in costume–this is not the behavior of man who’s tired of his job.) He’s watched the show since he was a wee bairn, he can stand toe-to-toe with any diehard Whovian in a test of trivia mettle, and he truly seems to consider this the role of a lifetime. Yes, one day he will surely turn in his TARDIS key and move on to bigger (though possibly not better) things, but I just don’t believe that day has come.

I could be totally wrong about all of this, but my instincts say there’s no reason to worry about losing Tennant just yet. My prediction? He’ll sign on for all of Moffat’s first season, then step aside at the end of 2010 to make room for a new Doctor to fill his shoes in that year’s Christmas special.

Only time will tell, of course.


14 thoughts on “Top Five Reasons David Tennant Isn’t Leaving DOCTOR WHO… Yet

  1. Hey Susannah all sound reasons I must admit. And as much I don’t want to see David Tennant leave the show – I’m not sure if footage for the Christmas Special (or the others he’s signed up for) rules out him leaving – after all the Doctor’s a timelord so the specials might be set before his current (possible ) regeneration. I.e. the new doctor (if there is one) looking back on a past adventure as the 10th doctor. A bit like Trial of a TimeLord with Colin Baker.

    Hopefully I am very incorrect and I think your other four reasons are pretty sound.

  2. {scrambles to go look up “Trial of a Time Lord”}

    {Also, am considering believing our SteveM is Steven Moffat 🙂 }

    I’ve wondered about the “timey-wimey” possibilities and the Christmas special, too. I’m going to cling to the idea that, from the perspective of protecting/growing the overall Doctor Who brand, they wouldn’t want to undercut the new 11th Doctor by hanging out with the 10th after showing a true regeneration. Still, I’ll be happiest when I know for sure.

    Susannah, I love it when you’re the voice of reason, which is, you know, all the time. 🙂 I’d add to your excellent list that Davies appears to love Tennant to little bits and pieces, so I’d assume he’d want to provide at least as good an exit line as (the also wonderful) Christopher Eccleston got. Not to mention my gigantic doubt that the BBC could possibly keep a secret so big. They’re…not very good at that sort of thing. So I’m with you in thinking nothing’s changing. If that’s true, however, I’ll be very interested to see how they get away with reversing/changing something that’s always had major consequences before–what would the price be instead? Interesting.

  3. Those are all great points, Mikaela! If Tennant is really leaving now it would be the best-kept secret in television history. Raise your hand if you think the BBC is capable of pulling that off? And you’re right, Davies would never let Tennant go out without giving him a truly awesome exit line.

    Steve, I’m intrigued by your theory about the Christmas special, but I’d be more willing to buy into if Tennant weren’t signed on for three more specials after that. It’d be a huge dramatic anti-climax to kill off Ten and then have him stick around for four specials over the course of a year while the new guy twiddles his thumbs on the sidelines.

    And let’s not forget the River Song problem. Perhaps we’ll never actually get to see Ten’s future with River on the show, but it would be very out of character for them to expect their faithful viewers to forget about it with no explanation only two episodes later.

  4. Thanks for the well thought out reasoning.

    I still say that he’s leaving, mind you. As an actor he just seems bored with the role. His performance last year was an improvement but he has so little range this season that I wonder why he’d do any more. And while it does sound bold to introduce a new Doctor in 2010 when so many other things are changing, that is how it has been done in the past so it’s not outside the range of possibility.

    Also, each season has featured a ‘big event’ and the only one left at this point is for the Doctor to regenerate. The leaked trailer does show Tennant regenerating and unless it’s a ruse that’s proof enough.

    Ofcourse we’ll have to wait until it airs to be sure… kinda like the old days when fans anxiously watched Logopolos, unsure of what would happen… or Trial of a Timelord… shocked when nothing did happen!

  5. Fascinating article, I’m a Brit, so I’ve been lucky enough to see “The Stolen Earth”. I think it’ll go one of two ways, and it’s all about his severed hand. In the first Tennant Christmas special, during the sword fight, The Doctor loses his hand, only for it grow back because he’s, ‘still regenerating’ – he keeps the severed hand in a jar in the TARDIS. There’s been a lot of close-ups of it in this series & I think that’s a hint to the fact he will re-generate as himself. Also, in the epsiode where the hand led him to the planet where his daughter was created, when she re-generated at the end of the episode, she did not change appearence. Saying that…. with John Simm highly tipped to return but in the role of The Doctor, maybe since The Master regenerated in the TARDIS, there’s some sort of genetic echo residue (I know, I have no idea) which will explain the man who potrayed The Master now playing The Doctor. Personally, I hope Tennant stays.

  6. This just popped into my head. The Shadow Proclaimation chick talking to Donna in “The Stolen Earth” mentioned the bug that was on Donna’s back. And she said it had changed her. The bug was a temporal entity. DOnna also didn’t know what was going on at the end of the latest episode but the other two did. I wonder if she doesn’t break loose and run up to the Doctor in mid-regeneration and somehow take in the energy like Rose did in the final episode of the 9th doctor’s season. The bug having changed Donna so she has tis ability to siphon the energy off the doctor to stop the full regeneration process. This repairs the Dalek injury to the Doctor but doen’t let him regenerate into another incarnation. Since the doctor would be incapacitated from having gone thorugh part of the regeneration process, there would be no one to “suck” the time vortex energy out of Donna, thus killing Donna (who isn’t going to be returning for the next season from what I’ve read). Or at least shifting Donna into another dimension of existence. This would allow Tennant to remain the doctor. After all we only saw the start of the regenration, it usually lasts a few more seconds before the full change over occurs. Just makes sense and it would give them a plausible out for Tennant to stay on the show even after an obvious unstoppable regeneration sequence started in this last episode. I’ll be buying a lottery ticket next if this turns out to be the case, but it all fits without a lot of story convolusion.

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  8. I’ve got a question for the group that’s just a shade off the beaten path: the writers/producers etc have been very true to the ‘old’ series, keeping up with odd ephemera like the Cloister Bell and suchwhat. Answer me this, though. Way back in the dim mists of Tom Baker’s sterling Whoery it was often mentioned that a Time Lord wasn’t immortal, but had ten regenerations. Is this still a ‘rule’ or is someone going to simply bypass it? Last I remember it being mentioned in series was around the time that Four became beceleryed Five. Is Eleven going to be The Last?

  9. Irrelephant, “beceleryed” is my new favorite word.

    I have a vague memory of twelve rather than ten regenerations (I could totally be wrong on that), but, yeah–they’re bumping right up to these numbers. With the great success of the show and the fact that no one expects, say, Tennant to last even as long as Tom Baker, let alone forever, lthis leads to the question of how they’re going to get out of this mess.

    Various comments by Davies seem to suggest that he views the limits on regenerations as a political issue–an attempt at Gallifreyan social control–rather than a biological limit. The Master’s description of the Time Lords bringing him back because they thought he’d be a good soldier grows out of this approach. Now that there are no Time Lords to enforce the ten/twelve/whatever regenerations rule, it would seem they could run through as many actors/versions of the Doctor as they please. I don’t really know if Moffat shares this view, though, so with Davies leaving…does anyone know more about Moffat’s policy position on this? It does seem like–assuming they take this “social rather than biological construct” approach–they could both continue to honor details of Old School Who and regenerate willy-nilly. Is having their cake and eating it too okay in this situation?

    What all of this discussion brings me to, of course, is that I want me some Valeyard.

  10. Well David Tennent regenerates back into himself.How he does this is that he obsorbs all his energy into the hand.So if he obsorbs the energy in the hand the energy went back into him and his got his D.N.A changed him back.

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    • Let me tell you one thing. The Doctor is real. He came to London in the 60’s and he met series creator. From that brief -but inspirational- encounter, the show was born.
      Think about the Doctor not Tennant or Smith’s- like, but more like Hartnell. I like to think that he could be anyone we see on the street, and he likes to have a word with his fellow followers once in a while. So, if a peculiar guy watch you and smiles or says “hi”, don’t follow him, unless you see a police phone box next to him.

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