The 5 Best (and 5 Worst) David Tennant Doctor Who Episodes

By Rob Bricken in Daily Lists, TV
Monday, October 5, 2009 at 7:55 am
Who Tennant Header Image 2.jpg
By Chris Cummins

Sad news Whovians, David Tennant's time in Tardis is nearly up and there's not a damn thing any of us can do about it. Since he took the lead in Russell T. Davies' masterful revamp of Doctor Who in the series' second season, he has become the most popular Timelord since Tom Baker vamped around the galaxy back in the 1970s. (FYI- anyone who says that Colin Baker is the greatest Doctor is either related to him or clinically insane). At times mischievous and brooding, Tennant's Doc is a complicated man who feels every minute of his 903 years weighing on him. Regardless of the episode, he was (nearly always) on the top of his game acting wise. After Tennant leaves -- taking Davies with him -- the show will be in the capable hands of Steven Moffat, a fan favorite whose scripts have ranked consistently among the show's best. The jury is still out on how 11th Doctor Matt Smith and his silly Twilight haircut will be received by viewers, but few are optimistic that he can recapture the magic of his predecessor. Rather than prematurely judging Smith, let us instead analyze the wonders that David Tennant brought to the role with this look at his five best (and five worst) Doctor Who outings so far.


The Best:

5) Gridlock

Who wrote it? Russell T. Davies.
What is it about? This third season episode shows exactly how much the Doctor is still reeling from the loss of Rose Tyler at the end of "Doomsday." He takes new companion Martha Jones to New Earth, where he and Rose encountered some bitchy cat nurses and the dastardly skin tag known as Cassandra in the previous season. There's little time for him to dwell on the past when Martha goes missing. Instead, he must unravel the secrets of the mysterious Motorway to save her life. Along the way, he encounters a feline creature that is nearly as cool as the Cat on Red Dwarf and says goodbye to a dying Face of Boe.
Why is it so great? First off, anyone who has ever been stuck in a traffic clusterfuck can appreciate what the Doctor is up against in this episode. A solid action/mystery, "Gridlock" succeeds thanks to the little touches. Ardal O'Hanlon (of Father Ted fame) shines in a supporting role as Brannigan, a helpful cat who realizes that the Doctor is a "bit magnificent" as well as insane. In a nod to classic Doctor Who, Davies' decided to bring back the crab-like Macra to portray the villains of the episode, (spoiler alert) and the farewell of the Face of Boe (who, as it turns out, is likely Captain Jack Harkness himself) is a graceful moment that sets up the season's final three episodes.

4) Journey's End

Who wrote it? Russell T. Davies.
What is it about? In order to stop Davros and the Daleks from destroying the universe, the Doctor must team up with pretty much every recurring guest star and companion who has appeared since Davies revived Who in 2005.
Why is it so great? Davies' brings together all of the Who regulars as well as cast members from Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures to help the Doctor save the day from the increasingly unthreatening Daleks. Yes, the episode is nothing more than a 65-minute fanwank, but even the most cynical of Doctor Who fans (i.e. myself) had a hard time not being thrilled by the sight of the Doctor, Captain Jack, Rose, Martha, Donna, Mickey, Sarah Jane, and Jackie piloting the Tardis together. Elsewhere in the episode, Rose finally got to be with the Doctor, (well, a Doctor anyways) and the insufferable Donna Noble character got her memory wiped. Happy endings all around!

3) The Family of Blood

Who wrote it? Paul Cornell (based on his 1995 Doctor Who novel Human Nature).
What is it about? Continuing the events of the previous episode, "Human Nature," this installment has the Doctor believing that he is an ordinary schoolteacher living in 1913 England. The trouble is that he is actually on the run from a family of evil aliens who have tracked him down. Also, he is in love with Daisy from Spaced. To make matters worse, some damn kid has possession of a fob watch in which the Doctor has hidden his true identity. It's up to Martha Jones to sort out this mess. Sucks to be her.
Why is it so great? When she joined the cast of Doctor Who, Freema Agyeman had the thankless task of replacing fan favorite Rose Tyler. Many fans just wanted to see the Doctor and Rose together, so Agyeman's excellent work as the strong and independent Martha Jones was never really properly acknowledged. It's a shame, because other than Captain Jack, she is the most fully realized character to step foot inside of Tennant's Tardis. Although the acting is excellent all around, this episode truly lets Martha shine. This is also the darkest episode of the series to date. It is genuinely heartbreaking to witness the Doctor experience visions of married bliss that he will never get to realize. As the above clip illustrates, his revenge against the members of the Family of Blood is both cruel and poetic. Let it never be said that the Doc isn't a classy guy to everyone.

2) The Christmas Invasion

Who wrote it? Russell T. Davies.
What is it about? As Rose tries to deal with her confusion over the Doctor's regeneration, Earth comes under attack from aliens. Again. Will a cup of tea save the day? Will Jackie ever shut up? Does the Doctor really know Arthur Dent?
Why is it so great? In his first full appearance as the Doctor, David Tennant instantly owns the character. He establishes the 10th Doctor as a man who doesn't believe in second chances, as demonstrated when he brings down Prime Minister Harriet Jones with six words ("don't you think she looks tired?") after she has Torchwood destroy the retreating Sycorax ship. He's also whimsical, smart, wears Chuck Taylors and is prone to making Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy references. So why is there any debate over who the greatest Doctor is?

1) Blink

Who wrote it? The always wonderful Steven Moffat.
What is it about? While taking photographs in a run-down house, new character Sally Sparrow encounters some creepy ass angel statues that move around when not observed by the human eye. With the assistance of some DVD easter eggs featuring the Doctor, she attempts to keep the Weeping Angels from taking control of the Tardis or sending her back in time using their magical temporal shifting powers. Neat!
Why is it so great? Oddly enough, the best Doctor Who episode of the David Tennant era is one he's hardly in. A "Doctor Lite" episode that won multiple BAFTAs and a Hugo Award, "Blink" is an eerie thriller that almost seems like the pilot for a spin-off series -- or a companion trial run at the very least. Carey Mulligan's performance as Sally Sparrow is so strong that rumors persist that Moffat will be utilizing her when he takes over the show next year. If true, that would soften the blow of Matt Smith's douchey hairdo a bit.

Hit the jump for a look at David Tennant's worst Doctor Who adventures.

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