- David Tennant
During ‘The Christmas Invasion’ (25 Dec 2005), the newly awoken and recently regenerated Doctor addresses a ship full of Sycorax as follows: ‘I’m the Doctor, but beyond that, I just don’t know. I literally do not know who I am. It’s all untested. Am I funny? Am I sarcastic? Sexy?’
On the word ‘sexy’ the Doctor catches Rose’s eye, makes a suggestive noise, and winks; she seems pleased, embarrassed, and looks down. And although the Doctor continues with his litany of potential personality traits, we have our answer: whatever else he may be, this new Doctor is sexy.
While flirty, intimate moments with Eccleston’s Doctor certainly occurred, culminating in kisses with Jack Harkness and Rose Tyler in ‘The Parting of the Ways’, this monologue marks the beginning of what came to define Tennant’s run on Doctor Who: a foregrounding of the Doctor’s sexual appeal. More than any other Doctor, he is surrounded (and to some degree beset) by romance – and as the first regeneration of the New Who, there is a sense in which Tennant’s sexiness is an establishing statement, his wink at Rose actually a wink at the audience, a declaration that, indeed, he is sexy and he [End Page 246] knows it. He flirts and is flirted with, attracting overtures from Cassandra (Zoë Wanamaker) in ‘New Earth’ (15 Apr 2006), Shakespeare (Dean Lennox Kelly) in ‘The Shakespeare Code’ (7 Apr 2007), Madame Pompadour (Sophia Myles) in ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ (6 May 2006) and the Master (John Simm) in ‘The Sound of Drums’ (23 Jun 2007), to name a few notables; he is also the first Doctor we see in a committed romantic relationship (as John Smith), explicitly ‘in love’ with Joan Redfern (Jessica Hynes) in ‘Human Nature’/‘The Family of Blood’ (26 May–2 Jun 2007), and the first Doctor with whom we see River Song (Alex Kingston) in ‘Silence in the Library’/‘Forest of the Dead’ (31 May–7 Jun 2008), with all the hints as to their future romance. The number of on-screen kisses during Tennant’s time on the show is also unprecedented (and has yet to be surpassed), as legions of fan compilations on YouTube ably demonstrate.
But romance during Tennant’s incarnation is not limited to these single instances; it also informs his relationship with every one of his Companions. The development of a romance with Rose essentially defines his relationship with Mickey (Noel Clarke); Rose’s loss casts a shadow over his relationship with Martha, whose interest goes unrequited, and whom he sometimes compares (unfavourably) to Rose; his friendship with Donna, notably begun by crashing her wedding, is explicitly founded on the premise that he is exhausted by romance and that she would never consider him attractive (‘I just want a mate!’ – ‘Well you’re not mating with me, sunshine!’). Indeed, so pervasive and consuming is romance for Tennant’s Doctor that he ends up growing a second, human self (ironically with Donna’s help, for all her protestations against mating) to partner with Rose in a parallel universe. Essentially sloughing off a romantic skin, he jettisons that aspect of himself and locks it away in preparation for his next regeneration.
Even after Tennant’s time, his era is remembered and represented in the show’s continuity as that of The Sexy One. Matt Smith’s subsequent Doctor notes in ‘The Time of the Doctor’ (25 Dec 2013) that his predecessor ‘regenerated and kept the same face – he had vanity issues’, while Tennant’s (thus far) final appearance in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ expanded a throwaway line about Queen Elizabeth I in ‘The Waters of Mars’ (15 Nov 2009) into a full-blown plot featuring his wooing of and marriage to her. In fact the whole 50th Anniversary Event orbited his relationships: it is a letter from Elizabeth Tudor (Joanna Page) that catalyses the plot and a de facto ghost of Rose Tyler who guides his past self’s actions.
There are certainly many other notable aspects to the Doctor’s tenth incarnation – his technological wizardry, the emphasis placed on his genius as the...