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The Inevitable and The Inescapable: Televisionary Talks to David Tennant About "Doctor Who" Legacy, Sartorial Choices, and "End of Time"

There are a handful of iconic roles that exist in entertainment and ranking high upon that list is the Doctor.

For many people, the time-traveling alien nomad has been best embodied by Scottish actor David Tennant, who will depart the series after three final Doctor Who specials, airing this fall and winter on BBC One and BBC America.

I had the chance to catch up with Tennant over drinks last night at BBC America's cocktail party at the Television Critics Association's Summer Press Tour. As a huge fan of Doctor Who and of Tennant's performance as the Tenth Doctor, I was curious about the legacy he'll leave behind after he departs the series, the cast of characters assembled for the two-part "End of Time" special (directed by Euros Lyn), and the Tenth Doctor's trademark combination of Chuck Taylor Converse and pin-striped suits.

So what did Tennant have to say on those topics? Let's find out in this exclusive interview with the Doctor himself, David Tennant.

Televisionary: What do you think is the legacy that you're leaving behind for the Doctor Who franchise?

David Tennant: That's not an easy question! And probably not for me to answer. I think it's really hard to be objective about it when you're in the midst of it. Also I'm far too British and self-deprecating to know.

I'm very proud that we're handing it over in such rude health because every year it's been a battle to stay out there and make sure we make the show good. And actually we seem to have managed to increase the viewing figures and the attention that we get year on year. I'm proud of that. I am very glad that that is our legacy.

Also, because I know how much it meant to me as a kid and how formative those memories were, the idea that there might be some seven- or eight-year-old kid having just a little bit of the experience that I had when I was a kid watching that show, that's enough legacy for me. That's all I hope for.

Televisionary: From watching the trailer for Doctor Who: The End of Time, we saw Catherine Tate's Donna Noble, John Simm's The Master, Alexandra Moen's Lucy Saxon, and Bernard Cribbins' Wilt returning. What was it like having these fantastic actors return for your final bow on the series?

David Tennant: Well, they are all great people to work with. But actually it's all story-led. Funnily enough, it could have easily been a greatest hits package, I suppose, to finish off our time. But I suppose Russell [Davies] would never have been so cheap, I guess. (Laughs)

But what you get is that there's a reason why Bernard Cribbins is in the center of the story. It's absolutely central to what happens. And there's a reason that John Simm is there because that absolutely tells you more about who the Doctor is.

As ever with Russell's scripts, he finds a way of bringing brilliant characters and brilliant actors together but it's all serving the story. It's serving the tale of the Doctor... There's an epic-ness to this because he knows he's dying and because, slightly cheekily, the audience knows he's dying. We're all kind of on the same boat and we're all telling the same story.

There's an inevitability which is inescapable. The Doctor is kind of on this runaway train and then, just when you think you know where it's going, Russell completely changes all the goalposts. And maybe he'll walk away...

Televisionary: In speaking with Russell earlier, he said that the use of the Chuck Taylors and the suits for the Doctor's wardrobe was your idea. What was it about that particular sartorial combination that you wanted to use to embody the Tenth Doctor?

David Tennant: I wanted shoes that would be comfortable to run in. (Laughs) I liked the idea of a suit but I was worried that that could be too authoritarian. So then how to you take the edge off a suit? So I thought, well, if you wear it with soft shoes, it just makes it softer and gentler. And then if you just scrunch the suit up a bit and the tie's not really done up--like I'm wearing my tie now--you sort of feel like he's kind of wearing a suit but he's not wearing it like a man in an office would wear a suit.

So they were all thoughts like that and of course Louise Page, our costume designer, had a huge amount of input and brought ideas that I just would never have seen. So between us, we kind of struggled towards that. And I always wanted a long coat and I was determined to have a long coat, whatever else we found, I wanted a long coat to go over the top of it. So a sort of random collection of notions and ideas kind of assembled into the outfit.

Doctor Who returns this fall with special "Waters of Mars" on BBC America and BBC One.


Bella Spruce said…
I am thrilled to see from your interview that Tennant is every bit as intelligent and witty as the Doctor himself!
Kyra said…
I can't believe the Converse were his idea. That's brilliant! He truly embodied the role of the tenth Doctor and he will be greatly missed.
Prez said…
Thank you for the great interview! I'm excited about the final three episodes but, as they are David Tennant's last, watching them will be bittersweet.
Mazza said…
Fantastic interview, Jace. I am so jealous that you got to meet and spend time w/ DT!!!!! I am really going to miss him from DW as he was the one who got me into the show. Matt Smith has some big shoes to fill!
Unknown said…
Yay! The interview! Thanks, Jace! ;)

I'm gonna miss those Chucks, suits and long coat! But I'm going to miss the man wearing them even more. David is such a fanboy that it really comes through in his performance. Oh, yeah, and he's really cute too! ;)

Ten will always be MY Doctor!
HipHopAnonymous said…
Funny, I really never thought anyone could ever possibly compete with Tom Baker (the 4th Doctor). But Tennant has really pulled off the impossible. He managed to create a Doctor who is both contemporary and totally in keeping with the long history of the show.

Sad to see him go, but he's earned himself a spot on the Mount Rushmore of Doctors, alongside William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker.

Eric said…
I'd hate you if you didn't deserve all of this so damn much! I kid, I kid. Great interview as always, Jace. I love DT and will definitely miss him when he leaves.
Ridolph said…
Jon Pertwee is also on that mountain!
Anonymous said…
thanks for a good interview. One little thing - I'm sure that it has to do with his Scots accent because I've seen the same misquote several other places. This line

"I'm very proud that we're handing it over in such rude health because"

He's saying *GOOD* health, not *rude*

The double OO in his broque is like an umlauted (or French) U sound... and his gutteral G may have sounded like a flipped R.

Believe, me I've listened to HOURS AND HOURS of this man talking and reading books on tape. Also, the word rude just doesn't fit.
Jace Lacob said…

It's not at all a misquote. As said by David--and also by Russell Davies--about the state of Doctor Who as he leaves it is in "rude health."

"Rude health" is a British idiomatic expression which means that someone/something is extremely healthy and looks it. (Essentially, it's so healthy, it's rude.)

So no misquote on my part or others or misunderstanding David's Scottish accent (which is much more slight than, say, Robert Carlyle's).

Thanks for reading!

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