So, David Tennant’s role as the eponymous time lord has come to an end. Widely acknowledged by fans old and new as the greatest ever Doctor, Tennant’s final episode was a fitting tribute to the history of the regenerated show.
Accompanied by Wilfred Motts (Bernard Cribbins), the Doctor faced off against perennial nemesis The Master, played to manic perfection by John Simm. Also making a shock return was the Doctor’s home planet Gallifrey, pulled out of oblivion by Timothy Dalton’s sinister President.
Hamlet analogies are almost inevitable, given Tennant’s bravura performance as the Dane in a BBC broadcast RSC production. The Ood promising to ‘sing [him] to sleep’ certainly evoked the sweet prince’s final moments. In addition the mysterious vanishing woman, later identified as the Doctor’s mother, was played by Shakespeare veteran Claire Bloom. And finally, the Doctor’s complex dilemma between destroying Master or President (albeit with a rusty WWII pistol) was thoroughly evocative of Hamlet’s moral casuistry.
Whilst lacking the spectacular fireworks and techno-babble of last year’s ‘Journey’s End’, this finale was heavier on the emotion. The final 20 minutes of the extra long episode were devoted to a Who-retrospective, as the Doctor visits all of his former companions one last time. The mock-Latin choral singing that inevitably accompanies such moments was slightly strained at times, and a Star Wars-esque scene involving Captain Jack (John Barrowman) was unnecessary, but Tennant’s touching and almost childlike last words struck a definite chord.
So it was with bleary eyes that Whovers across the nation caught their first glimpse of Doctor number 11, played by 27-year-old Matt Smith. Although 30 seconds of screen time is too little to anatomise the style of the Tardis’ newest (and youngest) resident, Smith both ramped up the goofiness and deployed what looks set to become his catchphrase: Geronimo!
Having easily won the largest audience share for its timeslot, the pulling power of Doctor Who remains unquestioned, as does its flagship role in the BBC’s primetime line-up. However, certain voices from tabloids the Mail and Mirror begged to differ. Jim Shelley suggested that by the time of David Tennant’s exit, “you were sick of the sight of him”, whilst Jan Moir (still in disgrace for a homophobic attack on the late Stephen Gately) suggested we “exterminate Tennant from the schedules”.
Such commentary is almost certainly motivated by anti-BBC bias, rather than Shelley and Moir’s self professed populism. The nation however did not appear to agree, and the spring return of Doctor Who looks set to be a landmark in television’s 2010 calendar.