Character: The Tenth Doctor
Fandom: Doctor Who
Spoilers: Through… "Planet of the Dead"
I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord. I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I'm 903 years old, and I'm the man who's gonna save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?
In that case: Allons-y!
(DW X-mas Special: Voyage of the Damned)
When we were first introduced to the Tenth Doctor, at the end of Series 1’s “Parting of the Ways,” I think that we, like his faithful companion, Rose Tyler, were just a wee bit shell shocked. For those of us who were madly in love with New Who's first doctor (the Ninth, as played by Christopher Eccleston) watching the regeneration was not just heartbreaking – it was terrifying.
After all, we wondered, who could possibly be as off-the-map fantastic as the Ninth Doctor who'd won so many of our hearts in the first series of New Who?
Well, as it turns out, this guy:
Yes, that's right. David Tennant, in the role of a lifetime. (David Tennant; Tenth Doctor, almost like it was meant to be, isn't it?) I don't want to talk too much about the actor here (fodder for a different post!), but let me just say that I think his love of Doctor Who really imbued the character with an effervescent joy and dazzling sincerity that made him a pleasure to watch under pretty much all circumstances.
Okay, back to the Tenth Doctor.
The thing to remember is, the Ninth Doctor was not what one might call a happy Time Lord.
[…] born in battle - full of blood and anger and revenge. (to Rose) Remind you of someone? That's me. When we first met. And you made me better. And now you can do the same for him.
But he's not you.
He needs you. That's very me.
(DW 4x13: Journey's End)
Despite his huge, infectious grin, and often manic energy, Nine was someone scarred and ravaged from what had been done to him in the Time War… and what he'd been forced to do – destroying not only the Daleks, but also his own people, the Time Lords. Darkness, despair and self-loathing were never very far beneath the surface of his smile… and even as we watched him beguiled by Rose, often times Nine seemed to hate himself far more than it was possible for him to love anyone.
But the first rule of evolution is change or die.
And for the Doctor, sometimes in order to do the first, you have to do the second.
I think that Nine regenerates into Ten, not just because it's necessary to save Rose's life, but also because, until the moment of transformation, he isn't much more than a walking, open wound. It's only when it's down to the wire, when he must self-destruct, that Nine can (finally!) kiss Rose, can (finally!) admit not only that she's fantastic but so is he. As Ten, although the scars of the Time War still most certainly remain (more on this later!), he becomes someone who can begin to move forward and process his loss, someone who can begin to heal. [Emphasis on the word ‘begin’ there, as this Doctor is still definitely…uh, shall we say, ten lbs. of crazy in a five lb. bag?]
And so we have:
He gulps. Rose stares at him with fascination as he runs a tongue over his teeth, brow furrowed.
New teeth. That's weird. So, where was I? Oh, that's right! Barcelona!
Rose just stares at him with undisguised shock. He grins.
(DW 1x13: Parting of the Ways)
Some of the Doctor's changes are superficial – now, for instance (to go along with his sonic screwdriver) he's got some truly intense hair, a predilection for geek-chic & pinstripes, an ever present pair of chucks, some brainy specs (for when he wants to seem smart!), a stethoscope, a fascination with blue and brown, and well, an obsession with licking things:
And then there are other changes that go deeper than skin.
While Ten's darkness is buried much deeper than Nine's, his daffiness disguises a person who is actually quite remarkably ruthless. Describing himself as "the sort of man who doesn't give second chances", Ten, in his very first full episode "The Christmas Invasion", destroys the career of Prime Minister Harriet Jones, with six simple words: "Don't you think she looks tired?" His good-humored, non-sequential, excitable silliness makes his darkness all the more chilling because you realize that at least part of his daft zaniness is simply a social mask, used to disarm. You never see him coming.
(v.o.) He never raised his voice. That was the worst thing. The fury of the Time Lord. And then we discovered why. Why this Doctor, who had fought with gods and demons, why he'd run away from us and hidden--he was being kind. (Shot of CLARK screaming, bound in thick metal chains. THE DOCTOR is standing behind him, unmoved.) He wrapped my father in unbreakable chains, forged in the heart of a dwarf star. (JENNY, the TARDIS doors open behind her, is being pulled backwards out of the ship.)He tricked my mother into the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy to be imprisoned there...forever. (THE DOCTOR watches coldly, no emotion on his face.)He still visits my little sister once a year every year. (THE DOCTOR looks into an ornate mirror where a door is cracked open and LUCY peers out. ) I wonder if one day he might forgive her, but there she is--can you see? He trapped her inside a mirror, every mirror. If ever you look at your reflection and see something move behind you, just for a second, that's her. That's always her. As for me, I was suspended in time. And the Doctor put me to work... (THE DOCTOR places the scarecrow hood over his head.)...standing over the fields of England...as their protector. (THE DOCTOR walks away.) We wanted to live forever, so the Doctor made sure that we did.
(DW 3x09: Family of Blood)
Carrying this immense weight of power and responsibility isn’t easy for Ten, although he isn’t quite at the running-away-from-it-all stage that characterized many of the Doctor’s classic Who incarnations – after all, with all the Time Lords gone, if he doesn’t look after time and space, who will? Even so, commitment-phobia and emotional cowardice are still very much part of his makeup, and guilt still seems to be his most constant companion. It’s probably no accident that his catchphrase is, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
The genocide of the Time Lords, as well as the Daleks have left Ten with a burden of pacifism that he cannot shake. He does get a bit holier-than-thou about it at times, and this can grate, (especially since he seems to be a bit flexible about when and for whom such rules apply), but mainly his sincerity on the subject is really pretty moving.
When his daughter Jenny is killed, for instance, we have the following:
Two hearts. Two hearts, she's like me. If we wait... If we just wait... (He looks at Martha for support.)
There's no sign, Doctor. There is no regeneration. She's like you, but... maybe not enough.
No. Too much. That's the truth of it. She was too much like me. (He gently puts Jenny to the ground and kisses her one last time. Then he gets up, walks to General Cobb and picks up his gun. He stands there, panting from anger and despair, pointing the gun at Cobb's head. Martha and Donna are shocked to see what he's doing. But then he lowers the gun and crouches down to Cobb.) I never would. Have you got that? I never would! (He stands up again and addresses both fighting parties.) When you start this new world. This world of Human and Hath... remember that! Make the foundation of this society. A man who never would! (He throws away the gun and sits back to Jenny's body.)
(DW 4x06: The Doctor's Daughter)
But it’s not all doom, gloom, and approaching storm around Ten’s TARDIS. Far from it. Sure, he’s a little emo –- people just keep dying around him/leaving him! It’s enough to give a Time Lord a complex! – but regardless, Ten is clearly having one hell of a riotous good time. Whether it’s facing down volcanic aliens with a water pistol, smelling the applegrass of New Earth, opening the TARDIS with a fingersnap, or matching words with Will Shakespeare, this Doctor is appreciating every second.
And when he’s having fun, so are we.
If I had to characterize Ten’s most lovable quality, I think it’s his clear-eyed appreciation of the wonders of the cosmos, the absolute love for people and things with all their foibles and quirks, all their pettiness and grace. He’s, by and large, a fan of the universe, and thus, as fellow fannish beings, we have something in common.
While he’s pretty ecumenical about his love of the universe, and like all the Doctors, has a serious case of wanderlust, it’s clear that Ten has a downright soft spot for Earth and its people. Quandaries about the Doctor’s half-humanness aside, it really seems that after Gallifrey is destroyed, the Earth becomes the Doctor’s new home. Much as he did with Gallifrey, he spends a lot of time running away from said home, but if you’re an alien invader, he wants you to know: "...the planet earth? It. Is. Defended."
The Doctor and his Children of Time
Like the Earth, high on the list of things that the Doctor appreciates are, of course, his companions. While he does seem to sometimes look upon human beings as lower life forms (which, well, they probably are), after the destruction of Gallifrey, and the Time Lords, the Doctor seems to be forced to look to humanity for his closest interpersonal relationships. Rose is the first of these, and like it or not, Ten’s love of Rose cannot be denied.
For the better part of Series 2, the two of them are, as David Tennant says, a full on romance without the shagging. (Ficcers have clearly chosen to put in the shagging all over the place.) Despite a few shadow romances for each of them along the way, they appear like nothing so much as two giddy school kids in love with life and each other. After Rose is forced into a parallel universe, and separated from him, the Doctor continues to mourn. And in some sense this mourning continues to inflect his relationship with all of the companions who come after. Which brings us to…
Martha, Ten’s second companion and herself a doctor, is the companion who, in some sense, gets the shortest end of the stick. While she’s in love with the Doctor from almost the first moment of their adventures together, he’s completely unable to return her romantic feelings, his own having pretty much atrophied and what little remained of them, having been salted and burned with the loss of Rose. The Doctor’s under-appreciation of Martha can be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s important to remember that of all the new companions, she’s the only one who has the Doctor on call, as it were. She can summon him any time she likes, and as we see in Series 4, he shows up when she does. Obviously, he thinks she’s pretty damn cool. (And she is!)
Then, there’s Sarah Jane, who meets New Who’s Doctor for the first time, in the Series 2 episode “School Reunion.” We find out a lot more about Sarah Jane in Classic Who, of course, and in her own spin-off show, The Sarah Jane Adventures (which is the first spin off to actually feature Ten!), but she’s clearly a pivotal figure in this Doctor’s life. There’s romance underpinning their relationship as well, but on a meta level, Sarah Jane also works as a harness between New Who and Classic Who, and she does it beautifully.
If Sarah Jane links New Who to the past, there’s also another spin off that links the Doctor to the future. Under the aegis of Russell T Davies, New Who and its spin-off, Torchwood, were able to become a more explicitly multi-sexual world. Thus, the erstwhile Time Agent, omnisexual space-pirate, and at last sighting, head of the Torchwood Institute, Captain Jack Harkness has a very complicated relationship with Ten. It’s clear that like Martha, Jack is in love with the Doctor (no matter what body he wears!) but while Nine flirted right back at Jack, Ten is oddly more reserved with him. Callously deserting him on a spacestation in “Parting of the Ways”, when finally reunited in Series 3’s “Utopia”, all the Doctor has to say to Jack’s accusation of abandonment is, “Busy life, moving on.” We discover that the anomaly of Jack’s immortality which has turned Jack into a "fixed point" makes the Doctor… well, sick to his time-senses, and he can barely stand to look at him. Still, their attempt to work through the resulting awkwardness of their relationship, and the fact that they are still, despite abandonment, betrayal, and unrequited(?) love, obviously very good friends, underscores the importance of their fondness for one another. This importance is underlined further when Jack (as the Face of Boe) is the one who communicates to Ten the seminal message of Series 3 – “you are not alone.” As far as the plot goes, it’s clear that when he says this, Jack/FoB is referring to the Master, but it’s also difficult not to see one old friend telling another that despite all Ten’s self-pity, he has a family that stretches through all time and space, the same message that Sarah Jane tries to communicate to Ten more explicitly at the end of Series 4.
Though not one of the Doctor's 'Children of Time', the literal subject of the “You Are Not Alone” spoken to Ten by the Face of Boe can't be left out of any discussion of Ten’s relationships. Throughout the entire run of Doctor Who, the Doctor and the Master’s relationship –“best enemies” – has been the subject of *ahem* speculation. Ten and the Master, as played by John Simm, take that relationship and turn the dial to eleven. Even after the psychotic universe-conquering that the Master tries to embark upon, Ten seems quite willing to keep him in the TARDIS forever, in some sort of domestic, frenemy set-up. It’s actually quite romantic (if you like that kind of thing, as I do), and much like his love of Rose, Ten’s desperate need for the Master to stay in his life is hard to deny. On some level, the Master is, at this point, the Doctor’s only hope for a relationship of equals. Despite his affection for his companions, they are always going to die and leave him (the only one whose lifespan approaches his makes him feel queasy to look at); plus, being human, they simply can’t look at the world the way he is unceasingly forced to. The Master is his one hope for that kind of companionship, and… it ends, of course, in tragedy.
Understandably, since his attempts at romance always go somewhat awry, in Series 4, the Doctor decides that all he really wants is a best friend. Which is how we get to Donna. Introduced in “The Runaway Bride” as a frankly exasperating and shrill character, Donna, the super-temp from Chiswick, blossoms into one of Ten’s most spectacular companions.
Always fond, but never taking any of his shit, Donna is a brilliant partner in crime for the Doctor, and they work incredibly well together. In "The Fires of Pompeii", when Donna learns that the eruption of Vesuvius and the death of Pompeii is inevitable, or “fixed”, and the Doctor is the one who must ‘pull the lever’, despite her compassionate agony, she simply places her hand on his, so that the responsibility is hers as well. This is characteristic of the entire fourth series; she’s not his brakes, or a way for him to feel again, or simply a bulwark against loneliness, she’s a partner, fully and completely. Which is why, when Ten is forced, at the end of their time together, to remove her memories of him and their adventures to save her life, it is the most heartbreaking moment for him. He’s had to give away Rose to his doppelganger, Sarah Jane leaves him for her son, Jack and Martha move on to their new lives, the Master died, and now, he has to lose his best friend. And that too, by his own hand.
Even Ten’s one-off relationships, such as Reinette, Madame du Pompadour (Girl in the Fireplace), River Song (Silence in the Library/Planet of the Dead) and Astrid (Voyage of the Damned) always end (and in the case of River Song, begin, because the Doctor's life is timey-wimey) with the Doctor’s lonely misery, to say nothing of his relationship with his daughter Jenny (The Doctor’s Daughter) which, as far as Ten knows, also ends in sorrow and death.
In “Planet of the Dead”, Ten declares that he’ll never take another companion, and if you look at it from his perspective, it’s not hard to see why, when they always end in tears. (Except that all relationships do, so…) He’s obviously had it with the loving and losing, and is choosing now, not to love anyone new at all.
Remember what I said about changing or dying?
It’s clear from this that Ten’s sojourn with us is coming to an end. And I, for one, am so not ready to part with his brilliant, batty, swashbuckling, guilt-wracked, romantic, flawed, carelessly cruel, withholding, idealistic, whimsical, terrifying, determinedly stoic, doesn't-know-when-he's-well-off, melodramatic, glorious, gorgeous self.
Luckily, he also travels in time.
...And he has a doppelganger.
So maybe we never really have to say goodbye. Not forever. Not all the way. Here’s hoping anyway.
RECS AND READING:
As the current Doctor (even if he is a lame duck), there’s fanwork about Ten everywhere, with every conceivable pairing. If you look here, you'll find an lj community for every facet of Ten you can think of, and some you can't. There's also the archive, A Teaspoon And An Open Mind which houses a spectacular amount of Whoniverse fic. If you need a guide to diving in, there's calufrax, which is a recs comm for the archive, and you can find a link to their Tenth Doctor fic recs here.
But here's a few links to specific vids and stories that I enjoyed, just to get you started. This list is, of course, not comprehensive, and is in fact, a mere sampling of what’s out there. There are many fabulous fics where Ten appears, but the focus is on the other characters, and I haven't included those. Instead, I've tried to choose ones that really showcase Ten above and beyond everyone else. The stories run the gamut from angst, to dark, to romance, to fluff, to humor, to crack… and I've tried to give a wide range of pairings; sadly, some of these lists are less complete than I'd have wanted because, like David Tennant, I occasionally subscribe to the no shagging in the TARDIS rule, and I've a hard time seeing, for instance, Ten and Donna shagging like rabbits. (Same goes for Martha and Ten as well.) This should not be taken to mean that I don't like Donna and Martha (I do! I love them!), but again… mental block. I have listed a couple, and please feel free to suggest more fics in comments. The more the merrier, and I look forward to having my horizons broadened. Okay? Brilliant! On with the list!
The title of this essay comes from the Flobots song, "Handlebars", which was used for a spectacular Ten vid by flummery. You can find it here. It’s the best explication of Ten’s character I’ve ever seen.
Then there’s Meet the Doctor by humansrsuperior, which is a funny, sweet, charming, and beautifully edited character study of quirky, quirky Ten.
Also, the absolutely delightful Oh What a World by such_heights, which as she puts it, has the refrain: "cheer up, emo Time Lord. It's not all bad."
The Mockingbird by eryaforsthye. [Ten/Human Race; sex: gen; rating: open; spoilers: general; oneshot; category/genre: erudite, angst, character study, dark]
Summary: You like to mimic them.
Dichotomous by versaphile. [Ten; sex: gen; rating: standard; spoilers: 4x13; ficlet; category/genre: character study, angst]
Summary: "He has friends, a family, even. He knows that."
The Dead Are Walking, The Dead Are Talking by calapine. [Nine/Ten; sex: slash, rating: standard; spoilers: general; one part in a series; category/genre: relationship, dark, angst, character study, erudite]
Summary: The Doctor goes and has a chat with himself (or the Doctor is dead, long live the Doctor).
The Gift of the Mad Guy by copperbadge. [Ten; sex: gen; rating: open; spoilers: general; oneshot; category/genre: adventure, humour]
Summary: The Doctor joins some Kings of Orient following a star, helps a quartet of sociologists, gets thrown in prison, meets shepherds (ditto: talking sheep), finds a baby in a stable, uses Christmas carols for nefarious ends, and learns The True Meaning Of Camel.
Patterns by selenak. [Doctor; sex: gen, rating: standard; spoilers: through DW S4; 3193 words, oneshot; category/genre: character study]
Summary: The Doctor has patterns in his lives. Just as the Brigadier, or Harriet Jones.
With True Love and Brotherhood by lizbee. [Ten, Rosita, Jackson; sex: gen; rating: standard; spoilers: The Next Doctor; oneshot; category/genre: relationship, character study]
Summary: The Doctor has an invitation, Rosita has a firm right hook, and there's a Yeti.
10/Rose (also, 10.2/Rose)
Belle de Jour by chase820. [sex: het; rating: explicit; 10,551 words, oneshot; spoilers: DW 2.Girl in the Fireplace; category/genre: romance, angst, dark]
Summary:: After the Madame de Pompadour interlude, Rose realizes that loving the Doctor is a far trickier affair than she thought. What kind of girl must she be, to accept the man he is now? Answering that question will stretch her loyalty--and her sanity--to the breaking point.
What's Left Unsaid by hence_the_name. [Ten/Rose, Jack, Donna; sex: gen; rating: standard; spoilers: through DW 4x12; oneshot; category/genre: romance, gapfiller]
Summary: Filling in the Doctor's thoughts during the final few minutes of the episode.
[DEADLY ZEPPELIN AIR PIRATES!] Prokofiev's Waltz by circe_tigana. [Ten.2/Rose; sex: het; rating: mature; spoilers: DW 4x13; oneshot; category/genre: dark, erudite, romance, adventure]
Summary: Dark!crack!fic taking place in the alt!verse fifteen years after Journey's End.
East of the Sun and West of the Moon by ariastar. [Ten.2/Rose; sex: het; rating: standard; 3784 words, oneshot; spoilers: DW 4x13; category/genre: romance]
Summary: Rose Tyler, after the end.
10/Jack (also 10 & Jack)
Atonement by sahiya. [Ten/Jack; sex: preslash; rating: standard; oneshot; spoilers: DW Series 4, category/genre: au]
Summary: The Doctor goes back for Jack a bit sooner. But sooner still might not be soon enough.
Another Time by hence_the_name [Ten/Jack, Ianto/Jack; sex: (pre)slash; rating: standard; oneshot, spoilers: DW S3; category/genre: hurt/comfort]
Summary: The Doctor works to save Jack after he's infected by an alien parasite.
Dulce et Decorum Est by wendymr [Ten & Jack, sex: gen; rating: standard; oneshot, spoilers: DW S4; category/genre: angst, dark]
Summary: On an infamous battlefield, the Doctor finds someone he left behind.
10/Martha (and 10 & Martha)
Human Shaped by versaphile. [Ten/Martha; sex: gen; rating: standard; spoilers: DW 3.42; oneshot; category/genre: relationship, romance, angst, drama]
Summary: It's not you, it's me. If he said it, it wouldn't help anything.
Three Months, Subjective Time by versaphile. [Ten, Martha; sex: gen; rating: standard; spoilers: DW 3.Smith and Jones; oneshot; category/genre: relationship, character study]
Summary: The Doctor didn't go back for Martha right away. He needed some time to think, first.
10/Donna (also 10 & Donna)
Mellowship Slinky by hitlikehammers. [Ten/Donna; sex: het, rating: mature; spoilers: DW 4x13; oneshot; category/genre: dark, angst, tragedy, romance]
Summary: It’s an anonymous room, a nameless bed, a faceless shag - or so she thinks.
Donna: The Beta Reader by nostalgia_lj. [Ten, Donna; sex: gen, rating: standard; spoilers: none; oneshot; category/genre: crack, meta]
Summary: Donna betas Ten's Buffy slash fic.
Doctor Who S5 by ariastar. [Ten/Master + DW cast + TW team; sex: slash; rating: standard; spoilers: through DW S4 & TW S2; series; category/genre: episode-like, relationship, drama]
Summary: An alternate Doctor Who season five. In which Donna Noble rediscovers herself, Torchwood finds all sorts of useful technology, the Doctor and the Master just can't get rid of each other, the past doesn't stay where it should, and Time starts to heal.
Uncertainty Principles by fahye. [Doctor/Master; sex: slash; rating: mature; series, 4592 words -this part; spoilers: general; category/genre: erudite, alien, character study, relationship, dark]
Summary: Timelords: biology, chemistry and in this one, physics.
Tiny Human Heads by kalima. [Ten/Sarah Jane; sex: het; rating: mature; spoilers: general; oneshot; category: romance, relationship, drama].
Summary: The Doctor is on a mission to tell everyone he loves that he loves them.
Rare Pairs & Threesomes
Children of Time by shadowfiction. [Ten/River, Jack; sex: gen; rating: open; 1523 words, oneshot; spoilers: through DW 4.Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead & TW: 2x05: Adam; category/genre: time travel, drama, relationship]
Summary: She’s born into a family that’s half what it used to be but still struggling to carry on, like a lightning-split tree.
Five Times the Doctor Accidentally Knocked Up the Face of Boe... by mrv3000. [Doctor/Face of Boe; sex: slash; rating: standard; spoilers: through DW S3; oneshot; category/genre: crack, humour, mpreg]
Summary: *points to title*
Not Here by lunasky. [Martha/Jack/Ten; sex: threesome; rating: explicit; oneshot; spoilers: DW S3; category/genre: sex, relationship]
Summary: Jack and Martha find some peace with their feelings for the Doctor
Broken Threads and Weaving by wendymr. [Ten/Jack/Rose; sex: threesome; rating: mature; multipart; spoilers: through Voyage of the Damned and S3, and TW S2 ; category/genre: adventure, romance, au].
Summary: She's back, and it should be just as it was before, the three of them... but can you ever really go back?
him in the clouds by cesario. [Jenny/Master, Master/Doctor; sex: het, slash; rating: mature; spoilers: through S4; oneshot; category/genre: kink (incest), drama, dark, relationship, character study, erudite]
Summary: Jenny is looking for her father.
Episode quotes are freely adapted from allthat_hopping; pics are from http://david-tennant.com and personal screen captures.