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Dr. Who: David Tennant’s Return… An Inspired Twist, or Act of Desperation?

He’ll be back for three-hour-long specials next November. But questions abound.

David Tennant. Shutterstock / Feature Flash Photo Agency

David Tennant has returned to one of his most fabled roles as he takes up the mantle once again as the infamous Time Lord. He’ll be back for three-hour-long specials next November. But questions abound.

Why is the tenth (slash fourteenth?) Dr. back? Are there scores to settle? Will John Simm’s version of the Master return too? Many questions remain but one thing is for sure: excitement en masse has returned to this fabled series for the first time in years.

What’s The Hype About?

Good question. Well, there are a number of things for fans of the show to be excited about. For one, the return of Russell T. Davies to as showrunner. He presided over arguably the most popular run of the series in the modern era. During that run of the show was built around a spectacular creative partnership between Davies, Tennant, and Murray Gold who took charge of the show’s music. The result was era-defining television, with classic episodes likes ‘Doomsday’, ‘Forest of the Dead’, ‘Fear Her’, and ‘Blink’.

The average viewing figure for Tennant’s final series in 2009 was 10.70 million – the highest in Dr. Who history. There was a clear strength of the partnership between these key players during these golden years of the show. So much so, that Tennant and Davies decided to part the show at the same time (Gold stayed on until 2018). Excitement for this reunion is therefore somewhat valid and more than merely the result of nostalgia on the part of a particular group of fans of a certain age.

David Tennant at Comic-Con during his original run as Dr. Who.
David Tennant at Comic-Con during his original run as Dr. Who. Shutterstock / Carla Van Wagoner

What’s Up Doc?

A major question that you may be asking is why the triumphant return of a much-lauded creative partnership might be considered an act of desperation on the part of the BBC. Well, ratings have been on the slide for years, reaching their lowest ebb this year. The possibility of cancellation has been raised because of this, which doesn’t bode well. Waining enthusiasm and lukewarm reviews have resulted in a downward spiral from which the show desperately needs to escape. The quality of the show’s writing has been criticized during this period, with storylines coming in an ever-bigger format, yet packing a smaller and smaller punch.

What is behind this creative fall from grace is unclear. The buck doesn’t necessarily stop with Chris Chibnell and Jodie Whittaker. The two came with a great pedigree having respectively created and starred in Broadchurch. The show was one of the hit dramas on British television during the 2010s (and coincidentally also starred David Tennant). As previously mentioned, the decline has been slow and steady and certainly started under the stewardship of Steven Moffat. Moffat was at the helm during the tenures of Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi (2010-2017). His reputation outside of the show was good, especially with his being the co-creative force behind Sherlock (with Mark Gatiss).

Ncuti Gatwa will be the new Dr. Who after David Tennant.
Ncuti Gatwa will be the new Dr. Who after David Tennant. Shutterstock / Fred Duval

What Does The Future Hold For Dr. Who?

Nobody can be quite sure what the future holds for the future of Dr. Who. Will the reunion of Tennant and Davies (as well as the return of Catherine Tate and Bernard Cribbins) spell glory? Or is it true that you should never go back? There is, of course, also the question of how the three specials will segue into the Ncuti Gatwa series, who it has already been confirmed will become the fifteenth doctor after Tennant’s re-departure. All will be revealed in good time but, for the first time in a while, there is a feeling of excitement surrounding the show. A boost to the nation’s morale at a time when it was probably needed. That, at least, spells good news for the BBC.

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