‘The Man Who Never Would’ – The unpopular truth about the Tenth Doctor

David Tennant’s Doctor is, without doubt, one of the most popular Doctors of all time. You would be hard pressed to find a ranking of the Doctors that doesn’t have Ten in at least the top three, if not the top two, and it’s not hard to see why. David Tennant took over as the Doctor at the most opportune moment – Christopher Eccleston’s first series of NuWho brought Doctor Who back in a big way, and so when Tennant came along the show already had a huge following, and it certainly helped that he had the likeable charisma and his good looks. The show was never more popular when he was the Doctor, and for a lot of newer fans he holds that special place as ‘My Doctor’, and that’s okay – Tennant was the Doctor for most of my childhood, and I look back on his era of Doctor Who fondly. However, what I and many older fans do not view fondly is that the Tenth Doctor seems to have his own independent rabid fandom – a relatively small group, but not so small that they are unnoticeable, that loved his Doctor so much that they genuinely hope one day he will return, go back for Rose, and then remain as the Doctor forever. They’d happily sacrifice everything that makes Doctor Who what it is for the sake of more Ten/Rose shipping. It may sound sickening, but it is important to remember that these people exist, because the truth about the Tenth Doctor might just shatter those Rose-tinted spectacles.

The Tenth Doctor is a hypocrite who plays God and murders people. And this was established from his very first episode, The Christmas Invasion, in which he sends the leader of an invading race plummeting to his death on the grounds that he is now the kind of man who gives ‘No second chances’. I’m not joking, he actually says that, and he shows no remorse or disdain for what he has done despite claiming to be ‘The Man who Never Would’. Not only that, but he then goes on to outright devastate what he himself described as an important era in human history by deliberately toppling Harriet Jone’s government, despite claiming earlier that it was usher in a new ‘Golden Age’ for Britain. And why does he do this? Well, he does it because he… feels like it?

Okay,in fairness, PM Jones does blow up the alien ship as it’s retreating. The Doctor would not stand for that at all, but honestly, can you blame her? She just witnessed him brutally murdering their leader, and she is charged with defence of this country. And yet the Doctor decides that actually, it’s alright for him to commit uncivilised acts of barbarism but if anyone else tries it, well, guess the entire course of human history has to change! So much for preserving the timelines. And this isn’t even an isolated incident – Tennant’s Doctor seems to love playing God and pretending that he’s some kind of omnipotent warrior prince who goes gallivanting off around the Galaxy leaving a path of total destruction in his wake. Anyone remember when the Doctor was just a dude who had a time machine and liked to save people?

But hold on a second, surely this isn’t fair on Ten. Other Doctors have done weird and sometimes outright cruel things too, like the time when Three murders an Ogron. And who could forget Seven’s obsession with causing a mental breakdown in Ace every other episode? Well, I’ll admit, there are several instances of this in the Classic series, but nowhere near as many as in NuWho, and the thing that gets me about Tennant above all the other Doctors is the level of consistency with which he carries out these deeds. Some of them are just plain weird – like the time he botches the resurrection of Elton Pope’s girlfriend and she ends up half-fused with a paving slab. Or the time following a traumatic attack of a Werewolf that leaves scores of men dead, including the husband of a woman present in the scene, that Rose and the Doctor burst out laughing because Queen Victoria says ‘I am not amused’ and then laugh off the fact that she might have been infected with lycanthropy. Imagine if any other Doctor had had a companion who even tried anything as ridiculous as this, they’d have been booted out of the TARDIS Adam Mitchell style before they could say ‘I don’t want to go’.

But there are other, perhaps even darker aspects to Ten’s personality that, upon reflection, really don’t sit right with anyone – even the creators of the show themselves. There is a reason why mind-wiping has been brought up so consistently in Peter Capaldi’s era, both with Clara and Bill, and it’s because it has occurred to many fans online that Donna’s departure from the show is all kinds of messed up. For context, Donna managed to absorb the Doctor’s mind, thereby becoming as intelligent as he is, at the price of burning up her own mind. To save her, the Doctor decides to wipe her memory, and at the time the scene seemed both poignant and tragic – Donna loses everything she had gained through her time with the Doctor and is cruelly reverted back to her original role as an insufferable caricature. Think about it – Donna had the Doctor’s mind inside hers, and she even says that she understands the consequences of what is happening and insists she wants to stay. She makes the conscious decision to die as who she is rather than go back to being what she was, and the Doctor simply overrules her. He ravages her mind without her consent, even as she is begging him not to. Ten may as well have quoted the Twelve’s insane state and said “The Doctor is no longer here, you are stuck with me! And I will end you and everything you love!”

Ten’s further hypocrisy is also revealed in this very same episode, in which he berates the Meta-Crisis Doctor for destroying all the Daleks, despite the fact that he himself has more blood on his hands than anyone else in the universe, and I’m not even talking about the Time War. Remember that time when the Tenth Doctor senselessly commits genocide against an ancient race of spider people? He floods the Racnoss Queen’s chamber with Thames water and murders all of her children right in front of her, and then finishes her off for good measure. And yet he berates Meta-Man for killing Daleks? It doesn’t stop there. In Human Nature, Ten dooms the Family of Blood to individual and eternal torture methods that separate them and keep them trapped in their own personal hell for all eternity, because they… wanted to live. Admittedly, they were trying to prolong their own lives by stealing his regenerations, but in Journey’s End Ten aborts a regeneration in order to keep his vanity-stricken face the way it is, essentially killing a potential Doctor incarnation so that he can live a bit longer.

And then we come to The End of Time, in which Ten decides he actually enjoys the power trip that being the ‘Last of the Time Lords’ or ‘The Time Lord Victorious’ gives him, and sends all of his own people ‘back into hell’, including, potentially, his own mother. Just think about that for a second. Ten had a gun, he could have shot Rassilon in a way that just made him regenerate – Twelve later does this to the General in Hell Bent, and to those fans who deplore this act as murder, remember that the consequences of Twelve’s actions are laid bare in this episode. The plot can be summed up as: ‘The Doctor breaks his moral codes, and then faces the consequences’. The moral and ethical implications of what he is doing are picked apart, and he is forced to come to terms with the fact that he may not be a good man. The closest Ten gets to an episode like this is The Waters of Mars, and even then, he’s only upset by what he’s done in the end because he thinks it means he’s going to die. He is never truly held to account for his actions, and all of his so-called ‘Children of Time’ (seriously, Davies?) are happy to stand there and let him lord over the lives of ordinary people as the ‘Lonely God’ who slaughters his enemies as he sees fit, but unleashes his rage on anyone who dares to try and emulate him.

So overall, I suppose you’ll be expecting me to denounce Ten as a failure of a Doctor who ruined the show forever. That is not so. Ten may have been a slightly… odd… incarnation of the Doctor, but hey, so was Seven, so was Twelve, and remember that time when Three murdered an Ogron? I’m still not over that. The fact is, Ten is still the Doctor – he still does Doctor-y things, and for the most part in his earlier episodes he stays within the boundaries of who the Doctor should be. But to those who say that he is ‘the one true Doctor’, or ‘The Best Doctor’, or even, God forbid, ‘THE ONLY DOCTOR WORTH WATCHING’, I leave you with this immortal quote from the ‘greatest Doctor ever’ himself:

“Look up genocide, you’ll see a little picture of me there.”

 

Author: Cameron Walker

Writer, Painter, Dalek collector, Walker, General Idealist but Political Realist, Fan of Doctor Who, Star Wars, Halo, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and Ghost in the Shell, among other things. All Doctor Who discussion particularly welcome, but be warned, I am a huge nerd.

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