Doctor Who - Waters of Mars - Lindsey Duncan and David Tennant © BBC
Sarah Jane Adventures - Episode 3.05 - Peter Dalton (Nigel Havers), Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) and the Doctor (David Tennant) © BBC

Doctor Who, the longest running Sci-Fi series in history, which first premiered in 1963, has only starred 10 actors as the Time Lord.  On June 18, 2005, in the episode The Parting of the Ways, the Ninth Doctor, Christoper Eccleston, died and regenerated into the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant – perhaps the most popular of all the performers of recent time to take on the iconic role.

Now it’s time for Tennant to relinquish the character he’s loved since he was a child, and next spring the fifth season of the modern Doctor Who will premiere, starring Matt Smith as the Time Lord. I spoke with David Tennant about his departure from the series.

Being a fan of Doctor Who, did you know from the beginning how you were going to play the role?

I sort of responded to what was in the script. I tried not to sit down and work out a list of self-conscious quirks because I think it can become sort of cloyingly quirky in the wrong way. I think idiosyncrasies are better born than imposed. So I tried not to think about it until the first script arrived, and then I just responded to what Russell [T Davies] had written.

Who was your favorite Doctor?

Tom Baker and Peter Davison were the two that I grew up with. So I think there is something about a chick hatching from an egg. I think that’s kind of who you imprint on it, who you see first. So I guess I’d say them, but I like them all.

The doctor had pretty steady companions for a few series, and then for the specials the doctor’s been solo with new companions. How’s it been shooting these specials? How had that changed the dynamic on the set for you?

Doctor Who - Waters of Mars © BBC

Well, it’s been slightly different in each one. In the first one [Planet of the Dead], we have Michelle Ryan who, to all intents and purposes, was the companion, and she’s fantastic. Although she was a very distinct character, she’s kind of in the mold of the traditional young, beautiful woman, feisty.

In the next special [The Waters of Mars], the closer thing we have to a companion is Lindsey Duncan, who is an older woman, which is not something the show had done before. She probably thinks she’s more in charge than the doctor is. In many ways, she is, actually.

So that’s a different dynamic, and then coming into that final two-part story, although Catherine Tate is back and Donna is a big part of that story, the companion is Bernard Cribbins. [It’s] the first time the doctor has had an 80-year-old man as his sidekick. So it’s been great to get to play these different facets of the character.

Bernard is such a great actor that that was as great finish to the story for me. What you get are these wonderful scenes of these two old men. The doctor is a lot older than Wilf, and yet the two of them got to sit down and discuss life in a way that we’ve never seen the doctor be able to do before.

It’s a way of reinventing the wheel, I suppose, with this character who has been around since 1963, and yet we are still managing to find a new aspect of him, I think.

How is the Doctor different in the specials?

Doctor Who - Waters of Mars © BBC

The doctor himself is also slightly on the run from himself and on the run from the inevitable. So he’s trying not to get too close to anyone. I think this Doctor likes being this Doctor. And I think he’s raging against the dying of the light. And I think that’s kind of the beat that we play.

That’s the story. He knows that the sands of time are running out. He’s been told. And the bell is tolling for him, and he doesn’t want to go quietly.

Since it is sci-fi and we have seen previous regenerations come back, would you ever come back even just for a cameo?

I’ll wait for the correct opportunity, but I’ve got the costume hanging up in my wardrobe, and as long as I can keep my waistline and still fit into the trousers; never say never.

You can read part two of this interview over the weekend.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane