Here's our countdown of the best David Tennant Doctor Who episodes from his amazing time on the series.
For many, David Tennant is THE modern Doctor, in the way Tom Baker is THE Doctor for lovers of the classic series. This isn’t true only for Who fans, but also for the more casual viewers, who watched Tennant helm the Tardis straight into the heart of popular culture of the time.
With screenwriting genius Russell T. Davies plotting the course during this era, the announcement that Davies is to return to the show for the 60th anniversary and beyond has sent the show’s fans giddy with anticipation. So, what better time to turn back the clock and remind ourselves of the show at the peak of its powers as we count down our list of David Tennant’s top episodes…
Here's the best David Tennant 'Doctor Who' episodes
10. Voyage of the Damned
In a nutshell: It’s the Poseidon Adventure. On The Titanic. In space. With Kylie.
Why it’s great: This one is often dismissed by fans as lightweight, and granted, the plot is rather slight. But remember this is Christmas Day Doctor Who — designed to be watched by non-Who fans full of turkey and Cadbury’s Heroes. The episode uses all the disaster movie tropes to full effect, as the Doctor tries to stop the Titanic spaceship from crashing into the earth. Kylie Minogue as wanderlust-filled waitress Astrid brings some real star sparkle to the episode. The script fits in some emotional scenes alongside the spectacle, Astrid’s flirtation with cyborg Bannakaffalatta being surprisingly touching. A great romp, so sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
Best Tennant moment: There’s been few of them over the years but this "I am the Doctor and I’m going to save you" speech is one of the grandest, just the right side of overblown, like most of the episode.
9. The Day Of The Doctor
In a nutshell: It’s three Doctors — including one we’ve never met.
Why it’s great: A big, bold blockbuster for the show’s 50th anniversary sees Tennant’s Doctor teamed up with current incumbent Matt Smith alongside John Hurt as a missing version of the Time Lord. There is a plot about shape-changing Zygons, and Hurt’s "War Doctor" undoing the terrible act he had to perform during the much-talked about Time War, but really the fun is in Tennant and Smith’s partnership alongside Hurt. The pair are all childish enthusiasm and banter, while Hurt’s world-weary Doctor despairs at their antics — like two over-excited kids and a tired parent. Plus, we get a treat appearance from Tom Baker as The Doctor. Or he might not be The Doctor. That question is left hanging for us, which is rather fun.
Best Tennant moment: When he repeats the famous last line from his own final episode as he leaves the Matt Smith Doctor behind. The words “I don’t want to go,” sent as collective shiver through fandom.
8. School Reunion
In a nutshell: The Doctor is reunited with his best friend – it’s gonna be emotional!
Why it’s great: Apart from the obligatory Daleks, "new" Doctor Who had avoided mining its history, so viewers were presented with a fresh new show not bogged down by having to know the Doctor defeated the Zarbi on the planet Votris and such like.
But this episode brought the past back in style, with an appearance by the series most popular classic companion, Sarah Jane Smith. Her return wasn’t just for fan thrills (although we did all get those, obviously). Sarah became a mirror for current companion Rose and her relationship with the Doctor. The ex and the current begin by bickering, which is great fun, but as friendship develops, Rose is left to ponder own her future with the Time Lord.
The Doctor is even reunited with K9. What more could you want? There is a plot about some monsters but that’s not really the point.
Best Tennant Moment: The Doctor says goodbye at the end of the episode, declaring “My Sarah Jane”. Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah) more than equals Tennant in performance, and the combination reaches a new level of emotional depth for the show.
7. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
In a nutshell: It’s Daleks v Cybermen — but the real loser is the Doctor and Rose’s love.
Why it’s great: The tearing apart of the tenth Doctor and Rose was always going to be emotional, and the final minutes of this story truly put us through the wringer. But before we got to that, we have the first meeting of the Daleks and the Cybermen, as well as a level of visual spectacle which reached new heights for the show. But the break-up of the Doc and Rose, literally now a universe apart, blew all of that out of the water. A gasp-out-loud moment saw Rose fall into a void, followed by tears and some brilliant scripting by Russel T. Davies as Tennant and Billie Piper shared their final screen time (well, for the time being). Add to this a cracking guest turn by Tracy-Ann Oberman as Yvonne Hartman, and even a cameo by EastEnders legend Barbara Windsor, and this one is a real treat.
Best Tennant moment: The final scene with Rose and the Doctor are legendary, so for something more upbeat, the Doctor heading off spook hunting with complete with Ghostbusters backpack are peak Tennant Doctor.
In a nutshell: The Doctor takes a ride — into the darkness.
Why it’s great: A claustrophobic episode, set more of less inside one small spaceship, this is one of the series’ spookiest stories. As an unknown being takes over one of the passengers on a leisure cruise, we see Doctor lose control of the situation clearly scared himself, making things even-more terrifying. Lesley Sharp as the possessed Sky Sylvestry is enough to scare the bejesus out of most adults, never mind the children. Proof that monsters and special effects aren’t just what Doctor Who is about, this chamber piece is one of Russell T. Davies’ most remarkable scripts.
Best Tennant Moment: The Doctors frustration turning to fear as the other passengers turn on him, threatening to throw him out of the airlock, as he desperately tries to persuade them that he is their only hope of getting out of this.
5. The Christmas Invasion
In a nutshell: The new Doctor saves Christmas!
Why’s it great: The first of the Christmas specials, it really goes for it with killer Christmas trees and robot Santas. It’s also Tennant’s debut, but the episode deftly teases the audience by having him unconscious for much of the first half. Rose and mum Jackie, both familiar to the audience from the previous year, carry the action as a giant spaceship appears above earth and as the title suggests, a Christmas invasion ensues. Tennant’s big moment, emerging from the Tardis into the spaceship for a showdown with the Sychorax invaders with a casual “Did you miss me?” is a real punch the air moment.
Best Tennant moment: We get our first glimpse of this Doctor’s dark, unforgiving side as he takes his revenge Prime Minister Harriet Jones. “Don’t you think she look tired?” he casually suggests to her assistant, before walking way, knowing his words will kick off a whispering campaign that will lead to her downfall.
4. The Unicorn and the Wasp
In a nutshell: The Doctor solves an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery – with Agatha Christie!
Why it’s great: Hard sci-fi this ain’t. Out and out the funniest episode of the Tennant years, big on laughs with characters painted in broad strokes. Tennant’s Doctor and Catherine Tate’s Donna are in their element in the twenties setting. Plus, there’s a fun drinking game to be played with the wickedly witty script, which has a heap of Agatha Christie novel titles slipped into the dialogue. Treat yourself to a slug of Bee’s Knees or Singapore Sling as you spot Sparkling Cyanide or They Do It With Mirrors — it’ll make this fun episode even more tip top.
Best Tennant moment: The routine when the Doctor is poisoned, struggling to speak, and has to mime to Donna with quite some urgency the required ingredients for an antidote. This might be the funniest scene in Doctor Who history.
3. Human Nature/The Family of Blood
In a nutshell: To escape a terrible enemy, the Doctor loses his memory — then finds love.
Why it’s great: The beautiful two-parter, set in the 1913, is full of wonderful moments and striking imagery. With the Doctor now simply schoolteacher John Smith, with no memories of his Time Lord life, it’s up to Martha to carry out the instructions he left before he wiped his mind. Freema Ageyman has never been better, as smitten Martha can only look on as her "Doctor" falls for school nurse Joan. The Family of Blood are as creepy as baddies get, and we’re sure the marauding scarecrows meant a lot of children didn’t sleep well that night.
Best Tennant moment: "John" realises he has to revert back to the Doctor, and we see the life he’ll never have with Joan pass before his eyes.
In a nutshell: Don’t blink — or you’ll miss the Doctor.
Why it’s great: Seems odd to choose an episode that sidelines Tennant’s Doctor, but Blink has almost taken a life of its own since its broadcast. Tennant mainly features in urgent messages to camera, but they drive the plot along as Sally Sparrow tries to defeat the Weeping Angels. The Angels are this era’s breakout monsters, with a devilishly simple but terrifying concept. The episode picked up several big awards, and has become even more notable since for showcasing future Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan in the lead role.
Best Tennant moment: The Doctor’s “timey wimey, wibbly wobbly” message, where he explains that time is not a straightforward concept (and cleverly bats away a few plot holes in the process) has become one of his most defining speeches.
1. The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End
In a nutshell: Old friends reunite to save the universe from its biggest threat yet — plus Davros!
Why it’s great: A big panto-style walkdown of old friends, this really feels like a finale to the Russel T. Davies version of the show. Much more so than Tennant’s final rather flabby story, The End Of Time, the following year. The first episode is full of thrills, as the Doctor’s friends join forces when the Daleks invade, while the second half we get a face-off with Davros, arguably the show’s best-ever villainess creation and absent from our screens since 1988. The fake regeneration cliff-hanger at the end of the first instalment gripped the nation so hard that the show hit the no.1 spot in the ratings the following week for the first time in its history.
Best Tennant Moment: The heartbreak when he has to wipe Donna’s memory to save her life. The Doctor cutting a lonely figure as the pouring rain as he heads back to the Tardis.
Steven is a writer, editor, and commentator with a passion for popular TV and soap operas. He spent 20 years as the editor of Inside Soap magazine, documenting every punch up and pucker up in the Street, the Square and the village. As a feature writer he’s covered TV crime dramas, period dramas and even some real-life star dramas. He’s been seen as a talking head on more TV clip shows than he cares to remember, has a
a life-long passion for TV sci-fi – the older and creakier the better – and is a slight obsessive about any reality show featuring hotels.
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