Top 10 best David Tennant Doctor Who episodes

Best David Tennant Doctor Who episodes - Tennant as the Doctor
David Tennant as the Doctor. (Image credit: BBC)

Here's our countdown of the best David Tennant Doctor Who episodes from his amazing time on the series.

For many Whovians, David Tennant is the modern Doctor, in the same way Tom Baker is THE Doctor for lovers of the classic series — you can see where both sit in our ranking of the best Doctors as proof! 

David Tennant's run in the TARDIS was popular with die-hard Whovians and more casual viewers who joined in the fun for the new Who reboot that screenwriting genius Russell T. Davies plotted out. 

The news that Davies was returning as the Doctor Who showrunner for Doctor Who's 60th anniversary specials (and series beyond!) had fans hugely excited for the show's future, and that was before we learned that Tennant would be back as the 14th Doctor at the end of "The Power of the Doctor", possibly one of the show's most surprising Doctor Who regeneration scenes

We've already looked back at Doctor Who's 60 greatest moments, and with Tennant back in the TARDIS, why not travel back in time and look at his time as the Tenth Doctor as we count down our list of David Tennant’s top episodes? And if you're looking to revisit any of them, we've put together a guide explaining how to watch Doctor Who online if you're having trouble tracking past episodes down.

Our picks of the very best David Tennant Doctor Who episodes 

10. "Voyage of the Damned"

Kylie and David Tennant in Doctor Who

David and Kylie team up. (Image credit: BBC)

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 have been few of them over the years but the "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"

The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors with sonic screwdrivers drawn being threatened with halberds in the Doctor Who episode "The Day of the Doctor"

Tennant teams up with Eleven and his forgotten self (John Hurt) (Image credit: BBC)

In a nutshell: It’s three Doctors — including one we’d never met.

Why it’s great: A big, bold blockbuster for the show’s 50th anniversary which sees Tennant’s Doctor crossing paths with the then- incumbent Doctor, Matt Smith, along with John Hurt's War Doctor. There's 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 were treated to a rare appearance from Tom Baker as "The Curator", who just might have been The Doctor. That question wass left hanging for us.

Best Tennant moment: When he repeats the famous last line from his regeneration as he leaves the Matt Smith Doctor behind; “I don’t want to go”.

8. School Reunion

Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) crouches next to K-9 in the Doctor Who episode "School Reunion"

The Doctor is reunited with two old friends.  (Image credit: BBC)

In a nutshell: The Doctor reunites with an old friend for a new caper: stopping aliens that have taken over a secondary school.

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 that wasn't bogged down in its canon.

However, this episode brought the past back in style with an appearance from the series' most popular classic companion, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen). Her return wasn’t just for fan thrills (although we did all get those, obviously). Sarah became a mirror for Ten's current companion, Rose, and her relationship with the Doctor. The ex and the current started out bickering, but soon developed a friendship, and this left Rose pondering own her future with the Time Lord. 

And as if Sarah-Jane's return wasn't enough, she reunited the Doctor with another old friend: K-9. What more could you want?

Best Tennant Moment: The Doctor saying goodbye at the end of the episode, declaring “My Sarah Jane” as they hug. Sladen more than equals Tennant in performance, and the combination reaches a new level of emotional depth for the show.

7. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday

David Tennant in Doomsday

David Tennant in Doomsday. (Image credit: BBC)

In a nutshell: It’s Daleks vs 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 had the first meeting of the Daleks and the Cybermen, as well as a level of visual spectacle that took the show to new heights. 

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 sucked into a void, followed by tears and some brilliant scripting by Russel T. Davies as Tennant and Billie Piper shared the screen for what we thought would be their last scene.  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 is legendary; for something more upbeat, the Doctor heading off spook-hunting complete with his Ghostbusters-style backpack was peak Tennant.

6. Midnight

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 the Doctor lose control of the situation. And it's made all the more terrifying by the fact that he's clearly scared of the new being himself. Lesley Sharp as the possessed Sky Sylvestry is enough to scare the pants off most adults, never mind the children. "Midnight" is proof that Doctor Who can deliver great telly that doesn't always rely on spectacle special effects.

Best Tennant Moment: The Doctor's frustration turns to fear as the other passengers start to turn on him and eventually threaten to throw him out of the airlock, all while he tries to remind them he's their best hope of survival. 

5. The Christmas Invasion

David Tennant and Billie in The Christmas Invasion

David and Billie in The Christmas Invasion. (Image credit: BBC)

In a nutshell: The new Doctor saves Christmas!

Why’s it great: The first of the Christmas specials, "The Christmas Invasion" 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. As the title suggests, a Christmas invasion ensues. Tennant’s big moment, emerging from the Tardis into the spaceship for a showdown with the Sycorax 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's instrumental in causing Prime Minister Harriet Jones' downfall with just six words. “Don’t you think she looks tired?” 

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 and featuring characters painted in broad strokes. Tennant’s Doctor and Catherine Tate’s Donna are in their element in this roaring twenties setting. It features a wickedly witty script, packed with 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. Is it one of the funniest scenes in Doctor Who history?

3. Human Nature/The Family of Blood

The Doctor and Martha

Freema Ageyman puts in a brilliant performance besides David Tennant. (Image credit: BBC)

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 1913, is full of wonderful moments and striking imagery. The Doctor has turned himself into a simple schoolteacher, John Smith, with the Chameleon Arch. With no memories of his Time Lord life, it’s up to Martha to carry out the instructions Ten 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 is as creepy as the Doctor's foes ever get, and we’re sure the marauding scarecrows meant a lot of children didn’t sleep well that night.

Best Tennant moment: "John" realizes he has to revert to being the Doctor, and we see the life he’ll never have with Joan pass before his eyes.

Carey Mulligan in Blink

Carey Mulligan in Blink. (Image credit: BBC)

In a nutshell: Don’t blink — or you’ll miss the Doctor.

Why it’s great: Blink has almost taken a life of its own since its broadcast. Tennant mainly features in urgent messages to the 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 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 enduring speeches.

1. The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End

A Dalek on the streets of the UK in Doctor Who.

The Daleks invade. (Image credit: BBC)

In a nutshell: Old friends reunite to save the universe from its biggest threat yet — plus Davros!

Why it’s great: A big walk-down of old friends, this functions as a finale for Russel T. Davies' version of the show (more so than Tennant’s actual final story, The End Of Time). The first episode is full of thrills, as the Doctor’s friends join forces when the Daleks invade, while in the second half we get a face-off with Davros, arguably the show’s best-ever villains who'd been absent from our screens since 1988. 

The fake regeneration cliffhanger at the end of the first installment 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 cuts a lonely figure in the pouring rain as he heads back to the TARDIS, aware his adventures are coming to an end very soon.

Steven Murphy

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 life-long passion for TV sci-fi – the older and creakier the better – and is a slight obsessive about any reality show featuring hotels.