It’s hard to imagine Doctor Who without David Tennant nowadays. While Christopher Eccleston, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi all have their ardent fans, the man who played the Tenth Doctor is routinely voted the most popular of the revived series, with his tenure in the TARDIS – which stretched from 2005 to 2010 – often seen as one of the golden eras of the show.
While speaking with BAFTA in New York recently, the Scottish actor opened up about how he was originally cast in the role of a lifetime. He revealed that he had no idea that this was on the cards when he was suddenly offered the part of the Doctor, as he thought his meeting with then-producer Russell T. Davies was just about giving him a sneak peak at Eccleston’s season.
“I was in Russell T. Davies’s front room, who was the showrunner. He’d just completed season 1 and he was showing me bits of it. And I thought he was just showing me because I was interested and because we’d just worked together on another show, a show called Casanova, which he’d also written… So he showed me a few bits and then he sort of dropped the bombshell that they were looking for someone to take over. So it sort of knocked the wind out of me, really.”
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Fans of Tennant’s will know that he’s one of the biggest Doctor Who lovers out there. Naturally, then, he was taken aback when he got the opportunity to be the latest actor to bring his childhood hero to life.
“Very odd, when you grown up with something, when you’ve been a real, proper fan of something. With posters on your wall and my granny knitted me a long scarf and a cricket jumper… Extraordinary that all these years later that it should come sort of full circle… So it was quite a surreal, out-of-body experience.”
That said, Tennant didn’t say yes to the job right away. Like any major life-changing decision, the star had to think about it first. He told BAFTA that he took a whole week to sort through his feelings about accepting the role and whether he felt he could handle the pressure of portraying such a beloved character.
“And I took a sort of week or so to really think it through. It’s exciting and then of course there’s a reality check that you go through. Where you go ‘Oh, I actually have to turn up and not break it, and not disappoint my 8-year-old self.’ And that’s the hardest thing.”
However, after days of weighing up the pros and cons, Tennant realized that he shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and finally decided to take Davies up on the offer. The rest, as they say, is history. Or, in Doctor Who‘s case, history, the present and the future.
“And then I did just one day wake up and think ‘What are you – what’s the debate?’ ‘Cause you go round the houses thinking of all the reasons why you shouldn’t do it, why it might be a good thing, and then I just thought ‘Come on, this is an extraordinary opportunity to work with an extraordinary writer on a show that you love.'”
Back in 2018, though, and David Tennant’s good friend Jodie Whittaker is about to make her full debut as the Thirteenth Doctor when Doctor Who returns to the BBC for its eleventh season this fall.