David Tennant’s Doctor Who Return Has Settled The Greatest Doctor Debate (For Now)

By z20z.com 6 Min Read


  • David Tennant’s portrayal of the Doctor in Doctor Who makes him the ultimate star of the show.
  • Tennant has the distinction of playing two completely different versions of the Doctor, setting him apart from other performers.
  • While Tennant is currently seen as the definitive Doctor, future performers could potentially surpass his legacy.



David Tennant’s return to Doctor Who has settled the debate about which incarnation of the Doctor is the greatest. The Doctor Who fandom has spent decades rehashing this debate, with Tom Baker’s iconic 4th Doctor or David Tennant’s fan-favorite 10th Doctor often cited as the greatest performance and portrayal of the character. However, recent developments in the franchise allowed Tennant to achieve a unique distinction that sets him apart from the rest of the Doctors, including Baker.

In Doctor Who, the Doctor is an alien who can regenerate instead of die. This physically reboots the character, allowing them to retain their memories and skills while changing their appearance and personality. It’s an easy in-universe way for the character to be recast, allowing new performers like newly minted 15th Doctor Ncuti Gatwa to take over the role. However, Tennant’s time as both the 10th and 14th Doctor highlights what makes Tennant the most prolific performer to play the role so far.

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David Tennant's Fourteenth Doctor staring at his hands in front of a TARDIS backdrop

There have been many Doctors over the years, a number that grew exponentially with revelations from Jodie Whittaker’s time as the 13th Doctor. Baker played the character the longest, starring as the Doctor for six years. Tennant played the Doctor for four and a half years, the third-longest tenure in the role after Baker and Whittaker. However, Tennant was the first actor to play two distinct versions of the Doctor, cementing him as the ultimate Doctor Who star. He did this by embodying truly different takes on the 10th and 14th Doctors, genuinely portraying different characters with each performance.

Tennant and Baker appeared in specials like 2013’s “Day of the Doctor,” where Tennant reprized his performance as the 10th Doctor and Baker played the Curator (who was implied to be a restored version of the 4th Doctor.) However, when the 13th Doctor regenerated into the 14th, Tennant was very firmly not the same character. The 14th Doctor was incredibly distinct from the 10th. He was more emotionally vulnerable, with less vanity and a better willingness to work with others. Tennant is the only performer to play multiple unique versions of the Doctor, giving him an edge over Baker’s legacy.

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David Tennant Is The Definitive Doctor Who Actor (But That Can Change)

While Christopher Eccleston reintroduced audiences to Doctor Who, it was David Tennant who defined the character for a generation of fans. Beyond his on-screen appearances, Tennant has played the Doctor in audio dramas and animation, solidifying his connection to the franchise. The 14th Doctor can even return thanks to the bigeneration that occurred in “The Giggle.” Instead of becoming Gatwa’s 15th Doctor, the 14th Doctor remains alive and well. This means Tennant could easily return. Tennant stands out above even Baker as the ultimate Doctor Who star, settling the debate over who’s the greatest performer to step into the role.

However, one of the inherent strengths of the franchise is that this record could be broken in the future. Actors that followed Tennant like Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi left indelible marks on the character, while performers like Whittaker and Gatwa have added to the lore and legacy of the franchise. Future performers could capture the audience’s imagination even more so than Tennant. Just as it once seemed impossible that someone could overshadow Baker’s time with Doctor Who, a future Doctor could usurp the title of “greatest” from Tennant – even if that seems unlikely for now.

Doctor Who
is currently available to stream on Max. New episodes of
Doctor Who
will begin streaming on Disney+ in May 2024.

Doctor Who Poster
Doctor Who

Release Date
November 23, 1963


Mark Gatiss , Toby Whithouse , Neil Cross , Steven Moffat , Chris Chibnall

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