The last Doctor Who specials starring David Tenant as the doctor are airing in America around Christmas*. We got to sit in on what might be the last time Tenant talks about upcoming Dr. Who projects in a press conference with the Television Critics Association. Of course, he’s sure to be analyzing fanboy questions for the rest of his career.
Q: What was your experience with the fans at Comic-Con?
David Tennant: I wanted to crowd dive, but they were all sitting down. It was a bit disappointing for me. I figured that was probably the only opportunity in my life I’m going to get to do it. It was great. I mean, it was great fun. It was such an extraordinary experience.
Q: How will the remaining episodes lead up to a new doctor replacing you?
David Tennant: I think this doctor likes being this doctor. He’s raging against the dying of the light and I think that’s kind of the beat that we play, don’t we? 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. So I think that’s how we play that.
Q: Is this bittersweet for you?
David Tennant: It’s so many things, actually. It’s very exciting, but it’s also very sad. It’s thrilling to be handing over the show in such good health actually. It feels that we’re all leaving together. Well, Euros might go back one day but we’ve all sort of come on this journey together, and it feels like we’re coming to the end of something very special. So it’s a whole mixture of emotions, actually, and probably until they actually transmit, I won’t quite know how it feels. I don’t think any of us really will because we’re still sort of clinging on in there until the shows go out.
Q: So what’s next? How do you follow this up?
David Tennant: Long term, I don’t really know. In the immediate future, I’ve just done a television version of Hamlet and I’m doing a film called St. Trinian’s 2. I don’t know after that.
Q: At Comic-Con you famously kissed John Barrowman good-bye, so are we going to get anything like that?
David Tennant: Come up here… The moment was right. You know, it just felt appropriate at the time and you know you’ll get a headline in The Sun back home as soon as you do that. So it was worth it for that.
Q: 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 has that changed the dynamic on the set for you?
David Tennant: Well, it’s been slightly different in each one. In the first one, we had Michelle Ryan who, for 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 beautiful woman, sort of feisty. But in the next special, the closer thing we have to a companion is Lindsay Duncan, who is an older woman, which is not something the show has 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, really, the companion is Bernard Cribbins, the first time the doctor has had an 80-year-old man as his sidekick, really. So it’s been great to get to play these different facets of the character, I suppose. And 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. So it’s important that there’s a kind of revolving door of confidence for him. But getting to see Bernard Cribbins as well in that final story is so brilliant and moving, and he’s just such a great actor that that was a great finish to the story for me. What you get is these wonderful scenes of these two old men. The doctor is a lot older than Wilf, and yet the two of them get to sit down and discuss life in a way that we’ve never seen the doctor be able to do before. So it’s just 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.
Q: Since it is sci-fi and we have seen previous regenerations come back, would you ever come back even just for a cameo?
David Tennant: I’ll wait for the correct opportunity, but I’ve got the costume hanging up in my wardrobe. As long as I can keep my waistline and still fit into the trousers, never say never.
Q: Why leave now when it’s so big?
David Tennant: I think sometimes you have to sort of take a deep breath and make a difficult decision, and I like the fact that I stand a chance of leaving an audience and myself wanting more rather than people asking when I’m leaving. I never had a definite stepping-off point, but when Russell [T. Davies] and Julie [Gardner] were moving on, it seemed like the obvious time. It seemed like a natural end for all of us, really.
Q: When you signed on to do Doctor Who, did you know what you were going to do with the role?
David Tennant: 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 acting not to think not much about it until the first script arrived, and then I just responded to what Russell had written. And then working with directors like Euros, we just sort of bumbled through it, really.
Q: Who is your favorite Doctor Who as a fan growing up?
David Tennant: Tom Baker and Peter Davison were the two that I grew up with. So I think there is something about, like, 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.
Q: What is the tone of the last two specials?
David Tennant: I think Planet of the Dead that has just screened was probably the last hurrah for the tenth doctor in terms of the [being] untroubled. I mean, he was in mortal danger, but he was loving it. Really, from The Waters of Mars and heading into that final story, the sword of Damocles is dangling, I think, and that informs everything that goes on. It all pans out as well, doesn’t it? Whereas The Waters of Mars, it all takes place in a very small location in Doctor Who terms. Then that final story, it becomes epic, almost like a fairytale. You have that kind of scale to it.
Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars airs Saturday December 19, 9:00pm ET/PT. Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part One airs Saturday December 26, 9:00pm ET/PT. Head to the official site for more info: Doctor Who