Image: Sky Pictures

Why David Tennant is the greatest TV actor of our age

I’ll be honest up front, I am a David Tennant fanboy. If I find out he’s in something, I watch it, even if I hear that the movie or TV show is otherwise dreadful. This isn’t just because I think he is a nice guy, which I also do, but because his talent is unmatched by any actor working today. His undeniable range and enthusiasm for any part he adopts make him melt into all of his roles, as diverse and contrary as they can often be.

Most of us know David Tennant from his time as the Tenth Doctor, a role he held from 2005 to 2010, appearing again for the 2013 episode ‘The Day of the Doctor’. For me, this was the golden age of the program’s modern run. The Tenth Doctor had the usually quirky nature inherent to all his/her iterations. Tennant bounced from setting to setting energetically, spouted technobabble with ease and eloquence, and really sold to the viewer that, though the Doctor was always slightly disconnected from humanity, he was enamoured with us above all other life in the universe. He had boundless charisma and charm, and anyone watching could imagine being caught up by the man enough to follow him through time and space.

However, Tennant also brought a rougher edge to the Tenth Doctor. He was a man who had witnessed the horrors of the Time War, even taking a leading part in the worst of them, and he always had it in him to do it again. Nothing illustrates quite how spine-chilling Tennant’s Doctor was more than his treatment of the Family of Blood in an episode of the same name. The Doctors quirky detachment from humanity also had deeper dimensions. Tennant’s brilliantly acted Doctor becomes more disconnected as he travelled companionless at the end of his run. Tennant made us feel a range of emotions for the god-like Doctor as he wrestled with his own mortality, culminating in his hesitation to save Wilfred Mott, eventually giving his own life in his place during ‘The End of Time’. If you also couldn’t help but shed a tear at Tennant’s heartfelt delivery of the line: “I don’t want to go”, you can understand how real his Doctor was.

The Doctors quirky detachment from humanity also had deeper dimensions. Tennant’s brilliantly acted Doctor becomes more disconnected as he travelled companionless at the end of his run

But Tennant’s range and skill are not restricted to his seminal role as the UK’s favourite alien. I’ve never seen a villain as brilliant as Jessica Jones’ Kilgrave. Tennant’s mind-controlling baddie would have been a carbon-copy criminal to another actor. However, Tennant completely owns every moment he is in, managing to make us feel hatred, disgust, but also sympathy for the loathsome man he plays. Kilgrave is shown as both a tortured child in the body of an adult, unable to distinguish right from wrong because of the curse foisted on him by his abandoning parents, but also a man who is totally careless in his use of ungodly power, using it to fulfil every selfish whim to become a stalker, master-manipulator, and merciless killer.

Finally, I think another testament to Tennant’s acting ability and diversity is his role in the excellent ITV drama, Broadchurch. Far more grounded than the other two roles, Tennant plays DI Alec Hardy, a nearly-broken detective who arrives in the titular town after a scandal-rocked past. Tennant once again makes his character feel real, with his reaction to events in all three series, the responses of a man at the end of his tether, dealing with some of the most stressful things a police officer, and even a normal father and human being can possibly imagine. He expertly portrays a good man, stuck dealing with some of the worst things life can throw at you, all the while facing his own personal demons. Without spoiling too much, I will never forget how profoundly Tennant’s acting made me worry about fatherhood, the fear of professional inadequacy, and the general cruelty of life.

Tennant once again makes his character feel real, with his reaction to events in all three series, the responses of a man at the end of his tether, dealing with some of the most stressful things a police officer, and even a normal father and human being can possibly imagine

Not to end on too much of a downer, I greatly recommend anyone reading this goes and sees this great actor, and wholesome man’s, reaction to winning the NTA Special Recognition award in 2015. You’ll immediately understand why he deserved it:

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