Tennant Answers the Call of 'Doctor Who'
And you'd be exactly right.
The 35-year-old Scottish-born actor isn't yet a household name in the United States, but back home in the U.K. he's a star who is approaching supernova. After a career that included a memorable song-and-dance turn in BBC America's "Viva Blackpool," Tennant gave a chilling performance as Berty Crouch Jr. in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." The hot Scot also stars in the title role in the October season "Masterpiece Theatre" of "Casanova."
Yet Tennant's biggest career boost to date may be a role he has dreamed of since childhood, as the newest incarnation of "Doctor Who," which begins its second season on the Sci Fi Channel on Friday, Sept. 29.
Fans will remember that Christopher Eccleston played the ninth incarnation of the Doctor during the first season, which climaxed with a tense episode in which he vanquished a deadly invasion by his old enemies the Daleks, but not without a terrible cost to himself, forcing him to regenerate himself into a tenth incarnation of Doctor Who (Tennant, who made a cameo at the end of that episode).
"The fantastic thing about the regeneration process is that every time the Doctor goes through it, he changes to an extent," Tennant says. "So, as an actor, you get to work on a blank canvas, where you don't have to worry too much about what has gone before.
"It's interesting, because he's always going to be the moral egalitarian, humanitarian, slightly wild, slightly anarchic bloke that he's always been. But because he's getting older, he's moving on. He's seen it before, every alien creature with a superiority complex."
The transition between Eccleston and Tennant is addressed directly in the new season premiere, "The Christmas Invasion," which opens as the regenerated Doctor and his traveling companion, Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), arrive back in England via the Doctor's TARDIS, a craft that resembles a classic British phone box (for newbies, TARDIS is an acronym for Time And Relative Dimensions in Space).
The holiday season is approaching as the craft crash-lands, and Rose's mother, Jackie (Camille Coduri), and boyfriend, Mickey (Noel Clarke), are taken aback as Rose emerges with an unrecognizable Doctor who blurts out "Merry Christmas!" before collapsing.
As the episode progresses, Rose frets that the "proper Doctor"isn't with her anymore, as Tennant's character sinks into an apparent coma just as Earth is threatened on several fronts by sinister Santas, spinning killer Christmas trees and an aggressive race known as the Sycorax that threatens to make a third of the entire human race commit suicide unless the British prime minister (the glorious Penelope Wilton, reprising her role as Harriet Jones) submits the global population into slavery.
In a risky creative decision, Tennant spends the majority of the episode lying unconscious in a bed, but when he rallies, predictably, in time to save the day, he certainly erases any doubts Rose has that he is fully in charge.
"David Tennant is like a whole new lease of life," says Russell T. Davies, the executive producer who resurrected "Doctor Who" after a 16-year hiatus and gave it a vibrant new life.
"One of the dangers of success sometimes is that one can get too complacent,"says Davies, whose previous projects include the risk-taking "Queer as Folk." "Putting David at the helm, means we're all reinvigorated because we have got to be just as good, if not better, just for him. So it's actually very exciting, but at the same time, it's scary.