Monday, August 03, 2009

Davies, Tennant on Vacating “Doctor Who”

The longest running science fiction series in television history, “Doctor Who,” is a beloved pop culture icon in its native U.K. Among U.S. viewers, however, coming out as a Whovian used to be a bit risky. Self-identified geeks once considered the classic series to be a little too geeky even for them.

BBC America, Russell T. Davies and David Tennant changed all that over the past few years — Tennant, especially. For three seasons the gregarious actor portrayed The Doctor with a combination of goofiness and gravitas, making him charismatic, sexy and at times even sinister. We believed it when centuries-old Doctor’s companions fell for him because, after all, we had too. Tennant and Davies’ recent Comic-Con appearance drove the fans into a frenzy.

That’s why the news that Tennant’s run on “Doctor Who” would be coming to an end made our hearts ache a little. The journey for his incarnation of The Doctor is already in the process of ending. “Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead” had its BBC America premiere last Sunday. The next special, “The Waters of Mars,” arrives in the fall and enlists a new companion named Adelaide (Lindsay Duncan, familiar to “Rome” fans as Servilia of the Junii). Tennant’s final special arrives at what would otherwise be the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas. Davies confirmed that it’s called “The End of Time,” and it will be at least an hour and a half, maybe more, with commercials.

The decision to leave wasn’t easy for Tennant but, as he explained to critics on Wednesday, “I like the fact that I stand a chance of leaving an audience and myself wanting more rather than people asking when I’ve leaving.”

For the record, Davies announced he’d be handing the reins off to Steven Moffat in May 2008, before Tennant decided it was time for him to go — he hit us with that news last October.

The actor described the feeling of abandoning the role that brought him such love and acclaim in both the U.K. and the states as both very exciting, and very sad. “It’s thrilling to be handing over the show in such good health, actually…we’ve all come on this journey together, and it feels like we’re coming to the end of something very special.”
As do we.

Davies explains the arc for Tennant’s final four specials in a note on BBC America’s site: “The mysterious Ood have told him that his song is ending soon; something deadly is waiting on Mars; Donna’s grandfather, Wilf, is experiencing strange visions; and a powerful psychic warns the Doctor that “He will knock four times…” The end is coming. But will the Doctor, and the human race, survive?”

Understandably, this Doctor isn’t ready for his number to be up. “I think this Doctor likes being this Doctor,” Tennant explained. “And I think he’s raging against the dying of the light…He knows 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.”

Up next for Tennant is a television version of “Hamlet.” He’s also in the midst of shooting a film called “St. Trinians 2.”

The next Doctor, 26-year-old Matt Smith, is a relative newcomer and the youngest of all the actors to play the last Time Lord. Karen Gillan was recently unveiled as his new companion. The first of their adventures will premiere in spring 2010.

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