David Tennant’s Return to Doctor Who Was So Much Hotter This Time Around

Tennant returned to celebrate the show's 60th anniversary and, I cannot emphasize this enough, looked almost painfully attractive doing it.

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David Tennant’s Return to Doctor Who Was So Much Hotter This Time Around
David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor in Doctor Who Photo:Disney+

Doctor Who turned 60 years old in November and celebrated the way most fans would if given the choice: with copious application of David Tennant. The most popular Doctor of the franchise’s modern era, Tennant’s fast-talking, incredibly charming Time Lord thrilled fans around the world as he fought to save the universe and generally had a great time doing it. From Tennant’s very first speech, in which Ten tries to sort out what sort of man his Doctor will be by quoting The Lion King, his performance is full of equal parts manic glee and steel.

Tennant’s third time in the TARDIS is not just a delightful bit of nostalgia—he previously reprised the role of Ten during the 50th-anniversary outing back in 2013—but a celebration that has something legitimately important to say about who the Doctor is now as a character. That he’s somehow even hotter than before is just the icing on the cake.

Over the years since his first regeneration, Tennant has gone on to star in many other popular genre properties. But for most of us, no matter how much we might love him as Crowley on Good Omens or the voice of Huyang on Ahsoka, Tennant will simply always be the Doctor—and a foundational reason behind the long-running show’s current success. Tennant, himself a Whovian since childhood, was a natural ambassador for the show, with a genuine and obvious love of both the character of the Doctor and the themes at the heart of the series. (And that was before he married into a family of other Doctor Who alums.)

A lot of people were down bad for Tennant’s first incarnation of the Doctor, which was a handsome quirky nerd with insanely expressive eyes, a great coat, and a ridiculously high opinion of himself. You never doubted for an instant that Ten regretted absolutely every person he couldn’t save. The first multi-series Doctor of the modern era—his predecessor Christopher Eccleston only stayed in the role for a single season—Tennant’s Ten was the face that an entire new generation of Doctor Who fans imprinted on. It doesn’t hurt that he also starred in some of the franchise’s best and most memorable episodes. (Looking at you “Midnight,” “Blink,” the “Family of Blood” two-parter, and “The Waters of Mars.”)

This is a Doctor who is willing to be emotionally vulnerable in a way we have rarely had the chance to see on this show, and that is hot as hell.

But his Fourteen is next level. In every possible meaning of the phrase. Fourteen is older, wearier, and a bit more worn around the edges, he’s a Time Lord who now sports reading glasses and a waistcoat, albeit one often held together by the seemingly Herculean efforts of a single button. He’s the hottest sexagenarian on television—and so is the character at the center of it. (Technically, the Doctor has lived for millennia at this point, but let’s not be ageist about it.) This Doctor may wear Ten’s face, but he has seen some shit.

Not everything is different though—the suit is still too tight, the pockets are almost certainly bigger on the inside, and the coat remains a stunner, though it’s a different color than it used to be. But, and I really can’t emphasize this enough, he’s almost painfully attractive, a little more silver fox-ish than he once was, but sporting the rolled-up sleeves and muscular forearms of the sexiest kind of romance hero.

Maybe it’s that Tennant himself has aged like fine wine in the decade and a half since he was last on the show, or that those of us who fell in love with this franchise are all a little more mature now, but Fourteen has serious thinking-woman’s sex symbol vibes, which probably explains why so many of us have fixated on his lanky, lean build and ridiculous forearm situation. This particular sartorial choice is not just swoon-worthy, it’s also an intriguing reflection of the ways the Doctor has changed since the last time he wore this particular actor’s face.

Returning to Doctor Who for the third time (he’s been Ten twice and Fourteen once), Tennant gets the unprecedented chance to find the common ground between his Tenth and Fourteenth incarnations and deftly explore their subtle, but often emotionally devastating differences. Fourteen is softer, less guarded, more open, playful, and genuinely warm. And his constantly loosening and disappearing layers—this Doctor doesn’t have a jacket anymore, just an overcoat he throws on occasionally—are more than just aesthetically appealing costume decisions, they reflect the shedding of at least some of the emotional armor that has kept much of his world at arm’s length.

Tennant’s Ten felt things deeply but rarely spoke them aloud. His Fourteen is softer, more rumpled, more obviously and openly emotional. He gives voice to his feelings in new and more direct ways, revealing more about the character’s inner life in two episodes than we saw during almost the entirety of Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker’s three-season run. He’s able to speak openly of his love for Donna, Wilf, and several of the other companions he’s met along the way, frequently displaying those feelings in a much more demonstrative way than ever before. He admits to his sense of loneliness and isolation and openly acknowledges the weight of the interlocking centuries of trauma he carries. Fourteen is also honest in a way many of his predecessors have not been—he refuses to tell the real Donna about the Flux, but he doesn’t lie to her or pretend to be fine when that’s so clearly not the case. He’s weary and tired and hurting, and for once the show doesn’t pretend that he can—or should—hide it from those closest to him.

This is a Doctor who is willing to be emotionally vulnerable in a way we have rarely had the chance to see on this show, and that is hot as hell. There are plenty of characters—both within the Whoniverse and in the larger genre world outside it—who would do well to take a lesson from it. Here’s hoping Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor, who’s set to officially debut in the Christmas special, but whose genuine contentment and emotional softness we see so radiantly (albeit briefly) in “The Giggle,” will continue this trend.

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