The 10 best David Tennant Doctor Who episodes, ranked 1

There’s nothing quite like Doctor Who. The sci-fi show about a face-changing alien that hops about the galaxy in a little blue box has enthralled viewers for six decades now. One of the most recognizable names to take up the Sonic Screwdriver during that period is David Tennant as the time-traveling Time Lord.

Having finished his four-year run as the Tenth Doctor in 2010, Tennant is set to return as the Fourteenth Doctor in November 2023, alongside Catherine Tate’s beloved Donna Noble and Russell T Davies in the writer’s chair once more. Set to face off against Neil Patrick Harris as the Toymaker –  a character who hasn’t appeared in the show since 1966 – it’s set to be an explosive and emotional reunion.

In the lead-up to the three-part Doctor Who 60th anniversary and the return of David Tennant, we’re taking the opportunity to discuss the best episodes from the Tenth Doctor’s era and why they are worth rewatching in time for the specials. Allons-y!

10. Tooth and Claw (season 2, episode 2)

Doctor Who Tooth and Claw

While The Christmas Invasion marks the first appearance of the Tenth Doctor, he is tucked up in beds for large durations. Then on his second appearance, he’s possessed by the last ever human in New Earth – hence, this encounter with a werewolf and Queen Victoria in 1879 Scotland is the perfect substitute.

We all knew Tennant was a tremendous actor, having lit up the screen as Casanova (also written by Davies) before getting this part, yet it’s in Tooth and Claw that the actor really gets to flex his muscles. If it’s not appreciating the beauty of the half-man, half-wolf, it’s commanding the Queen’s guard about why “bullets won’t stop it.” There’s so much here to love, and it still holds up today.

9. The Runaway Bride (2006 Christmas Special)

Doctor Who the Runaway Bride

Not only does the 2006 Christmas special serve as the first meeting between Donna and the Doctor, but it also shows the Time Lord at his lowest, having been forced to say goodbye to former companion Rose Tyler moments before.

From the first minute of Donna stomping about the TARDIS in a wedding dress to a chase down the A4232 with robotic Santas to an encounter with the terrifying Empress of the Racnoss to the Doctor making it snow, it has everything you need from an episode of Doctor Who. And Tennant shepherds it all, going from emotional highs to lows at the drop of a hat.

8. Planet of the Ood (season 4, episode 3)

Doctor Who Planet of the Ood

Planet of the Ood cements Donna’s true realization that the wonders of the universe are not always what they’re cracked up to be. Exploring planet Ood-Sphere in 4126, the pair look to free its Ood inhabitants who are being sold off as slaves. It’s an underrated adventure that features a serious undertone that’s not afraid to put capitalism under the spotlight.

Tennant and Tate’s chemistry here is fantastic alongside some adrenaline-packed action on display  – most notably, the scene where a giant crane chases the Tenth Doctor in a shipping warehouse while Donna gets shoved in a container filled with lots of possessed Ood.

7. Midnight (season 4, episode 10)

Doctor Who Midnight

No monster in sight, the Doctor finds himself onboard a small, claustrophobic shuttle that is designed to visit a waterfall made of sapphires on the planet Midnight. Things get out of hand when the leisurely trip comes to a halt and suddenly trust between the humanoid passengers begins to break down.

We then get the masterclass performance from Tennant as he deals with each individual passenger before slowly being possessed by some sort of hidden entity. It’s brilliantly penned, and even more impressive when you find out that Davies wrote the script over the course of a weekend.

6 and 5. The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End (season 4, episodes 12 and 13)

Doctor Who Journey's End

If any story is a celebration of modern Doctor Who it’s the Season 4 two-part finale. Bringing back all of the companions from the Tenth Doctor’s era to take on the Daleks in stupendous fashion still remains a highlight 15 years on.

Considering the consequences of these episodes – namely, Donna’s memory wipe – it’s fair to say that several plot threads will be integral to upcoming anniversary specials. It’s also just worth it to witness the David Tennant rain GIF in full swing.

4. The Day of the Doctor (50th Anniversary Special)

Doctor Who Day of the Doctor

Okay, so technically this isn’t a David Tennant story as the 50th-anniversary special is led by Matt Smith’s 11th incarnation of the Doctor, yet it’s still a wonderful treat to see the two share the same screen. Throw in John Hurt as the “War Doctor” and we get three amazing actors trying to outdo each other at every turn.

Tennant holds his own incredibly well playing up “the man who regrets” philosophy that embodied large parts of the character’s tenure, proving that whenever called upon, the man can deliver.

3. The Waters of Mars (2009 Autumn Special)

Doctor Who The Waters of Mars

What’s great about The Waters of Mars is how far the Tenth Doctor needs to be pushed before he breaks the laws of time. Arriving on humanity’s first colony on Mars in the year 2059, the Galifreyan battles an intelligent virus known as the Flood that takes over the explorer’s bodies one by one, alongside grappling with the destruction of the base that becomes a fixed point in time.

It’s eerie, dark, and very frightening as water streams out the monster’s cracked lips. Without a companion, this 60-minute special from 2009 represents the consequences of why the Doctor doesn’t travel alone better than most.

2. and 1. The End of Time (2009 Christmas Special/2010 New Year’s Special)

Doctor Who The End of Time

The swansong for Tennant has everything: action, comedy, scares, twists, heartbreak, and a showstopper performance from the Scot. Doing his best to avoid death, the Doctor’s psychotic archenemy, The Master, returns to take over the planet Earth with major consequences that push one another to the brink.

It’s a spectacle of a two-parter, but at the heart of it is the Tenth Doctor and Wilfred Mott (Donna’s grandad played by the wonderful Bernard Cribbins). The somber conversations between the old soldier and the 906-year-old Time Lord are what makes this episode so special. We can’t wait to see them both onscreen together in the 60th for the final time.

The Doctor Who 2023 60th Anniversary Specials will air in the UK and Ireland in November 2023 before coming to Disney Plus in the U.S.

Editors’ Recommendations