The Doctor is dead, long live the Doctor!
My wife and I have had a running joke for almost a year now – I mention that there's some sort of special Doctor Who episode on, and she looks at me, rolls her eyes, and asks if it's the last David Tennant one. That's because it was announced a while back that Tennant would be leaving the role. Following that announcement there was the last David Tennant regular episode, and then an extended series of specials, the first of which was called "The Next Doctor," despite the fact that the man who called himself the Doctor in the episode wasn't so much a Time Lord as mistaken. Last night that joke came to an end as David Tennant's Doctor – the Tenth Doctor – lost his life.
Oh come on, it's not like that's a spoiler, as even my wife knew – the day Tennant would end his moment as a Time Lord has been ever approaching. The discussion that follows may reveal some spoilers, but it won't delve too deeply into many of the facts of the episode, as, even though it was astounding and wonderful, it is the transfer of power that is the impetus for this article.
This moment – this transfer from the Tenth Doctor to the Eleventh – is something I find supremely fascinating. In point of fact, I've always been exceedingly interested in the handing off the reins from one actor or actress to another within a film or television series. Whether the question is one of moving from Sean Connery to George Lazenby (a switch that was overtly referenced) or the swapping out of one detective or ADA for another on Law & Order, the way the franchise deals with the switch is captivating.
I think that Doctor Who dealt with the switch exceedingly well within the narrative – even if it was incredibly drawn out temporally within the real world. Tennant's Doctor was told that his end was coming – he's known that for a while, and every action he's taken since he found out is something he's had to weigh against the knowledge. Tennant repeatedly proved that he was a great Doctor (as was Eccleston before him, and so many of the others in the original series); he has managed to be smart, funny, and an action hero.