This is the fourth part of a five part series about the actors who have played the character of Dr Who in the hugely popular BBC series. In Part One, we looked at William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee. In the second article, we put Tom Baker, Peter Davison and Colin Baker under the InfoBarrel microscope. Next were Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston.

Now let's meet David Tennant and Matt Smith.

There are some surprising facts about each actor that you may not know!

The Tenth Doctor: David Tennant

played Dr Who from 18 June 2005 - 1 January 2010

David Tennant as Dr WhoCredit: last we come to his royal hotness, David Tennant. I slaved for hours to find pictures that do him justice but I’m prepared to suffer for your enjoyment. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it!

David John McDonald was born on 18 April 1971 inBathgate, West Lothian, Scotland.

His father was a Minister for the Church of Scotland.

On his mothers’ side, his great-grandparents came from Derry, Ulster, Ireland and were strongly Protestant – his great-grandfather was a member of the Grand Orange Lodge. Their signatures are on the Ulster Covenant of 1912.

His grandfather, Archie McLeod, was a footballer and met his wife when playing for Derry City. When he appeared on the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are, Tennant joked that his grandparents were “the Posh and Becks of their day”. Archie’s parents came from the Isle of Mull and descended from crofters.

Early Ambitions

David TennantCredit: he was three years old, Tennant announced to his parents that he was going to become an actor because he loved Dr Who so much. He avidly watched every episode and was delighted when he was able to meet and speak with Tom Baker who was doing a book signing in Glasgow.

Although his parents tried to dissuade him from the perils of an acting career, Tennant admits that he was “absurdly single minded” and wouldn’t be swayed off course. His teachers supported him and he appeared in school plays from primary school onwards.

A Scottish actress, Edith MacArthur (best known for her role in Take The High Road) saw him in a school play when he was eleven and spoke to his parents afterwards, telling them that he could have a good career as a stage actor.

Tennant went to acting classes every Saturday at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. When he turned 16, he took an audition to study there and became of their youngest ever students. He started his training there at 17 and finished at his Bachelors Degree at age 20.

MacDonald becomes Tennant

When he applied to join the actors’ union Equity, he was told they already had a David McDonald so he would have to come up with another name. He was reading Smash Hits magazine at the time and took his name from Neil Tennant of The Pet Shop Boys.

Early Career

At the age of 16, Tennant made his professional debut in an anti-smoking film for Glasgow Health Board. It was shown on TV and in schools.

One of Tennant’s earliest appearances on TV was as a disturbingly attractive transsexual barmaid in Rab C. Nesbitt, a popular Scottish sitcom.

David Tennant as a transsexual barmaid

in the Scottish TV series Rabb C. Nesbitt

Scottish Accent

David wearing an appropriate T shirtCredit: 1998, Tennant played several roles in the Arkangel Shakespeare series of audio dramatisations:

  • Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors
  • Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice
  • Edgar / Poor Tom in King Lear
  • Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet
  • He played all of these roles in his natural Scottish accent.

David looking cheekyCredit:’s first big role on TV was in a Scottish series called Takin’ Over the Asylum in 1994. While filming it, he met the writer and actress Arabella Weir and he became her lodger when he moved to London . He’s also her youngest child’s godfather. Weir and Tennant subsequently appeared in several TV productions.

In 1966 he appeared in the film Jude with another future Dr Who, Christopher Eccleston.

In the same year he made his first appearance at the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company). He played a jester, Touchstone, in As You Like It, using his own Scottish accent. This lead to two more comedic roles in The Comedy of Errors and The Rivals. He broke out of this niche to play Romeo in Romeo and Juliet.

Other roles

1995 : Tennant played Nicholas Beckett in the Royal National Theatre of London’s production of the infamous What The Butler Saw by Joe Orton.

2000 : Tennant played an eccentric artist in Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased). It is one of the few TV appearances in which he used his own Scottish accent.

2005 : Tennant appeared in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, playing Barty Crouch Jr.

Tennant works in Dr Who spin-offs

David TennantCredit: he got the lead role, Tennant had worked on the peripheries of the series for a while.
He was recording a play for radio in a studio next to one in which the BBC were taping audio for a webcast called Scream of the Shalka. Tennant found the director and convinced him to let him have a small role.

Tennant also took part in many audio plays produced by Big Finish Productions but based on the Dr Who series:

  • His first role was as a Nazi guard at Colditz Castle in a Seventh Doctor audio called Colditz.
  • In 2004 he moved up to play the lead part of Galanar in Dalek Empire III. Galanar’s task was to find out the Daleks’ secrets.

He played Brimmicombe-Wood in a Doctor Who Unbound play called Sympathy for the Devil. In 2005, he reprised the part in a Big Finish production called UNIT: The Wasting. When he recorded it, Tennant had been officially given the part of the next Doctor but it had not been announced yet. He must have been bursting with excitement!

Georgia Moffett

Georgia Moffett playing Jenny in Dr WhoCredit: acted with his future wife, Georgia Moffett in The Doctor’s Daughter – Georgia playing Jenny, his daughter. Georgia is the daughter of the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison.

She and Tennant are now married. Tennant adopted Georgia’s son, Tyler and they have a daughter, Olive.

At the time of writing, Georgia is pregnant, which Tennant let slip in an interview with Jonathan Ross.



Tennant finally becomes Dr Who

Dr Who with his beloved TardisCredit: little boy’s dream of playing The Doctor had come true at last. He told an interviewer “Who  wouldn’t want to be the Doctor? I’ve even got my own Tardis!”

Tennant’s first full episode was an hour long special called The Christmas Invasion, shown on
Christmas Day 2005.

David’s portrayal was hugely popular. In 2006, he beat Tom Baker to the top spot when he was voted ‘Best Doctor’. In a 2007 survey for the BBC’s Radio Times Magazine, he was voted ‘coolest character’ on UK TV.

In 2006, Tennant recorded Dr Who audio books for BBC Worldwide:

  • The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner
  • The Feast of the Drowned by Stephen Cole
  • The Resurrection Casket by Justin Richards

Tennant took his first shot at directing on the Doctor Who Confidential which followed a hugely popular episode called Blink written by Steven Moffat. The ‘Confidential’ was called ‘Do You Remember the First Time?” and was shown on 9th June 2007.

Tennant appeared with his future Father in Law, Peter Davison in a special mini episode of Dr Who written by Steven Moffat. It was aired during the Charity telethon Children In Need in 2007.

Doctor Who: The David Tennant Years
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A 26-disc collection, the BBC brings together the complete David Tennant Years as the 10th Doctor in Doctor Who. Tons of special features make this a must-have for any David Tennant or Dr Who fan. At the time of writing, 139 reviewers have given it 4.3 out of 5 stars.

Other Dr Who Appearances

Infinite QuestCredit: worked on a BBC series for children called Totally Doctor Who. The series was made to go with the second and third series of the revived Dr Who. One segment of this spin off was called The Infinite Quest and was comprised of twelve parts that were each three and a half minutes long. One part was shown each week. The animation was done by Firestep and was the second animation of Dr Who – the first was the animated Scream of the Shalka which Tennant had begged for a part in as he worked on a recording next door!

David animated in 'Dreamland'Credit: third series of Dr Who animation was called Dreamland. Georgia Moffett played The Doctor’s companion, Cassie Rice. The show comprised a twelve minute episode and then five more episode of six minutes each. It was broadcast every day, commencing on 21 November 2009 and was available via the Red Button Service on the BBC and the Dr Who website and via BBC iPlayer. On 5 December 2009 the whole series was shown on BBC 2 and BBC HD.

Elisabeth Sladen and David TennantCredit: played Dr Who in a 2009 two part story in The Sarah Jane Adventures – a spin-off starring the greatly missed Elisabeth Sladen, who died on 19 April 2011.

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Season 3
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In October 2008, Tennant announced that he would be leaving the role after working on it for three series. His last episode was shown on 1st January 2010.

According the British newspaper The Daily Mirror, Tennant was not allowed to go to any Dr Who conventions while he was playing the Dr – to avoid any accidental spoilers.

Planet of the Dead [HD]
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Trapped on a desert planet without the TARDIS, he must team up with a mysterious, aristocratic thief to get back to Earth.
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Enormous popularity

David TennantCredit: Tennant is a much loved star and this is reflected in the various polls that he has topped for many years.

In 2005, Tennant’s roles in Casanova, Secret Smile, Blackpool and Dr Who lead him to place sixth in a Top Ten list in the actor’s newspaper, The Stage. The list was of the most influential artists in British TV.

In 2006, Tennant beat Brad Pitt and David Beckham to take the title of ‘Sexiest Man in the Universe – as voted for by readers of The Pink Paper (a newspaper for British gay and lesbian people).

1n 2006, New Woman magazine asked 10,000 women to vote for their Top 100 Men. Tennant ranked in 20th place.

In 2006, the Scottish Style Awards gave Tennant the title of ‘Scotland’s Most Stylish Male’.

Tennant was voted Most Popular Actor in the National Television Awards in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010.

In 2007, The Guardian newspaper awarded him 24th place in a list of the most influential people in British Media.

In 2008, The Stage newspaper placed in him the Top 20 Most Influential People in Show Business. He was only the fifth actor to have been given such an accolade. An Editor for the paper commented that Tennant had been awarded the position because “he was the biggest box office draw in recent memory”.

In 2013, GQ magazine readers voted Tennant as the 3rd Best Dressed Man in Britain.

Since Dr Who...

Tennant has worked continually, mostly in radio and TV. He has also appeared on stage, at one point suffering a prolapsed disc in his back which required surgery.

He has continued to work for the RSC and will be playing Richard II from 10th October to 16th November 2013 in Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford-Upon-Avon, England. The play will then move the RSC’s base in London, the Barbican from 9th December to 25th January 2014.

Just to end on a high note, here's David Tennant as you've never seen him before...

David Tennant and Catherine Tate in Dr WhoCredit: Christmas Day 2009, the BBC broadcast a one-off special showcasing the Catherine Tate character, Nan (originally from The Catherine Tate Show).

Nan's Christmas Carol was very loosely based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and featured David Tennant as the Ghost of Christmas Present. He arrives with his cell phone playing The Ghostbusters theme...but I won't say any more - other than, you must watch it!

David Tennant as The Ghost of Christmas Present

with Dr Who's companion, Catherine Tate as 'Nan'

The Eleventh Doctor: Matt Smith

played Dr Who from 1st January 2010 to December 25th 2013

Matt Smith as Dr WhoCredit: Robert (Matt) Smith was born on 28 October 1982 in Northampton, England. He played football for Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest and Leicester City Football Clubs but suffered a serious injury to his back which put a stop to his desire to be a Professional footballer.

He was distraught but his sister, Laura Jayne helped him to see that there was life beyond the football pitch. Laura is a dancer and at the age of 18, she performed in a production of Saturday Night Fever in The West End. Matt came to see his sister perform 57 times and Laura encouraged his enjoyment of the theatre.

In the eleventh episode of the 5th Series called The Lodger, Smith is seen playing football with James Corden. Smith is wearing a No 11 shirt as he is the 11th Doctor. Sinc then, BBC bosses have allegedly banned Smith from playing football to avoid potential injuries holding up filming.

Matt's sister, dancer Laura JayneCredit: went on to travel the world as a dancer for Kylie Minogue and Take That and appeared as an erotic gym dancer in the famous (or infamous) Eric Prydz video, Call on Me.

Smith's drama teacher also saw promise in him and without him knowing – signed him up to play a juror in a school production of the classic Twelve Angry Men. Smith acted in the play but refused to go to a drama festival that she had also arranged for him to attend. Neither his sister nor his drama teacher gave up and Smith eventually gained a place in the National Youth Theatre. He also went to the University of East Anglia where he studied drama and creative writing.

While at the National Youth Theatre, Matt played Thomas Becket in Murder in the Cathedral. He then took the role of Basoon in The Master and Margarita and was picked up by an Agent. The Agent quickly found him his first professional roles in Fresh Kills and then On the Shore of the Wide World.

Matt had not graduated from University yet and so his Agent had to negotiate with the Uni so that he could still graduate even if he hadn’t been able to go to lectures in his last two terms...because he was already a professional actor!

Work in the Theatre

Matt SmithCredit: Smith was acting in On the Shore of the Wide World, it transferred to the National Theatre on the south bank of the Thames in London.

Smith then took on the part of Lockwood in highly successful play The History Boys by Alan Bennett. This was a second production at the Lyttleton Theatre (part of the National) in London.

Next, he appeared in Burn/Chatroom/Citizenship and then went on to make his debut in The West End of London starring with Christian Slater in Swimming with Sharks.

In 2007, Smith played Henry in That Face at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs with Lindsay Duncan playing his alcoholic mother. In 2008 they transferred to the Duke of York’s Theatre. The play was a huge success with all of the cast nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre. Matt Smith was awarded ‘Best Newcomer’ by the Evening Standard.

He received rave reviews from theatre critics in the Evening Standard, the Daily Express, The
Guardian and The Times newspapers.

TV Debut

Smith’s first role in TV was acting with Billie Piper in the BBC’s The Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Ruby in the Smoke on 4 February 2007. Over 7 million people in the UK tuned in to watch.

Sally Lockhart Mysteries - Ruby In the Smoke
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Smith and Piper appeared together again in The Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Shadow in the North.
He and Piper worked together for a third time in the Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
Matt Smith’s first big TV role came when he starred as Danny Foster, a geeky political researcher in the BBC TV drama series, Party Animals.

Smith becomes Dr Who

Matt Smith and Jenna Louise ColemanCredit: 3rd January 2009, it was announced on BBC Breakfast that Matt Smith would be the eleventh Dr Who.

Despite the astonishing amount of work that the 26 year old had under his belt, some newspapers ran the headlines “Dr Who?”

In a release from the BBC Press Office that day, Executive Producer of the show Steven Moffat said

“The Doctor is a very special part, and it takes a very special actor to play him. You need to be old and young at the same time, a boffin and an action hero, a cheeky schoolboy and the wise old man of the universe. As soon as Matt walked through the door, and blew us away with a bold and brand new take on the Time Lord, we knew we had our man."

Smith was younger, at 26, than any other actor put forward for the role and 3 years younger than Peter Davison had been at the time he was cast in 1981 – making him the youngest Dr Who ever.Matt and his sister at the National Television AwardsCredit:

Initially, the BBC and some fans worried that Smith was too inexperienced for the role. Others argued that he already had a body of work behind him that demonstrated a proven ability to tackle the iconic role.

The supporters were right. After his first series of Dr Who, Smith received a nomination in the National Television Awards for Outstanding Drama Performance.

Matt took his sister, Laura Jayne to the Awards Ceremony. We wonder if she said "I told you so!"

The Eleventh Hour [HD]
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Starring: Matt Smith and Karen Gillan as Amy Pond.
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Matt Smith has fun as Dr Who

At the 2010 Glastonbury Festival, Smith performed a version of the Dr Who theme with the band Orbital.

In July 2010, Smith appeared at the Royal Albert Hall in London to host the Doctor Who Prom, a concert of music from the show.

In May 2012, Smith carried the Olympic Torch through Cardiff, Wales. Fans were reminded of a Dr Who episode in 2006 where the Time Lord himself carried the Olympic flame.

The Snowmen [HD]
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Starring: Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman. Originally broadcast on December 25, 2012
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How much longer will Matt Smith be Dr Who?

Matt has said that he would like to play the part until at least 2014.