When Christopher Eccleston announced that he was quitting his role as Doctor Who after just one season as the 21st century’s radically overhauled Time Lord in 2005, a whole new generation of fans reacted with shock and outrage. With Eccleston’s almost sinister, brooding presence at the heart of the show, creator Russell T Davies had taken a brand that had long been consigned to the pages of TV history and transformed it into a major hit for the BBC, reinvigorating the Corporation’s tired Saturday evening schedule.
But the fans really shouldn’t have worried because Davies had an essential piece of Time Lord business to play with…regeneration. So just as the show’s original 1960s star William Hartnell transformed into Patrick Troughton, who then became Jon Pertwee before taking on the personality of Tom Baker – true admirers will fill you in on the names of all the subsequent Doctors – November 2005 saw Eccleston hand over one of the most coveted roles in British television to David Tennant.
Where Eccleston had been a mysterious outsider, Tennant brought with him a truly 21st century metrosexuality, making his Doctor a winning blend of action hero and dandy, possibly the most stylish and elegant Time Lord to date. The legend is that Tennant actually became an actor because, as a three-year-old watching television at the family home in Scotland, he was inspired by the Doctor Who of the 1970s.
He worked successfully in theatre and television for several years but it would be Doctor Who that saw him become one of the most famous faces in Britain, listed 24th most influential person in British media by The Guardian. Proving the metrosexual appeal of character and actor too, he was voted sexiest man in the universe – ahead of both David Beckham and Brad Pitt – by The Pink Paper, while New Woman ranked him at number 20 in their list of top 100 men!
With that sort of fame, of course, comes the type of media attention that his predecessor Eccleston was most eager to avoid. Star in one of the country’s most popular TV dramas and you’ll inevitably find the small detail of your personal life offered up for public scrutiny by the tabloids and Tennant has been the subject of his fair share of stories about his relationships with an impressive range of leading ladies – everybody from Sophia Myles to Kylie Minogue. The basic facts of his life have been well documented – the childhood in Renfrewshire, where his father was a Church of Scotland Minister – to his early days with the Royal Shakespeare Company and an extensive career in both television and film.
Now, though, comes this biography, which pulls all the stories together and sifts the facts from the tabloid speculation to present the most complete picture of the man and his work to date. Nigel Goodall has already given us biographies of some of the most influential figures in the showbiz world, including Hollywood figures like Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder and Demi Moore, home grown celebrities including Davina McCall and Fearne Cotton and an acclaimed study of international icon Kylie Minogue.
With Tennant he faces the challenge of looking not just at the man but also at the key player in what has now become one of the BBC’s most successful brands, the centre of a revitalised Doctor Who merchandising industry. Told with Nigel’s customary thoroughness, good humour and tact, it’s a fascinating investigation of both an actor and a television institution.
John Highfield, Entertainment Journalist