David Tennant and Catherine Tate are back recording scenes as the Doctor and Donna! But it’s not for the first time. Join us as we look at the dynamic duo’s audio adventures at Big Finish.
It’s safe to say that the past week or so has been an extremely exciting one for Doctor Who news. We’ve had our Fourteenth Doctor announced as Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa. We’ve learned that Heartstopper star Yasmin Finney will part of the 60th Anniversary celebration as Rose (but surely not that Rose.) And not least of all has come the news that David Tennant and Catherine Tate will be back together next year to take part in Doctor Who’s diamond anniversary celebrations too.
But it’s not actually the first time Tennant and Tate have reprised their roles, and it’s all thanks, of course, to Big Finish.
As soon as Big Finish Productions were granted the licence to play in the sandbox of 21st century Doctor Who, it was understandable that a return by the Tenth Doctor was high on everybody’s wish lists. But the odds of it actually happening were difficult to calculate. On the one hand, David Tennant was a huge old school Doctor Who of the type likely to know his Lucie Millers from his Charley Pollards, and had actually worked with Big Finish before pulling on his long brown coat for TV. On the other hand, he was one of the busiest and most in-demand actors on British television.
In the end it didn’t take long at all for David Tennant to make his Big Finish return with Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures Volume 1 in 2016. And when he stepped back into the TARDIS, he brought Catherine Tate will him as Donna. In fact, in interviews Tennant cited the opportunity to spend a few fun days working with Tate again as one of his primary reasons for doing it. And the three stories of Volume 1 certainly recapture that Series Four feel.
Over the three episodes, the Doctor and Donna battle a back door invasion of present day Earth via our own love of the latest tech, a futuristic space port needs saving from lost Time War technology being abused, and Donna finally gets the fairy tale wedding she’s always wanted… in the worst possible way.
David Tennant and Catherine Tate first returned for The Tenth Doctor Adventures in 2016
Some fans assumed that would be that, with David Tennant having checked that box on his Doctor Who fan checklist. But a year later he was back again for Volume 2, this time alongside Billie Piper as Rose and Camille Coduri as Jackie. These three new episodes again recreated the original Tennant era as if the actor had never been away, with an invasion of Norwich by warthog-headed aliens, a celebrity historical focusing on a real life 18th century sword-fighting trans woman the Chevalier d’Eon, and a reunion with the fearsome Ice Warriors.
But Tennant’s ability to recruit his old Doctor Who friends to the Big Finish family would have further impacts beyond the Tenth Doctor Adventures. Billie Piper and Camille Coduri would also return for Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon in 2019, set during Rose’s flight across the multiverse in Series Four in search of the Doctor. In fact, two more series of The Dimension Cannon are already on the way, with the next, Other Worlds, due in October 2022.
Coduri has also appeared without Piper in The Doctor Chronicles, a format that works around the unavailability of some actors with a hybrid between narration and performance. Then there are the two series of The Lives of Captain Jack, which reveals the surprising friendship that develops between Jack and Jackie while the Doctor and Rose aren’t around.
Coduri has also performed in two ‘Short Trips’ as Jackie, focusing on her uneasy relationship with the Meta-Crisis Doctor after the events of ‘Journey’s End.’
The Tenth Doctor Adventures have even featured the return of Bernard Cribbins as Wilf
But Tennant and Tate were back together again for 2019’s The Tenth Doctor Adventures Volume 3. This time Bernard Cribbins as Wilf and Jacqueline King as Sylvia came along for the ride in ‘No Place,’ with the Doctor and the Nobles posing as guests on a daytime property show, renovating a house with a hidden mystery at is heart.
Other episodes included a city at the bottom of the ocean on a water world, with the duo pairing with a rookie Judoon amid the panic of disaster movie tropes as the city begins to leak, and an atmospheric visit to the infamous London Fog of 1952 where it turns out that there’s more than just pollution behind the rising death count.
The start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 had an unexpected side effect for Doctor Who fans as David Tennant’s filming of Around the World in 80 Days was put on hold and the actor found himself at home in lockdown. But he got involved in home recording for Big Finish – in fact, he recorded so much audio drama material during those early lockdown months that it’s still in the process of being released!
Tennant’s output during this period included more wish-fulfilment for his inner Doctor Who fan. The three releases in the Out of Time series – ‘Out of Time,’ ‘The Gates of Hell,’ and ‘Wink’ – were multi-Doctor team-ups, as Tennant’s Doctor crossed timelines with his childhood heroes Tom Baker, Peter Davison and Colin Baker to battle Daleks, Cybermen, and Weeping Angels.
Meanwhile, the Tenth Doctor Classic Companions, arriving this September, does exactly what it says on the box, as the Doctor encounters old friends Leela (Louise Jameson), K9 (John Leeson), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) and Ace (Sophie Aldred.)
Other David Tennant adventures at Big Finish have included team-ups with River Song and new battles with the Master and Davros
Meanwhile, the three episodes of The Tenth Doctor and River Song slip into that continuity gap of the recently-regenerated Eleventh Doctor claiming in ‘The Time of Angels’ that he and River ‘keep’ meeting in the wrong order, despite her having only one previous appearance. Finally, thanks to Big Finish, the story can be told of these more antagonistic ‘early days’ from the Doctor’s point of view, as he does his best to resist River’s charms.
David Tennant’s guest starring role in The War Master: Self-Defence, out next month, slips into an even narrower crack in established Doctor Who continuity. The Tenth Doctor, travelling alone during the ‘specials’ year, is shocked to find himself face-to-face once more with the Master as played by Sir Derek Jacobi. But for the Master, this is before he used the Chameleon Arch to go into hiding as Professor Yana, and he doesn’t know this strange new version of the Doctor at all. But how far can the Doctor press his advantage while ensuring the future he remembers still happens?
But perhaps the most impressive collaboration between David Tennant and Big Finish has been the nine episode epic Dalek Universe. Its premise is that the Tenth Doctor has somehow been cast back into a version of the universe he used to know – one before the Time War and the bronze Daleks.
While most of Tennant’s Big Finish appearances seek to bring his original era back to life on audio, Dalek Universe is an intriguing experiment in plunging this most modern of Doctors into a world of Dalek adventures that could have come from the typewriter of Terry Nation himself, complete with Space Security Agents Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven. It’s a collision that adds new edge and excitement to both sides of the equation across three box sets.
Catherine Tate has even had her own spin-off of stories without David Tennant!
Elsewhere, Catherine Tate has been up to more than just being the Tenth Doctor’s sidekick. Donna Noble got her own spin-off Kidnapped! for a set of four Doctorless adventures on audio. The plot revolves around the TARDIS being stolen by aliens without the Doctor aboard… but with Donna stuck inside. And across the boxset she battles to get the TARDIS home by herself in time to stop the aliens’ evil plans for Chiswick. And if that isn’t enough, she even gets her own companion in the form of Nat, played by her Catherine Tate Show co-star Niky Wardley.
The Doctor Who news has been coming so thick and fast the past couple of weeks, it’s easy to forget that it will be a long wait before we get to see these characters on our screens. But if the news has left you impatient for new adventures from the Tenth Doctor and Donna, Big Finish have more than enough stories stockpiled to tide you over until the 60th Anniversary.
If you’ve already been keeping up to date with David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s adventures on audio, why not share your favourites with other readers below? Alternatively, if this is your first time hearing about the Doctor and Donna’s reunions at Big Finish, let us know which ones you’re most excited to dip into.
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