David Tennant is the type O-negative of people, what my friend Charlie calls the universal boner. He is tall and sort of ginger, always shaved yesterday or the day before and has a very non-actorly habit of never looking directly at his scene partner, perhaps he might just be too rumpled and tired to do so. When he does make eye contact, it is always suddenly, with amber-colored eyes blazing and usually simultaneously yelling some English-adjacent Scottish noises. But when David Tennant finally does make eye contact, it is with an intensity that could be murderous or could be love. Often the scripts he chooses call for both simultaneously. And the whole combination is utterly, disarmingly charming enough to startle one, momentarily, away from whatever sexual preferences existed before and briefly replace them with a sexual preference for David Tennant and David Tennant only.
He is also what I consider to be the most efficient type of actor: one that develops a character early on in their career—in his case that of an accessibly handsome, tall, and often inexplicably shouty man whose clothes are usually too big—and then lets writers substitute in different backstories for that character rather than going to all the trouble of developing some new persona each time he gets a script in the mail from the BBC, something that, judging from his IMDb page, appears to happen roughly every three weeks. And at its base level, Tennant’s funny, yet volatile man who didn’t really mean what he just said schtick is one that he generally applies to every villain (or villain-adjacent) role he chooses, so much so that I have had at least a dozen conversations in which myself and other humans confess the first time we felt inappropriately attracted to David Tennant’s character and each subsequent time following.
For most, the moment came in realizing that they wanted to bone the Doctor as teenagers. For me, it was Barty Crouch Jr. Others had complicated, hard-to-process moments with Jessica Jones’s Kilgrave, and those people often need a patient ear from a veteran who has spent a lot of time with their thorny tangle of Tennant attraction. As per these conversations, I have scientifically broken down the roles most frequently played by David Tennant into three categories in order to best understand the inappropriateness of the attraction.
- The Bad Guy (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Jessica Jones, Bad Samaritan, Deadwater Fell, Mary Queen of Scotts, Secret Smile)
This David Tennant does not know he is the bad guy, and even if he suspects it, he wouldn’t be acting like this if he’d had a father. Despite his flaws, he is sometimes hilarious while also doing murder, which makes the murder a little too fun. He also wouldn’t be doing all this murdering if you didn’t drive him crazy, possibly by being the only surviving child of King James V. He really does love you maybe. All that’s holding him back is the father thing and also that he might be sharing a body with Brendan Gleeson.
Why it is inappropriate to be attracted to him in these roles: No, he’s a really bad fucking guy and probably killed his wife or his father or a whole lot of people. This attraction is very wrong to the point where it feels as if real-life David Tennant is intentionally causing shame for his own amusement, which would put actual David Tennant in this category.
- Not Not the Bad Guy (Good Omens, Broadchurch, The Escape Artist, Duck Tales)
His father still isn’t great, but he hasn’t killed anyone. And if he has, it was because he had to. Instead of putting him in a murderous temper, the physical world merely annoys him, usually because he has not eaten as he was too busy thinking and then yelling those thoughts, but if you offer him a Scotch egg, he will lose his fucking mind. He technically did the right thing. He doesn’t want to talk about it.
Why it is inappropriate to be attracted to him in these roles: It’s technically fine! But he isn’t a very good father. And he does an alarming amount of yelling at women. Though occasionally this David Tennant begrudgingly apologizes for being unable to regulate the volume and inflection of his voice, and that is very attractive.
- The Good Guy (Doctor Who, Camping, Single Father)
I will admit that I watched my first-ever episode of Doctor Who to write this blog, and I find good guy David Tennant the creepiest of all Tennants because I’ve been conditioned to wonder what he’s hiding. In these roles, he sometimes yells because he is happy, which is untrustworthy given the usual, much darker, motivation for the Tennant yell. He occasionally plays a good father and sometimes, most frighteningly of all, has an accent that isn’t Scottish. It should be an international crime to force David Tennant to say “Alligator” in an American accent. There are many victims. Furthermore, all these rapid-fire good guy Tennant witticisms are fine to laugh at because no one is simultaneously dying, and the guilt-free laughter feels uncomfortably light, like picking up a piece of baggage that is supposed to be leaden with shit only to find a perfectly empty vessel.
Why it is inappropriate to be attracted to him in these roles: It is not inappropriate. There is nothing to process in wanting to bone this David Tennant, and I, for one, hate it.