It is a fantastic time to be a David Tennant fan. Good Omens Season 2 is dropping July 28th on Amazon. Then in November, Tennant is returning to the TARDIS for the 60th anniversary of the series as the mysterious 14th Doctor.
But, as his Emerald City Comic Con Q&A with Popverse’s Tiffany Babb made clear, his genre work extends far beyond the properties that he’s most well known for.
Here’s David Tennant's Top Ten performances in Sci Fi and Fantasy Work to Date, Ranked!.
10. As Himself, Clone High, ep 106 (2023)
While everyone's getting ready for Tennant's exciting upcoming work on Good Omens and Doctor Who, he just delivered an incredibly funny cameo in the new season of Clone High. The Clone High kids are trying to raise money for the Grassy Knoll, their local fast-food hang-out, which has been damaged by a fire. They decide to do a 30-second TV advertisement as a fundraiser, and hire David Tennant to voice it. The result is an unhinged masterpiece about time, death, and onion rings.
Hollywood, if you’re out there, give this man a chance at True Detective. His onion rings + Matthew McConaughey’s flat circle=comic gold.
9. General Krieg, The Legend of Vox Machina, eps 101-102 (2022)
Tennant has a small role in the opening episodes of the Critical Role-inspired animated show as the military leader tasked with trying to defeat a blue dragon terrorizing the land. And you wish you had more time with him. (This will be a frequent refrain on this list.) In short order he plays a warmly paternal figure, gives a rousing St. Crispin’s Day-type speech (shortly before his troops are butchered), and is revealed to be not at all what he seems. And Tennant delivers it all with a kind of oaky, barrel-aged machismo quite different than anything else he’s done.
8. Scrooge McDuck, DuckTales (2017-Now)
The 2017 reboot of the animated Duck Tales has featured David Tennant as main character (and fellow Scotsman) Scrooge McDuck going on adventures with his nephews and their friend Webby (who is eventually revealed to be Scrooge’s genetic clone and daughter). And it’s an absolute delight to hear Tennant’s Scottish accent fully uncorked: the lilt like a house blown over and rolling down a hill, the burr purring like a furious cat, the sudden changes in vocal key from tenor to deepest bass. (No one says “good” like Scrooge McDuck.) Listening to Tennant work you can just about feel the hoolie blowing over the highlands.
The internets have also created a not-safe-for-kids version in which Tennant’s swearing from Call of Duty has been dubbed over moments from the show. It is so good it almost deserves a ranking of its own.
7. Professor Huyang, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Episodes 507-508 (2012)
Nearing the end of its initial run, the animated Clone Wars series introduces a fascinating new character to the Star Wars canon—Professor Huyang, a thousand-year-old droid who contains within himself a record of every lightsaber ever made and who made it.
Like Star Wars’ version of Harry Potter’s wand maker, we watch Huyang mentor a (really adorable) group of Jedi younglings, including an Ithorian, a Rodian and a Wookie, as they try to imagine what their light sabers should look and feel like. (The Wookie makes a wooden light saber! It’s amazing! #Gungi4vr) And Tennant imbues the role with a knowing wisdom and occasional impishness very much in keeping with the wise ones of the Star Wars universe. (At one point he also defeats a raider with his head and arms cut off. This character is the best.)
Tennant’s Huyang makes such an interesting and story-rich addition to the Star Wars universe, it’s shocking to realize he’s only appeared in two episodes. If ever there were a Star Wars character ready for more screentime, it’s Professor Huyang.
6. Barty Crouch Jr., Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Despite being the villain of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, David Tennant appears in the film for less than four minutes. And it's a real sadness, because Tennant's performance is absolutely wild. Every scene he’s in features at least one moment when Tennant begins hissing and baring his teeth like a wild animal. Every. Scene. His clear desire to bite into someone is A LOT.
While it’s too bad that Harry Potter didn’t have a larger role for such a talented actor, Tennant certainly made a meal of what he was given.
5. Narrator, How to Train Your Dragon Audibook Series (2010-2016)
The thing that makes David Tennant’s performance so special as narrator on Cressida Crowell’s twelve How To Train Your Dragon books is his choice to read them like a bedtime story. In place of the wildly exclamatory performances he’s often known for, Tennant proceeds here with an almost-hushed quality, like he’s just as interested in what’s about to happen as we are.
His performance delivers emotionally on many levels, too. When he begins the author’s note of the first book, “There were dragons when I was a boy,” you can hear the quiet sadness beneath the surface of Tennant’s voice. It’s followed immediately by majesty and wonder: “There were great grim sky dragons that nested on the clifftops like gigantic scary birds.” In Tennant’s hands this story of a former world filled with dragons really does take flight.
4. Kilgrave, Jessica Jones (2015)
As first season nemesis Kevin Kilgrave, who can control people’s minds, David Tennant is creepy as hell. And what makes his performance so deeply unsettling is his natural likability. Whether he’s ordering a room full of people to shut up, a guy to bash his head against a pole pretty much forever, or his servants to remove the skins from each other’s faces if he’s not back in two hours, he’s still also David Tennant—handsome and winning. In a sense you feel his coldness more because it’s wrapped in such a charming package.
The season is not for the faint of heart. What Kilgrave has done to Jessica and will do to others is devastating in the extreme. But Tennant captures in disturbing detail the long-term psychological and physical horror of an abusive boyfriend.
3, Peter Vincent, Fright Night (2011)
Thinking of Tennant’s broader body of work, many may not remember his Criss Angel-like magician Peter Vincent from Fright Night. But in fact it is an absolute cracker of a role. David Tennant is always great at playing a buffoon, and Vincent—a shirtless Vegas showman who sports leather pants, tattoos and eyeliner and purports to battle vampires at his live show—absolutely fits the bill.
Of course, Vincent has a heart-rending backstory of his own, and Tennant also shines in sharing it. By the film’s end he’s so won us over it’s actually disappointing that there are no more further adventures of Vincent to watch. They even made a sequel, and did not include him. (Don't get me started...)
2. The Demon Crowley, Good Omens (2019-Present)
Tennant's recent (and upcoming) work in the Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett series about the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley trying to avert the end times (based on their book) was like a master class in what Tennant can bring to the table. As Crowley, he is by turns clownish, flirtatious, silly, sleazy, furious, grief-stricken, kind-hearted, dangerous and the best friend an angel could ever hope to find. He and Sheen together are like great jazz, riffing so well off of one another’s choices and clearly enjoying the chance to sit around and play together.
Without drawing attention to itself (which is quite funny, given how ostentatious Crowley is), Tennant's performance is so good many might rank it his best genre performance to date. But there is one other that's hard to deny...
1. The 10th & 14th Doctors, Doctor Who (2005-2010 & 2023)
It’s no surprise from a marketing standpoint that David Tennant is about to return to Doctor Who as the 14th Doctor. His time as the 10th Doctor launched both him and the show into the global stratosphere.
It also cemented so many key aspects of New Who: the doomed romance angle; an often emotionally-overwrought Doctor; an enormous funny bone. “Wibbly wobbly timey wimey” entered canon as one of Doctor Who’s greatest lines as soon as Tennant said it, and has any line ever more captured the combination of silliness and wonder at the heart of Doctor Who?
Tennant's time as the Doctor also cemented Billie Piper's rockstar status, gave Freema Agyeman her big break, brought Elisabeth Sladen back in a big way and provided comedian Catherine Tate with a bigger platform than she had ever had before. Their success highlights a talent of Tennant's that often goes unremarked: as a performer, he's generous and supportive. Much like the Doctor himself, he delights in collaboration.
Who is this 14th Doctor? Why isn't he wearing the 13th Doctor's clothes? And what has he done with Ncuti Gatwa? Only six more months until we find out!