Tue
Jan 4 2011 1:00pm
Because I’m Clever

This is a post in the Tor.com Twelve Doctors of Christmas series. Click the link to peruse the entire series.

The Tenth Doctor David Tennant

“Because I’m clever.”

It was the answer—should have been the answer, should have been accepted without question every time—or at least once, just once—to “How do you know?” “Oh yeah? What makes you so sure?” “Why should we listen to you?”

Because I’m clever!

It could be the cry of a superhero—one created, admittedly, for the children of PBS re-broadcasts and rampant anglophilia rather than, say, wartime patriotism or atomic-age fears.

Because I’m clever.

It is joy, pure joy, in a continually-deepening understanding of the workings of a life that centuries (well sometimes it feels like centuries, or is it just a day? an hour that never ends?) of sometimes bitter and sullen experience cannot dampen or begin to destroy.

The Doctor’s story (my story, our story, we lifelong companions, We Who Watched From Behind Sofas, who waited without realizing in suburban bedrooms in 1983 to hear a certain sound in the yard, ready to run out into the dark) has always been the story of Smart over Strong. How else could such a succession of old men, cosmic hoboes, cranky eccentric skinny befuddled miscreants have saved the earth from disaster (Yuletide or otherwise) so very many times?

To those of us who grew up not with Superman and Green Lantern but with Ford Prefect and Tom Baker, this story made perfect sense; although at the time, and even for many years afterwards, I might have explained it more as Age And Britishness over Robots With Guns: the threat is real, it is coming to get us, and given our limited physical resources and general disinclination towards violence even in the face of greater violence, we must think of how to make it go away.

It was an immensely satisfying story, Smart over Strong. And the monsters were pretty cool, too.

And then came Ten. As it happens, Ten (the human, not Ten the Time Lord) had watched that story too, from behind another but remarkably similar sofa to all of ours. (Quibble over it all you want, but to Whovians Of A Certain Age, that inarguably makes Ten our Doctor.)  And suddenly the story of Ten (the Time Lord, not Ten the human) is complicated and troubled, different and the same:

Loss and love and terrible beauty and such unquenchable anger that it can only feed the desperate delight in discovery, in continuation, in moments of clarity when some tiny part of the immensity of time and space becomes clear, one more small piece at a time and maybe those pieces will never be a whole but, oh! what joy in even attempting to find out over the dark sullen need to silence the desire to ever know more.

Smart over Strong.

Not just book-smart or experience-smart or mysterious-alien-intelligence-smart, either.

If despite the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimeyness of things, even he can only suspect the outcome, and there’s every chance it’s not good—then why?

Because I’m clever.

How to know that every person, every experience, every solar system, every moment of every song is of immeasurable value?

Because I’m clever.

Why be passionate, excited, patient, loving, or curious? How dare we choose joy over despair?


Nasty Canasta performs original burlesque shows in New York City and recently debuted a Doctor Who-themed showcase featuring many aspects of the show, including a self-built life-size TARDIS!

13 comments
Aqualung
1. Aqualung
Yes, the 10th doctor is clever but it's not always a good thing. From "The End of Time":

Wilfred Mott:
The Master is going to kill you.
The Doctor:
Yeah.
Wilfred Mott:
Then kill him first.
The Doctor:
That's how the Master started. It's not like I'm an innocent. I've taken lives. And I got worse, I got clever. Manipulated people into taking their own.
E M
3. herewiss13
Distraction from rage...brilliant descriptor of Ten's bubbling quest for new understanding! Because we definitely saw what happened when he stopped being amused.
Aqualung
4. Jim Kiley
In the words of the lost Craig Ferguson cold open, "It's all about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism."
Del C
5. del
Re: the engagement story, two things I hadn't realized about  Georgia Moffett: one, that they were still together--I assumed they'd dated briefly and parted friends--and two, that if she's the Fifth Doctor's daughter, she must of course also be Trillian's daughter. 
Alex Brown
6. AlexBrown
Excellent, wonderful, fabulous post. That is exactly why Ten is my Doctor, will always be my Doctor. I love Matt Smith and I love Tom Baker, but David Tennant, for me, played the role exactly the way I thought it should've been played. Dark, angsty, charming, loyal, sweet, and extremely clever but in a pragmatic and honest sort of way.

Side note, I just got new glasses and Ten is so far into my subconcious that looking at that photo above I just realized I bought those EXACT frames.

@ del and greenland: Yeah, I had heard they split up a few years back, so that surprised me as well.
Ashe Armstrong
7. AsheSaoirse
Oh, Ten. You will forever have a place in my heart next to Nine. He was fantastic, you were brilliant and clever and I didn't want you to go but Eleven is doing such a great job and I love you (the WHOLE of you, The Doctor, in all your faces, except maybe Six but nobody's perfect, not even you) so much that your face changes don't matter. Cause it's still you.

But you're my Doctor. But so is Nine in many ways and Eleven definitely is as well.

I'm such a nerd. I love it. I wish I could send what I just wrote TO the Doctor for really real and then hear the TARDIS materializing in the front yard.

I'm rambling a bit more than usual lately. Oh well.
Aqualung
8. drmatt
Aw. I was a little disappointed with this entry. Tennant was my favorite doctor and there's hardly much about him in this article. All the other doctors got some really great send ups. This lacked anything substantial about Tennant's doctor at all.
Aqualung
9. Shatner's Bassoon
For me, "because I'm clever" demonstrates what I enjoyed most about 10 (in particular in its context in the wonderful 'Midnight'): his arrogance, his selfishness, all of the things he tries to hide behind that chipper persona of "allons-y"s and "molto bene"s. Midnight turned the latter into a mocking jibe, and Tennant's performance in the specials brought out the tired hollowness of the former.
Rebecca Dempsey
10. becadroit
Yes. Clever. And he doesn't like when he doesn't know something as Jackie Tyler pointed out once. But he was all about feeling too. Whether he was bottling his emotions or welling up. Intellect without emotion is the end of the world (as demonstrated by the Cybermen and Daleks who deny feeling and passion). Ten cleverness meant he was always demonstrating to his enemies that emotions, while painful at times, constitute life and change and growth. Emotions are literally feelings in motion and what is the Doctor's life but constant movement and a searching for uses for his cleverness?
Lindsey Turnbow
11. Obi
Ten was my first Doctor. I caught the last half of "Family of Blood" on SciFi and was instantly hooked. I went back and started watching with nine, but David Tennant was still the first Doctor I ever saw, even if he was John Smith for most of what I saw then. I don't honestly know who my favorite Doctor is, but Ten is my standard to measure all other Doctors against.
Olivia Morgan
12. dontevenblink74
I love Ten. Both the person and the Time Lord. Ten is my Doctor. My first episode was 'Blink', and it caught my attention almost right away. At first, I was a bit skeptical towards the ides of a time traveling alien in a blue box, but once I saw how funny he is, and how (I know we're all thinking this) incredibly attractive he is, I thought I'd give this far-fetched show a chance.
Although, let's face it, some of his episodes were... Sub-par ('Daleks in Manhattan', 'Unicorn and the Wasp'), but his acting always carried the show. In my opinion, a single character should not have the responsibility of doing that, but the fact that Tennant can do that is astonishing. When I went back and watched the beginning of NuWho, I patently awaited the episode when David's smile would fill my computer screen.
Ten's death was an awful experience for me. Every time he said, "I don't want to go" (or something along those lines), I started to cry. I think that Ten is the best NuWho Doctor (even though there is only two others to compare to...) because he is, in fact, freaking clever.
Aqualung
13. Victoria Dixon
Ah, Ten. We didn't want you to go, either. I have not yet met Eleven, but it's hard to conceive of finding a Doctor I understand quite so well ever again. Sigh.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment