Lost Doctor Who Line Explains Everyone’s Favorite Character

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

David Tennant

Whether or not you’re a fan of Doctor Who or not, you have to admit that the Doctor is one of the most famous characters to come out of England. Given that this Time Lord hails from across the pond, some fans have been surprised over the years as the character’s accent changes and even becomes Scottish from time to time. It turns out a possible explanation for these changing Doctor Who accents is a lost line from “The Christmas Invasion,” which explains that David Tennant’s Doctor imprinted on Rose.

From British To Scottish Accent

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The line was originally written in a likely attempt to explain to new Doctor Who fans the changing accent. Such changes are par for the course for this series (more on this in a moment), but to fans who only came on board for the 2005 revival, it was notably weird to get a new version of the character after season one that both looked and sounded different.

In this case, fans went from Christopher Eccleston’s pronounced northern English accent (as his character cheekily explains, “lots of planets have a north”) to David Tennant’s noticeably Scottish-inflected accent.

Tennant Recycled His Accent From Another Russell T. Davies Collab

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The real explanation for Doctor Who’s changing accent is, of course, that many of the actors portraying them have accents. Some make an attempt to at least partially cover them up. For example, while it’s easy enough to clock Tennant’s Scottish-flavored accent in the series, he doesn’t sound nearly as Scottish as later Doctor Peter Capaldi, and the truth is that Tennant is actually dampening down his own natural accent to create a very different voice for his Doctor.

That brings us back to a simple Doctor Who question: if Tennant is Scottish, why did he go out of his way to give his Doctor a more English accent? Eventually, fellow Doctor Jodie Whittaker asked Tennant this question point-blank, and Tennant gave a surprisingly straightforward answer. As reported by Radio Times, Tennant had previously starred in the 2005 Casanova TV serial created by Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies, so he went with that particular accent, which pleased Davies and other producers.

Blame Rose For The Peculiar Accent

While that gives a real-life answer as to why this iconic Doctor Who actor has such a peculiar accent in the show, it doesn’t answer why his character–an immortal Time Lord who could theoretically rock any accent that he wants–would sound like this. In a deleted line from Tennant’s first full ep “The Christmas Invasion,” he explained that he imprinted on Companion Rose’s own accent “like a chick hatching from an egg.”

The line still appears in the novelization of the episode, and it offers an explanation that may explain more exotic Who accents–namely, that these Doctors imprinted on someone or something at a crucial time. 

The Series Made Fun Of The Accent

david tennant doctor who

Incidentally, the Doctor Who writers soon had some fun with David Tennant’s attempts to cover up his Scottish accent for the role. In “Tooth and Claw,” literally the second episode of Tennant’s debut season, the Doctor pretends to be a Scottish man named James McCrimmon. Rose ends up teasing the Doctor for his bad attempt at a Scottish accent which was, of course, Tennant’s own natural voice.

The New Doctor Doesn’t Hide His Accent

In retrospect, Tennant is one Doctor Who actor who walked so others could run (which is ironic, because Tennant himself did quite a lot of running). Fans responded positively to his Scottish-scented accent, and this allowed future Who actors like Jodie Whitaker and particularly Peter Capaldi to rock their own unabashed accents.

Things have now come full circle, with Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor having a natural Scottish accent that reflects both the actor’s own background and the fact that his Doctor is canonically bi-regenerated from Tennant’s own Doctor.