The actor, who was clearly taken by surprise by the honour, had been up on stage with Broadchurch co-star Olivia Colman earlier in the evening to present the Drama Performance award, which was won by former Big Finish Eighth Doctor companion Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller) for her portrayal of a young Cilla Black in Cilla.
Tennant's Special Recognition award was presented to him by Scottish band - and Tennant's friends - The Proclaimers, and was preceded by a video package featuring clips of some of Tennant's many roles over the past 20 years as well as tributes from colleagues past and present including Olivia Coleman, former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies and former companions Billie Piper (Rose Tyler) and Catherine Tate (Donna Noble).
While accepting the award - which he dedicated to his dad - Tennant said:
"As tonight proves, TV – and TV drama in particular – is in the midst of a golden time. To be the tiniest cog in that is something I'm terribly proud of. But I'm just a hired hand so anything I've achieved is because talented and clever people have been talented and clever enough to give me jobs.You can watch David Tennant's NTA win in full in the video below - the full ceremony will also be available for the next 30 days on ITV Player:
"So to anyone who's ever given me a shot, thank you very much, and anyone who's ever let me into their living room on the telly, it's a real honour and a privilege to get to do that, so thank you."
Tennant, of course, played the Tenth Doctor between 2005-2010 before returning just three years later for the show's 50th anniversary special. Speaking backstage to Digital Spy after the awards, however, Tennant hinted that any future return to Doctor Who would not be as quick as his last one:
"I think you have to ration these things. It's probably got to be at least 10 years before that happens again, I think."David Tennant is currently starring in the second series of Broadchurch on ITV alongside Olivia Colman and fellow Doctor Who alumni including Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Jonathan Bailey (Time Heist) and Meera Syal (The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood).
Doctor Who - which sadly did not fare as well as Tennant at this year's NTAs, losing out on the Drama award to Downton Abbey - is currently filming its ninth series which will air this Autumn on BBC One.
[Source: Radio Times]