Companions of New Who: Donna Noble
Guest contributor Mark Spurdle continues his companion retrospective, this time with Donna.
Since Doctor Who’s revival, we have been graced with a number of companions, some gaining high praise from fans, and others not. In my series of articles I will be talking about the key moments for these companions and giving my overall views.
Once again a jaw dropping, hair-raising series had ended, and it also was the end to Martha Jones’ tenure on our screens, battling monsters and saving the day with the Doctor. We were promised a new companion, along with a series that was deemed to be the best series of New Who. To make a series complete you require a companion that can make you laugh, gasp and cry, and we got that through Donna Noble.
Of course, Donna Noble didn’t actually make her first appearance in the opener of Series 4 “Partners in Crime”. Oh no! The dastardly clever man known as Russell T Davies had her first appear in the 2006 Christmas special “The Runaway Bride”.
Her appearance stunned the Doctor as no-one can just “hop” into the TARDIS! In my opinion Donna wasn’t completely likeable or engaging in this episode. I know Catherine Tate was playing here, but she just acted and portrayed Donna like any other Tate character. She was mouthy, bad tempered and raised her voice a lot.
However, she wasn’t always like this. She showed her humanity and caring nature when she witnessed the Doctor flooding the Racnoss Empress and her children. Without her the Doctor wouldn’t have left the scene, so basically, she saved his life. This warranted her the offer of joining the Doctor in the TARDIS, however much to my surprise (as well as the Doctor’s) she declined, but said that the Doctor needs someone in his life, to slow him down and make him think of the consequences. It seemed Donna Noble would be a one episode character. (So we thought!)
What did work?
There are so many positive traits regarding Donna. She is regarded among as one of the best New Who companions by many “Who” fans, myself included. To gain such praise and acclaim means she must have had some incredible traits. But what were these traits?
For starters, I love a companion that shows passion and humanity, and Donna ticks the box for me as she shows so much in Series 4. I look back on episodes such as “The Fires of Pompeii”, the compassion and emotion she possessed when she realised she simply could not save those around her in Pompeii due to fixed time, showed us all that she was a great addition to the TARDIS and also showed us that Catherine Tate CAN (yes, can!) act in serious roles and isn’t a one dimensional comedienne.
Donna showcased all again in another emotional and tear jerking episode. I’m talking about the episode “Planet of the Ood”. Slavery is naturally a horrific topic and seeing it happen to the Ood in the way it did shocked not only me, but Donna. She showed great determination to try and free the Ood which warmed my heart, and made her go down in my good books.
Furthermore the “Doctor Donna!” is another piece of brilliance from Mr. Davies and it is a rather interesting idea. A half Doctor, half Donna sounds absurd at the time. But it’s actually “Brilliant!”. The Doctor’s intelligence and Donna’s spark creates something amazing and something we’ve never seen before. Donna defeated the Daleks with such ease, it was as if she just flicked a switch…..oh wait, she did! Even though this ending annoys me quite a bit (I mean come on, it’s the Daleks! They can’t be defeated by just flipping a switch!), I’m still pleased to see Donna save the day, showing to everyone that she is important.
Of course, all good things must come to an end, and Donna’s came in such a horrible way. Russell T Davies really is a genius when it comes to making viewers of Doctor Who emotionally attached to his characters, and me, like many other Whovians were certainly attached to Donna.
It was utterly heart-breaking to see Donna so happy, so exhilarated when she was the Doctor Donna. She was on top of the world; she was finally equal to the Doctor (if not better) and was finally starting to feel better about herself. But her world came crashing down, the Doctor Donna was impossible, it would kill her, her mind could not contain such information and power. My heart could not contain such heart-breaking moments such as when the Doctor had to wipe poor Donna’s mind, meaning she would forget him, the TARDIS and everything she had done and everything she had saved. This….was the first time I had cried at Doctor Who.
What didn’t work?
For me, the poor points of our fiery mouthed Donna were of course, her loud and unnecessary shouting. Now, I don’t begrudge a companion shouting “DOCTOR!” when in trouble, but shouting and saying things like “OI!” all the time got on my nerves quite a bit. It wasn’t needed and made our beloved companions seem like some foul mouthed creature. However, she rarely did this in Series 4, unlike her debut episode “The Runaway Bride”.
The End of Time
Donna, unlike Rose, Sarah Jane and Martha was the only former companion to not make a cameo in Tennant’s swansong. Instead she played a significant part in the episode. Donna purchased a book on Joshua Naismith, due to the Doctor Donna. Of course, Donna being oblivious to her former state purchased it because it felt right and it made her think of Wilf.
Her mind was burning up and she was close to death due to remembering her time with the Doctor and the TARDIS (due to the Master changing every human into himself). When I saw Donna’s discomfort and pain I feared she would actually die, of course she didn’t and she went too “sleep”. When she woke up to the noise of the TARDIS she uttered one of my favourite Donna quotes: “Have I missed something…again?!”
Furthermore I thought Donna would never be seen again, however, I was wrong! The Doctor, visiting his old companions before he “died” decided to pay Donna a visit, well, not actually a visit, but he did turn up on her wedding day. Stood in the shadows he presented Wilf and Sylvia a present, a lottery ticket which was the winning one. Seeing Donna’s joy as she finally married was heart-warming and made my day complete.
Donna Noble on the whole was one of those classic companions that developed quickly to great success. She possessed that caring nature which showed in Series 4. She was a determined character and never afraid to tell the Doctor when she disagreed with his view and say he was wrong. Donna’s exit was heart-breaking, but her return made me delighted and her closing episode “The End of Time” made her story and character complete.
Catherine Tate was a phenomenal actor regarding Donna and really showed us that she could be serious and surprised me and many others. Overall, Donna and Catherine Tate were a breath of fresh air and made Series 4 a great series.
Other articles in this series: