The Doctor-Donna: Doctor Who Season Four

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The post below contains spoilers for Doctor Who Season Four.

When the BBC announced that Catherine Tate was joining Doctor Who as the companion for the 4th season, I was a little leery. While I enjoyed The Runaway Bride episode that Tate had appeared in between the 2nd and 3rd seasons, I though her character, Donna Noble, was going to be a bit too intense for a full-time companion. She was a loud-mouthed, ill-informed and rather ribald low level secretary who spent half the episode screaming at the Doctor (although she did prove sympathetic in the end.) I was worried that 13 episodes of that would be too much. But having just seen the season finale for Season Four (or Series Four if you are British), I now must admit how wrong I was.

To see Part 2 click here.

I think I knew by the end of the season’s first episode Partners in Crime that Donna was going to be a good companion. First off, she and David Tennant have marvelous chemistry and you can tell they really enjoy working with each other. This was evident in the pantomime routine that occurs in Partners in Crime when Donna sees the Doctor again after many months of searching for him and the Doctor responds by being somewhat comically horrified. It showed some hilarious physical comedy between Tate and Tennant that boded well for their on-screen partnership.

Second, the fact that Donna in no way, shape or form had a crush on the Doctor was a well needed change of pace after what he went through with both Rose (whose feelings he did seem to reciprocate) and Martha’s (whose he didn’t). Having a third companion crushing on the Doctor would have been too much no matter how dreamy one finds David Tennant (and I’ll admit as a geek girl, he’s pretty dreamy). But Donna was having none of it, calling him a skinny beanpole and being rather insulted when anyone suggested they were a couple. Some fans didn’t like this, thinking it was disrespectful, but I thought it was hilarious.

The fact that Donna was older than Martha and Rose and had been around the block a few times, also gave her actions added weight. While being excited to travel the universe with the Doctor, she wasn’t awestruck and she was willing him to call him on it when she thought he was wrong. In The Fires of Pompeii and Planet of the Ood, Donna’s distinct sense of morality and innate human decency made a character that initially seemed overbearing become very sympathetic.

Throughout the rest of the season, I thought Donna made a wonderful companion. So much so that what happened to her character in the season finale was all the more heartbreaking. As Doctor Who season finales normally are, this one was jam packed and spread across three episodes. Not only did we see the return of Rose Tyler, but we saw former companions Martha Jones, Captain Jack Harkness and the crew from Torchwood, Sarah Jane Smith along with Jackie Tyler and Mickey Clarke. All of these past characters join the Doctor and Donna for another world ending battle against the Daleks (again!!! For a decimated race, there are an awful lot of them hanging about) and Davros.

Everyone has their little part to play in the finale but Donna winds up having the most important role. While she has spent many episodes saying she was nothing special and just a secretary, there have been hints that something huge and possibly tragic was going to happen to Donna and that she had a key role to play. It’s a little complicated to describe but in one scene, Donna gets what is basically a Time Lord brain boost and with the knowledge she gets access to she saves the entire universe from what would be certain destruction by the Daleks.

But unfortunately a human brain cannot handle having half a Time Lord brain and it starts to kill her (reminiscent of when Rose absorbed the Time Vortex in Season One’s finale and it started to kill her). In order to save her, the Doctor must erase all traces of himself and their travels together from her brain. And this reverts Donna back to the loud, ill-informed character that we met in The Runaway Bride, a woman who has no idea how special she really is and how she helped save the world. She meets the Doctor and has no idea who he is and barely bothers to say hello. For fans who came to love Donna (and I will admit that there are some that never warmed to her), this was absolutely crushing and almost crueler than if she had been killed. Not only did she not know how many brave and important things she did, all the progress her character made was destroyed in the process.

Doctor Who has long established that traveling with the Doctor can be devastating to his companions but I don’t think it was ever so evident as it was in this development. Although this plot twist made me sad, I also thought it was brutally effective. I knew that Catherine Tate was too big a star in Britain to stay on as a companion for more than one season so Donna’s presence was necessarily short-lived. But short as it was, it was definitely memorable.

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2 Responses to “The Doctor-Donna: Doctor Who Season Four”

  1. adroidmortox Says:

    I will admit, as sad as Donna’s ending made me, it was still brilliantly done and well acted.

  2. ZanzabarLando Says:

    I was one of the ones that never warmed up to her. The near-constant references to her being special and unique just got grating, and the fact that season 4 just seemed… pretty bad in comparison to earlier seasons didn’t help either.

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