Few Doctor Who companions have had the honour of being a unique event in time and space! But who exactly is the Doctor Donna?
The quick and easy answer is that the Doctor Donna is Donna Noble. Played by Catherine Tate, she was one of the more vocal Doctor Who companions, whose catchphrases “Oy!” and “Isn’t that wizard?!” are still resonating throughout the Whoniverse. She was famously one of the best temps in Chiswick, able to bash out 100 words per minute on any reliable keyboard, and granddaughter of the eccentric Wilfred Mott played by Bernard Cribbins.
However, Donna’s entry into the Tenth Doctor’s life was fairly unique among Doctor Who companions. She found herself beamed into the TARDIS console room after being unknowingly dosed with Huon particles by her evil fiancé, which were drawn to the Doctor’s machine. And after a somewhat traumatic experience battling the Empress of the Racnoss on Christmas Eve 2006, Donna rejected the Doctor’s invitation to continue travelling with him, leaving many to believe that her path would never again cross with the Tenth Doctor’s.
This, however, was not to be. You can’t keep good Doctor Who companions down, and Donna Noble burst back into the Time Lord’s life in 2008 when they both (coincidentally, it seemed) began investigating the mysterious goings-on at Adipose Industries – a company that purported to offer miracle weight loss. Donna helped the Doctor to defeat the deranged Miss Foster and her army of sentient fat, and finally agreed to join the Time Lord in the TARDIS – purely on the understanding that he was “just a mate.”
And that, as far as anybody could tell, was all there was to it; Donna Noble was simply the next of the Doctor Who companions – loud, ballsy, and thirsting for adventure.
How did Donna become Doctor Donna?
Throughout Doctor Who Series Four, subtle clues were dropped that the latest of the Doctor Who companions was not all that she seemed. The Ood (a servant race) were the first to allude to this, referring to Donna Noble as the Doctor Donna in ‘Planet of the Ood.’ At first, the travellers thought this was just a misunderstanding on the Oods’ part. Little did they know that the Ood had picked up on a much bigger picture – the convergence of the timelines, all of which ended on Donna.
And even she was unaware of her true significance. Many times she was told “There is something on your back!” – a prophetic statement referencing the time beetle that would be drawn to her in ‘Turn Left.’ Indeed, in this episode it transpired that one of Donna’s earlier decisions (turning left while driving) was essential to the Doctor’s survival. Had she turned right, she would have triggered a chain of events that resulted in the Time Lord’s death.
But the time beetle was drawn to Donna Noble because of her uniqueness in time and space. As previously mentioned, all of the timelines converged on her, as Rose Tyler explained in ‘Turn Left.’ But in Donna’s eyes, she was just the latest of the Doctor Who companions; she was “nothing special.” She was “just a temp from Chiswick.”
This all changed in ‘Journey’s End’ when she came into contact with the Tenth Doctor’s severed hand. The Doctor had previously poured his regenerative energy into this disembodied limb, and when Donna touched its fingers, she triggered a human-Time Lord metacrisis. Simply put, she absorbed some of the Doctor’s consciousness and became half Doctor and half Donna Noble. She was, to all intents and purposes, the Doctor Donna – who just so happened to be pivotal in the defeat of Davros, the Daleks and the Reality Bomb at the series’ conclusion. Keeping up?
Why did Donna leave Doctor Who?
Doctor Who companions never last forever. The human-Time Lord consciousness proved too much for Donna Noble to handle, and her mind began to burn. As the Tenth Doctor pointed out, “There’s never been a human-Time Lord metacrisis before now. And you know why.” Donna looked at him, teary eyed, and answered: “Because there can’t be…”
Donna knew that she couldn’t continue being the Doctor Donna, as power of the Time Lord consciousness would kill her. And neither could she retain her memories of the Time Lord, the TARDIS, or any of her travels throughout time and space, as even these would fry her brain. There was only one solution, and that was for the Tenth Doctor to wipe her mind and leave Donna with no knowledge of him or their time together.
This was a rare occurrence among Doctor Who companions. Most of them had left the Doctor with a complete memory of their travels (or died in the cases of Katarina and Adric.) Only once before had the Doctor bid farewell to his friends and been forgotten, and this happened with the Doctor Who companions Jamie and Zoe in ‘The War Games.’ But even then, his friends remembered meeting him for the first time – just nothing beyond that.
In Donna Noble’s case, however, her memories were wiped completely. Her path did cross with the Doctor’s one final time in ‘The End of Time’ but, for the most part, she was blissfully unaware; her memories came back for a split second, but the Doctor left her with a failsafe. Her mind was wiped once more to prevent the Time Lord consciousness from frying her brain.
Who came after Donna Noble?
Sadly, Doctor Who companions always move on, and Donna always knew that she and the Doctor would one day be separated; River Song had alluded to this in ‘Silence in the Library,’ but fell short of telling Donna what, exactly, was going to happen.
So technically, the next of the canonical Doctor Who companions was Amy Pond, although Donna’s grandfather Wilf technically counts as a companion as he travelled with the Doctor in ‘The End of Time.’ And in some ways Donna Noble never really left, enjoying a new series of adventures with the Tenth Doctor for Big Finish in 2016, and a spin-off series called Donna Noble: Kidnapped! Plus, she made a cameo appearance (albeit as a still image) in the Eleventh Doctor adventure ‘Let’s Kill Hitler.’
And let’s not forget how unique Donna Noble was within the roster of Doctor Who companions – the only human-Time Lord metacrisis in history and, as Rose Tyler pointed out, the “most important woman in the whole of creation.” And not just for her typing skills.
What is your favourite Donna Noble moment? Let me know in the comments below!
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