Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why I love Donna Noble

There has been an awful lot of Whovian banter over the last few days. Most, I note, were excited when it was announced that the wonderful Peter Capaldi would be taking on the role of The Doctor next. Yes, I do admit that I would have loved to see a woman, who was preferably black and possibly a lesbian in the role (Norma from Shameless springs to mind) as having a female Doctor is well overdue. I was, however, glad that Capaldi, who is a great actor and who is an older Doctor, was up next. Plus, I do quite like the idea of this guy being The Doctor (NSFW!):

I just wish that they would put as much thought into the role of the Companion as they do the Doctor. I admit here my far better knowledge of the later series than the earlier ones as the earlier ones are fuzzy memories from my childhood which I need to revisit. In these later series though, I have pretty much loathed all companions bar one.

Donna Noble. Doctor Donna Noble. The one companion who, for me, shines above all others. I have watched and rewatched Season 4 more than I have any other season for the sole reason that it's Donna's season. It's not just about the fact that Donna was portrayed by the wonderful Catherine Tate either. No, there are so many reasons.

For starters, she was so bursting to go traipsing around on adventures with the Doctor that she had her suitcases packed and shoved in the boot of her car for ages before she met him again. As someone who drives around constantly with a sleeping bag in her boot ready to roll if adventure strikes me, I could relate too well. Then she was loud and bossy, but with an amazing amount of compassion that could effectively counteract the Doctor's darker side and convince him to act in kindness (like when he saved Peter Capaldi's life, for instance ;) ). The middle-aged directionless bit did it for me as well, as did her wonderful relationship with the world's coolest granddad. There are many many more reasons.

If I had to put the top reason though why Donna Noble is "my" companion, it would be that out of all of the companions she is the only one that seems to have not been put in to act as a romantic foil to The Doctor. For one whole season we got to watch a strong woman hanging out with her male friend and going on amazing adventures. It was brilliant, and SO DAMN REFRESHING after series full of moon-eyed companions to have this be the case. The fact that they returned to the moon-eyed companion formula the following series just made me groan. Let's be honest here: Rose's story was all about loving the Doctor and getting him in the end. Then Captain Jack came in and he too was smitten. Martha Jones came next, and I had such high hopes because she was a medical student AND black (that's like "double points" in black feminist world!). But alas, she had to leave because her unrequited love for the Doctor made it unbearable for her to continue. FFS! Then following Donna, we had Amy Pond who skipped out on her wedding day to gallivant with the Doctor, attempted to seduce him and then has this whole conflicted Rory/Doctor/Doctor/Rory love storyline which went on until she and Rory departed. Of course, during her time as companion Amy also gave birth to River Song, the Doctor's future wife. Cue the "hello sweetie!"s. Finally Clara Oswald who, whilst having a fascinating backstory, has also not been allowed to just be a companion without having moments of flirtation and awe directed toward the Doctor.

Why? Was it because it was too tough to continue to write a female companion who was situated almost as an equal? Was it that the romance of the whole time and space travel idea is made more apparent when romance is emanating from the sidekick? Is it almost impossible to see a female as anything other than a woman with a crush? Was it that the show needed to stay young and sexy and therefore the older female friend character just did not have longevity? I don't know what their logic was but I'd hazard a guess of "all the above". It's a real shame because, as I mentioned, Donna Noble is the only companion out of the new episodes that has resonated with me in a real way. I have met so many other Whovians that have said the same. There are bits and pieces they liked about other companions, sure. But as a package deal it seems a good many of my peers reckon Donna wins, hands down.

I loved it when Donna rocked up to tell the Doctor that she was going travelling with him and that she was not going to be "mating" with him. I loved it when she said "Oi! Watch it, Spaceman!". I loved it when she talked him into saving the family in Pompeii. When she was kind to the rather slow woman in the library, my heart warmed. Hell, I even like that she chose to sit by a pool sunning herself rather than hop on a train ride from hell. If you asked me to pick a favourite moment from the other companions I would actually be hard-pressed, not because they were not brilliant in their own ways, but rather because I would blank when they started going all lovey-dovey.

Here's the thing, Doctor Who writers: men and women can be friends and do become friends all of the time. A man who offers a woman time and space travel does not become automatically sexy to her. They can just have excellent adventures and enjoy eachother's company. Yes, they really can. And older women really can resonate with viewers as much as younger women can, and perhaps even more. So consider diversifying the formula a bit more. Please? For this dedicated feminist Whovian?

I look forward to the next Donna-Noble-like character. 


  1. I could not agree more! Donna was such a warm, funny and fierce companion. The initial "I want a mate/to mate" gaff set up her relationship with the Doctor so well.

    I'll be interested to see what companion dynamics are set up for Capaldi's Doctor.

  2. Hear hear! The best companion and a good runner for best (modern) Doctor. HATED the resolution of her arc. (Someone better clear that up down the line FFS.) The Doctor Donna in her Tardis. Brilliant!