Why we can’t wait to see Catherine Tate return to Doctor Who as the feisty Donna Noble
Almost 12 years after her last appearance as Donna Noble, Catherine Tate is returning alongside David Tennant for three special episodes to mark the 60th anniversary of the iconic British series.
When Catherine Tate first appeared as Donna Noble on our screens, clad in a white wedding dress and appearing in the TARDIS completely out of nowhere, Doctor Who was reinvigorated.
From her very first outraged words: “What the hell is this place?!”, we were sold.
Companions are a key element of the time-travelling sci-fi series. And with a tenure stretching back to 1963, the titular Time Lord has had a fair few.
We’ve been blessed with many outstanding and unique female characters taking on the role of The Doctor’s partner in crime. From Billie Piper’s compassionate shop-girl Rose Tyler, to Karen Gillan’s fiery Amy Pond, the modern era of Doctor Who has not only turned some of these names into industry stars, but also given us a lengthy roster of human counterparts to adore.
But as much as we love each and every companion, there is a special place in our hearts for Tate’s Donna Noble. I mean, it’s in the canon: she’s the most important woman in all creation. It doesn’t get much better than that!
So when it was announced that Catherine Tate would be reprising her role alongside David Tennant in three special 60th anniversary episodes ahead of Ncuti Gatwa’s anticipated debut as the fifteenth Doctor, we were ecstatic to say the least.
And it seems we’re not the only ones. In a recent Radio Times poll, readers voted Donna Noble as their favourite Doctor Who companion. Showrunner Russell T Davies alluded to the impact of the Donna-Doctor pairing in a statement following the announcement.
“They’re back! And it looks impossible – first, we announce a new Doctor, and then an old Doctor, along with the wonderful Donna, what on earth is happening?” he wrote. “Maybe this is a missing story. Or a parallel world. Or a dream, or a trick, or a flashback. The only thing I can confirm is that it’s going to be spectacular, as two of our greatest stars reunite for the battle of a lifetime.”
When Donna first hit our screens, it was during the final moments of the series two Doomsday finale. She was then the supporting character during the 2006 Christmas Special The Runaway Bride. Audiences loved Tate’s character and so she was brought back in an official capacity as The Doctor’s companion throughout season four.
There are many reasons to fall head over heels for Donna. But perhaps the most obvious is Tate herself and the zest she brings to the role. Sassy, unwavering, and entirely limitless in her opinions, Donna is all of us at both our worst and our best.
Catherine Tate’s comedic prowess brought a levity to the show during her run as the tenth Doctor’s companion. Her “innits” and “ois” punctuated each scene with energy and kept the pace at maximum speed throughout the entire season.
In fact, her witty and razor-sharp dialogue is what adds so greatly to her appeal. Some of the show’s most iconic and hilarious dialogue comes from Donna, such as the amazing, “I’m waving at fat.”
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What’s more, Donna was in many ways the perfect counterpart to The Doctor.
She refuses to fall at his feet at his marvelousness (often to his disappointment) and tells him like it is. When things inevitably go wrong, as they so often do with the Time Lord, Donna frequently blames and chastises him for their hijinks.
The Doctor is a chaotic and frenzied character at times, but Donna matches this, often surpassing him with her quick wit and outlandish personality. She won’t let anybody talk down to her, least of which a time-travelling alien who has existed for hundreds of years and saved the universe countless times. Or, as she abruptly dubs him, the ‘Spaceman’.
David Tennant’s Doctor seems constantly perplexed and bewildered by Donna and her aggressively boisterous ways. But so often, he is encouraged by it, and when the pair are at their best, they seem more like excitable children than a duo on a mission.
Whereas many of the new-era companions have been romantic interests, Donna was simply a friend. A valued friend, too.
That’s not to say that Catherine Tate’s Donna doesn’t know when things are bad. Often, she acts as the heart of the series, carrying some of the heavier burdens and responsibilities that present themselves.
Donna exhibited a strong sense of humanity, given that she was so, well, human. Flawed and excitable, she was about as much of an earthly representation as it gets.
Perhaps one of her most moving arcs came at the end of her journey, in which she becomes integral to saving the world. When the end of season four brought about the wrath of the Daleks, she absorbs The Doctor’s infinite knowledge at great personal risk to defeat the alien foes. When her mind cannot bear the sheer force of it, The Doctor is forced to erase her memory and any recognition of their time together.
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It’s a great personal sacrifice on Donna’s part, and one that sums up the purpose of her character nicely. She starts the series as a nobody, merely one in millions of humans on earth.
“What am I supposed to do? I’m nothing special, I’m a temp!” she tells Rose in an emotional conversation on the cusp of the series climax. “I’m not even that, I’m nothing!”
“Donna Noble, you’re the most important woman in the whole of creation,” Rose responds.
This is the crux of Donna Noble’s story. The soul of her character. She, for all intents and purposes, is just another human. But she proves that something meaningful and powerful can lay in even the most ordinary people.
Catherine Tate will be returning alongside David Tennant in three special episodes of Doctor Who due to air in November 2023.
Images: BBC, Getty
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