Catherine Tate as Donna Noble in Doctor Who

The Queen of Chaos Returns! A Love Letter to ‘Doctor Who’s Donna Noble

Doctor Who has finally returned to our screens, and though it’s the start of a new era—the 60th-anniversary specials mark the beginning of Russell T. Davies’ second tenure as showrunner—the celebratory episodes also provide a hefty yet undeniably effective dose of nostalgia with the return of David Tennant as the Doctor, along with Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble.

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**Spoilers ahead for the first 60th-annivesary special!**

Now, even without counting Classic Doctor Who, the Doctor has had a lot of companions. I can find something to love in all of them—bravery, wit, kindness, humor, conviction, compassion, loyalty—but Donna Noble has always been my favorite, and the first of Doctor Who’s 60th-anniversary specials once again reminded me why. In fact, I loved her return in “The Star Beast” so much that I immediately began rewatching her run, starting, of course, with the brilliantly bonkers 2006 Christmas special, “The Runaway Bride.” I can hear the echoes of them yelling “What!” at each other in the TARDIS even now, a sequence that was brilliantly paralleled in “The Star Beast.”

Donna is, of course, hilarious. Who can forget her and the Doctor’s pitch-perfect window reunion in the first episode of season 4, “Partners in Crime”? Or the way she somehow believed he’d need a Harvey Wallbanger while he was dramatically fighting off a bad case of poisoning in the Agatha Christie episode? (That’s a personal favorite of mine—it’s just so wonderfully camp.) Donna is the undisputed queen of chaos—Catherine Tate’s physical comedy and line deliveries are always on point.

And yet, Donna is never afraid to speak her mind, brave extragalactic dangers, or show compassion in times of crisis. She is hysterical, yes, and often provides some much-needed comic relief, but she’s also one of the Doctor’s fiercest companions, with strong convictions and an innate sense of right and wrong. That sense of loyalty and duty shines through in “The Star Beast” during every interaction she has with her daughter, Rose (Yasmin Finney), and it’s apparent even before she is forced to remember who she really is so she can help the Doctor save all of London.

Donna has always known exactly what she stands for, even when her mother continually disparaged her (sorry, Sylvia, though you’ve certainly redeemed yourself in “The Star Beast!”). Much like Donna’s wonderful grandfather Wilf (the late Bernard Cribbins), she’s adventurous, spirited, and curious. What’s not to love about that?

While Donna is all those things and more on her own, her friendship with the Doctor is also an irrefutable series highlight. The Tenth Doctor’s relationships with his two previous companions, Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), had romantic undertones. Both Rose and Martha were fantastic characters, but those hints of romance changed the way the Doctor and the audience related to them. Donna, on the other hand, is just straight-up the Doctor’s best friend. In every episode, both the Doctor and Donna make it abundantly clear that they are in no way attracted to each other, physically or romantically. They can both be as silly, cheeky, and geeky as they want to be, teasing each other and confiding in one another as only best friends can.

Though the Doctor may not have admitted the full extent of his platonic love for Donna when he was still known as the Tenth Doctor, our favorite Time Lord has since learned from his mistakes and grown. When, in “The Star Beast,” he admits right to her face how much it killed him to recall what happened to her and how much he regretted that she’d been forced to forget him or she would never survive, the audience and Donna can see exactly how much he meant to her. It’s a moment that poignantly summarizes their relationship. The Doctor is close to all TARDIS companions, but there’s something comforting, warm, and relatable about his friendship with Donna in particular. Seeing the two of them together again on screen, getting that closure, knowing that Donna survives (fingers crossed she remains unharmed in the remaining two specials) —I can’t begin to tell you how much that has meant to me. 

The final scenes of “The Star Beast” are, simply put, perfection. Donna and the Doctor get to squeal about the TARDIS’ stunning new interior, and Donna, excited by the TARDIS’ new coffee machine, explains how exactly they can remain friends and see each other regularly in the future. But then, in true Donna fashion, she somehow manages to chuck her coffee over the TARDIS’ control console, which promptly begins to explode. Tate’s line delivery at that moment can only be described as perfection—I laughed so hard I almost choked on my tea. The scene promises exactly what we’ve still got to look forward to: the Doctor and Donna, one of the best chaotic duos in all of science fiction, heading out into the literal unknown.

I can’t wait to see more.

(featured image: BBC)

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El Kuiper
El (she/her) is The Mary Sue's U.K. editor and has been working as a freelance entertainment journalist for over two years, ever since she completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including British TV (she's seen every episode of Midsomer Murders ever made) and franchises like Marvel and Pokémon. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.