All right, it’s time to finish up the “Companion Awards.” Best Female goes to…
aka Spartacus, The Doctor/Donna, Donna Temple-Noble
When Donna first appeared in the TARDIS, immediately after the heart-breaking Bad Wolf Bay scene in Doomsday, I wasn’t sure if I’d like her. She just seemed so loud, and she was such a jarring change from Rose. But after a whole season of watching Martha swoon over the Doctor, I was ready for Donna to come back. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with her.
All but one of the female companions in the new Doctor Who series, so far, have fit the same basic mold: young, pretty women from 21st-century England who develop a serious crush on the Doctor at some point. Donna Noble is the only one to break that mold. She has the looks of a completely ordinary 35- or 40-year-old, and she never has anything like a romantic relationship with her “spaceman.” Instead, she becomes his best friend. The Doctor and Donna form a true team: they work together wonderfully, they respect each other, and they understand each other even better than the Doctor and his companions usually do–and they’re too busy saving the world to let any relationship drama get in the way.
Donna is loud, that’s for sure. She has an attitude the size of the TARDIS interior, and she’s never afraid to say what’s on her mind. On the surface, her mind seems preoccupied by trivial things: she misses the Cybermen invasion because she’s scuba diving (The Runaway Bride), and when she finds out she’s living in a non-physical dream world, her first concern is that her diet has been in vain (The Forest of the Dead). These traits make for some of the funniest moments on the show–and with all the doom and gloom going on in season four, we needed all of those moments. But as the different layers of Donna’s character are revealed, she turns out to be a remarkably strong, compassionate, and courageous woman at heart. Plus, she has the coolest grandpa in all of time and space.
Catherine Tate, the actress who plays Donna, is known for her comedic skills, and Donna is indeed hilarious. But she can be serious–even heartbreaking–as well. There’s another difference between Donna and the other companions: she doesn’t get much of a happy ending. Although there are a lot of occupational hazards that come with traveling in the TARDIS, most of the Doctor’s companions end up all right in the end. Rose gets her family back, plus a human version of her Doctor; Martha gets married, becomes a doctor, and goes on saving the world; and even Amy and Rory end up growing old together, even if it’s not in the right time zone. But although Donna did as well, or better, than any of them when it came to world-saving, she’s ultimately left with the same narrow, ordinary life she had before she met the Doctor. Sure, she gets married (but not to her dream man from the future), and she wins the lottery, but that’s a poor substitute for being “the most important woman in all creation.”
Donna’s departure really wasn’t fair, because she’s by far the most interesting and complex of the female companions. In some ways, she’s also the best role model of the lot: a great example of endurance, loyalty, and true friendship. I like Rose, Amy, River Song, etc., but I think Donna will always be my favourite woman on Doctor Who. We need more companions like her.