Note: This post will spoil the ending of Series Four of the rebooted Doctor Who. I doubt anyone cares since that aired almost five years ago, but here is your warning.
When I started watching Doctor Who, I knew that it was fun and a lot of my friends were into it but was not expecting much more than that.
On the other side of it, all I can say is that I have not felt the kind of emotional attachment to fictional characters that Doctor Who has created in me from any other TV show or book or movie. I was obsessed with Star Wars and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for years but I never felt this strongly about the characters in those stories the way I do about Doctor Who.
After watching the fourth season of Doctor Who I felt emotionally wrecked. I was not sure I could ever feel that level of attachment to anything again, so severe was my heartbreak and wrought were my emotions.
And it all has to do with Donna Noble. Because I am Donna Noble.
I am putting aside the portion of the plot where Donna is a lady who believes she is nobody special only to be plucked by the dashing hero and proven to be someone truly unique and special and worthwhile, because that is the same journey every companion in Doctor Who goes on (and every hero, thanks for nothing Joseph Campbell). That is entry-level shit.
I am Donna Noble because I am the friend. I am not the one you fall in love with, I am the one who is there for you. Right from when she is re-introduced in series four, she makes it explicitly clear she is not romantically interested in the Doctor, nor is he in her.
Aside from the fact that this makes a very nice break from the cycle of the new companion coming and falling in love with the Doctor only to be rebuked and settle down with a nice human boy, this means that Donna can be more of the companion that the Doctor needs. She can yell and joke and be close in a way friends can when there is no sexual tension.
I know this because I am that friend. That is my role. I am the one driving you to the airport, not the one you want to fuck. And I do not want to fuck you either. That is how it works with me and you, and that is how it worked with The Doctor and Donna.
And by the end of the series the two of them were a great team. At least until the shit goes down and she has to give up everything. And this is why I love Donna and why it hurt me so much to see what happens to her.
I fundamentally believe that you cannot have what you want. That everything is just a time-bomb waiting to go off. That my life is going to come crashing down, probably by my own hand, and it is only a matter of time.
So for Donna to receive what she wanted, the ability to live travel forever with the Doctor as his best friend, she only has it for a brief moment before she loses it forever. Even worse, she can never remember any of her adventures with the Doctor at all. In that way, she has the worst fate a companion can have, even worse than death in my opinion. Rose gets her meta-crisis Doctor, Martha gets Mickey, Amy still has Rory, River got to spend countless nights with the Doctor before meeting her own tragic end, but Donna gets nothing. She does not even get to keep the confidence she found in herself.
And of course it had to happen this way. Because you cannot have what you want.
Nevermind the series of atrocities that Donna has to endure, including being given a fantasy life where she has a loving husband and children who disappear in a flash without giving her time to recognize they were not real. And then almost immediately she is taken to the alternate reality where after enduring a series of increasingly horrible conditions, she has to sacrifice herself, literally kill herself, to make things right, and in her dying moments is told that it still is not enough. Ignoring all of those things, which I think are still more than any companion had to deal with let alone back-to-back, it still pales in comparsion to her final fate.
When I was nearing the end of series four I did not want to continue because I knew at the end of it, David Tennant’s Doctor would die and I was not ready for that. But after what happened to Donna in Journey’s End, that did not matter to me any more. The tenth Doctor could live or die for all I cared, because there was no way to bring Donna back and nothing mattered.
As I have continued watching I was very cold to Matt Smith’s Doctor and the Ponds at first, but have warmed over two series. That all three leads have an incredible amount of charisma help a lot, but I have finally moved on and recognize the differences in tone between the two. In this way I am grateful, if there had been another series with Tennant picking up another cute girl who would fall in love with him I am not sure I would have been able to handle it. That there was the shift to a new Doctor and a new direction for the show was healing for me.
In Donna we see that you can be brilliant, and the exact right person for the job and still be ignored and passed over. You can get everything you want, but only for a minute, before it is taken away and you have to start back over from the beginning. That life is cruel and there is nothing we can do but endure.