I think that with only a few exceptions (The Girl in the Fireplace being a pretty major one) the Tenth Doctor is at his most happy and likeable in this season, with Donna at his side. I was all for a bit of romantic frisson shaking up Doctor Who after so many (Classic) years with a frustrating lack of it, and yet by the time Donna came around, I was pretty sick of companions and potential companions (let’s not forget poor old Astrid) making goo goo eyes and kissy face at the Doctor. Donna was exactly what he needed, and he was exactly what she needed too. Their friendly partnership, banter and teasing was just so lovely on screen, and she did the job he needed – adding the humanity to the mix – often in ways he didn’t expect, which kept everything fresh. Tennant brought his usual blend of manic adventurer and caring humanitarian to this season, and he was EVEN more fun when there were two of him. Right up to the end…
Donna Noble: Catherine Tate
She didn’t think she was special, but we knew otherwise. Catherine Tate managed to take a fairly unforgiving comic role from The Runaway Bride and added so much depth to it! Donna is lovely, fierce and proud and hilarious. A damn good companion, my favourite of the RTD era, and I never stop being angry about the way her story ended.
Martha Jones: Freema Agyeman
Lovely to see her back, a qualified doctor, and making her own way in the world. Also worth noting that she had a great spell on Torchwood during this year as well, which helped cement her friendly relationship with Jack as well as give her some further ‘hard yards’ experience. She and Catherine Tate had great chemistry together and I’m glad that they got to spend time in each other’s company. The scene in which Martha comforts her own clone is probably an acting highlight. I also feel that her development as a military doctor was a realistic response to her experiences late in the previous season, which led to the stiff-upper-lip heroics of The Stolen Earth.
That reappearance at the tail end of Partners in Crime was such a big deal! I liked very much that while Rose’s return was teased through this season, it didn’t overshadow Donna and her journey… well, not until that scene on Bad Wolf Bay, anyway. But she came back strong and compassionate as ever, a grown up hero, and I enjoyed this version of Rose very much. There was almost a ‘Rose Tyler: Defending the Earth’ TV spin off, and I think it’s pretty easy to see how well it might have worked if they hadn’t decided ‘yeah, one too many, let’s not over egg the pudding.’ Her highlight was in Turn Left, though – I’m just soppy enough to enjoy her reunion with the Doctor, but actually the best bits were leading up to it, while the reunion moment itself was a bit awkward as if we shouldn’t REALLY be watching it…
Sarah Jane Smith: Elisabeth Sladen
Lovely as ever, I’m so glad she was included in this gathering of the companions. I think this was actually the first time I saw a glimpse of Luke and her spin off background, though I later came to greatly enjoy the Sarah Jane Adventures (David I suspect you will enjoy those a lot more than Torchwood…). I still haven’t been able to bring myself to watch that last season because of the loss of Elisabeth Sladen but it’s nice to see her here and that she gets to be brave as well as vulnerable. Less of a sense of ‘I waited for you and you never came’ – look at how much her life has changed in just a couple of years since we saw her in School Reunion!
Neither have especially changed since we saw them last – especially as those of us watching Torchwood concurrently had only seen Jack about five minutes ago – but they’ve evidently been through a lot, and both seem a lot more grown up. It was nice to see Jack and what’s left of his Torchwood family come face to face with that pesky Doctor he was always mooning over, and I especially enjoyed the interactions between Jack and Sarah Jane, and Jack and Donna. Mickey has moved on from Rose and is enjoying his own role as a kickass Defender of the Earth, and it was nice to see him breeze past the Doctor and pick his own universe, thanks very much.
A little sad to see Jack, Martha and Mickey walk off arm in arm knowing that we have to just imagine their adventures together, because neither Freema Agyeman or Noel Clarke were available when Torchwood: Children of Earth was being filmed. Mind you, considering the body count in that damned series, maybe we should be grateful for that…
I do like the fact that Martha and especially Mickey have formed a friendship with Jack now, all bonding over, well, NOT being the Doctor’s companion. Seeing Jack teasing Mickey at the end was almost as cute as seeing him checking out Sarah Jane in the previous episode, and her giving him a stern talking to about Torchwood’s gun-happy attitude.
Donna’s family – Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) and Sylvia Noble (Jacqueline King)
Both fabulous actors who gave Donna a whole lot of context. Not sure if we mentioned before that they brought in Wilf (expanding his role as newspaper seller from Voyage of the Damned) as a last minute replacement for Donna’s Dad, as the actor had unexpectedly died since The Runaway Bride. The quiet, mostly-unspoken loss hangs over the family and adds extra poignancy to Sylvia’s character in particular. But it’s Wilf who was something new – previously, the companions’ families were the things pulling them back to Earth, so it was rather lovely that Donna had a granddad who was so damned delighted to see her seeking the stars. If anyone HASN’T seen the Peter Cushing Dalek movies, and you like Bernard Cribbins, you’re in for a bit of a treat when you go back and look at The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
The Fires of Pompeii because, Rome, and Donna being fabulous, and the TARDIS gives them all accents, and Peter Capaldi, and ROME, and the Doctor and Donna truly perfecting their double act. I also have a soft spot for The Unicorn and the Wasp.
Least favourite episode?
I struggle to like The Doctor’s Daughter despite the many good bits in it that I always forget about. But I feel I should register Journey’s End as my protest vote. Not cool, Russell T.
Favourite guest performance?
It has to be Alex Kingston as River Song, surely – and yet, she doesn’t feel like a guest to me! So I’m going to discount her for REASONS NOT TO BE DISCUSSED IN FRONT OF DAVID and go with the fabulous Fenella Woolgar as Agatha Christie.
Describe this season in one word!
PREVIOUS “New Who In Conversations”
“The Christmas Invasion,” 2005 Christmas special
“New Earth”, S02E01
“School Reunion,” S02E03
“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04
“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06
Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, S02E12/13
Series Two Report Cards: David, Tehani, Tansy
“The Runaway Bride”, 2006 Christmas Special
“Smith and Jones”, S03E01
The Shakespeare Code & Gridlock, S0302-03
Human Nature/The Family of Blood S0308-09
Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Timelords S0311-13
“Voyage of the Damned,” 2007 Christmas Special
Series 3 Report Cards: David, Tehani, Tansy