Season 4 of Doctor Who introduced the concept of the DoctorDonna, but the specifics of how that character came to be and what happened to her are somewhat complicated. Across its 60-year history, the Doctor has included dozens of different human companions, but Donna Noble (played by Catherine Tate) had a unique dynamic with the Time Lord. Donna had no romantic interest in the Doctor, nor did she put him on a pedestal. Instead, Donna understood the Doctor on a deeper level, which resulted in some of Doctor Who‘s best comedic moments as well as several episodes where Donna fought back and held the Doctor accountable for his failings.
When Doctor Who was relaunched in 2005, the role of the companion switched from being a student of the universe to being a friend and partner in the Doctor’s travels. While Rose and Martha still largely saw the Doctor as perfect, Donna proved herself to be exactly what the Time Lord needed as she was always there to ground him when his ego got out of control. While Donna may have believed herself to be less because she was human, her eventual transformation into DoctorDonna proved that her humanity was her greatest strength.
Who Is The Doctor Donna?
The DoctorDonna is a particular version of Donna Noble, who was imbued with the Doctor’s regeneration energy, allowing her to gain his mind and intelligence. This occurred as a result of a Dalek shooting the Doctor and him almost dying. However, before the regeneration could take full effect, he poured some of this energy into a spare hand. When Donna was trapped inside the TARDIS alongside the hand, she ended up touching it, which resulted in event called the “meta-crisis”. This saw DNA being transferred between herself and the hand, and when it was finished, it created two hybrid beings: the meta-crisis Doctor and the DoctorDonna.
While the new Doctor seemed like a miracle, the true savior of the universe was Donna, who was able to stop the Daleks using the knowledge of a Time Lord and the instincts of a human. Davros’s great victory against the Doctor was that his other companions were “transformed into murderers” in their attempts to stop the Daleks, with the meta-crisis Doctor’s genocide proof of where they got their ruthlessness. The meta-crisis Doctor needed Rose to teach him to be human. Donna, on the other hand, used her intellect to render the Daleks impotent and save the stolen planets without having to kill anyone.
Although the Doctor’s personality has changed drastically over the course of his many regenerations, he has always been an alien at his core, viewing humanity with fascination and sympathy, but not true understanding. The danger of this perspective has become increasingly clear as the Doctor is forced to make horrible choices, often assuming that he must bear the burden because no human could. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that season 4 is held up as one of the best modern Doctor Who seasons. Given the revival’s emphasis on the importance of humanity, introducing a human who was as intelligent as a Time Lord was the height of evolution.
What Happened To The DoctorDonna?
Although DoctorDonna was the ultimate human-Time Lord hybrid, she ended up having her knowledge and memory taken away to keep her alive. While the meta-crisis Doctor seemed to have gotten a Time Lord brain in a human body, Donna had essentially downloaded a Time Lord consciousness into a human brain, which overloaded her like a computer. The Doctor had to take away all of her memories of aliens, time travel, and him in order to keep her brain from accessing his memories again.
Donna’s tragic ending on Doctor Who not only took away the vastly overpowered DoctorDonna, but it also essentially eliminated the Donna Noble that fans had come to love. When the Doctor later encountered Donna’s grandfather, Wilf, he urged him to give Donna her memories back, regardless of the consequences. Without her memories of the Doctor, Donna lost a critical part of herself, and she didn’t even know what she had lost.
Can The DoctorDonna Ever Return?
On Doctor Who, there is always the possibility for a beloved companion to return, and Donna is no exception. In the iconic two-part Doctor Who special “The End of Time,” Donna was confronted with evidence of her former life, which allowed the showrunners to establish the limits of what might cause Donna’s memories and the Doctor’s intellect to return. Seemingly, minor encounters wouldn’t be enough to cause problems, but global apocalyptic events certainly did the trick. However, various Doctor Who retcons and reboots that have happened on Doctor Who since season 4 may have changed the fates of Donna, Rose, and other companions from the Davies era.
Although Donna did not fully break through the memory block, she did exhibit signs of being more than human, which suggests that there is a stage between full amnesia and the re-emergence of the DoctorDonna. Donna gifted Wilf a book by the man who brought the Master back, despite having no justifiable reason to do so. In addition, Donna expelled a rush of golden energy that took out her enemies and rendered her unconscious, which the Doctor referred to as a defense mechanism. Presumably, if the apocalypse had not been solved by the time she woke up, that would have been the point where all of her memories would return.
While Donna’s exit from Doctor Who was in part because of the change in showrunners, the growing number of former companions returning to the series makes it entirely possible for DoctorDonna to return in future stories. In fact, the frequent apocalyptic threats on Earth practically demand another exploration of how Donna rationalizes events without having her memory restored. The possibility of Donna becoming DoctorDonna again is always on the horizon on Doctor Who. The only question is how.