I am a fan of Donna “the temp from Chiswick” Noble. Donna “Oi, watch it spaceman” Noble. Donna “The Doctor” Noble. Those are the three best nicknames I can think of to sum up her character: she’s ordinary, she’s tough, and she’s amazing. Donna’s Companionship best demonstrates the hope and heartbreak that Doctor Who is all about.
Rose and Martha were just a little too lovesick to stand up to the Doctor, and a little too good for their own well-being. Amy and Rory were the Doctor’s sidekicks while he played super-hero. Clara exists.
Donna is the only Companion to beat the Doctor at being a savior. I don’t mean this to lessen the Doctor’s accomplishments, but let’s look at the scoreboard while they traveled together:
Unlike the Doctor, Donna accomplishes most of her feats by saving someone, or by sacrificing herself, as in Turn Left. That version of Donna – the one who had never met the Doctor – died. This resurrected the other Donna. I left out episodes where they both helped save the day, like the Adipose and Sontarans. I also didn’t account for what they are, since it seemed unfair: a Time Lord and the woman handpicked by all of time and space (also known as the Tardis) to save the universe.
Not to mention Donna has the best granddad in the universe.
Donna is all about hope: after she declines traveling with the Doctor she travels the world. It doesn’t quite measure up to the Tardis, so when she returns home she begins investigating the Adipose situation. And she watches the sky with Wilf, hoping to see the Doctor again. When the situation seems impossible, like Fires of Pompeii, Donna sees a little bit of hope by rescuing at least one family. The Doctor is godlike, and when he can’t save everyone he despairs. Donna is human, and when she can save someone she rejoices.
Donna also breaks our hearts. When she is at the top of her game after saving the universe, she loses everything, including her sense of self. Because she absorbed the knowledge of a Time Lord, but her biology can’t cope with it, the Doctor has to erase her memories of him and their travels to save her life. Everything Donna did still mattered, but she’ll never know, and her dream of traveling with the Doctor forever comes to nothing.
That’s the heart of Doctor Who: triumph tempered by loss, saving the day while still knowing there’s so much to do, and hope weighed against heartbreak. Doctor Who is a romantic show. But don’t let me just tell you, listen to Craig Ferguson sing it:
I’m hardly the first or last to note Donna’s awesomeness as Companion. They had their own takes on Donna Noble, if you’d like some additional reading: