The following thoughts were all stolen from paulpogue - from one of the many discussion threads on my message board about Doctor Who - responding to my previously posted thoughts on Donna Noble, who's proving to be a remarkably controversial choice for the Doctor's next companion, at least if the online reactions are any indicator.
Paul is a bit harsher toward Martha Jones than I can bring myself to be, in spite of my many grievances with Russell T. Davies regarding the unfairness of poor Martha's portrayal, but there's a lot of sense in what he says, to my mind, so I just kind of felt like sharing his (dutifully attributed) ruminations on the matter.
Whether you agree or disagree with what's typed below, please give proper credit for those words to him to whom it's due, which would be, not me.
I didn't have a turnabout, because I liked Donna from the beginning. (Even on the hotness score -- a MILF redhead in a wedding gown, for some reason, really does it for me.)
She's very different from any of the latter-day companions, in that she is not in any way reactionary to the Doctor. If you look at all the companions, except maybe for Captain Jack, their primary character traits are solely drawn by how they relate to the Doctor. (And even Jack became identified primarily by a desperate desire to see the Doctor again.) An easy test: Without looking at their origin episodes, how easy is it to tell that Rose is a shopgirl who feels utterly bored and trapped by life and wants more? How easy is it to tell that Martha is an ambitious, hardworking, highly intelligent doctor-to-be with a borderline insane family that she tries to steer clear of?
Admittedly, Donna has the advantage of being in only one story so far, but I think it still holds. Martha in particular suffered greatly from being written as Rebound Girl (more on that in a later post); Rose turned out better because the entire POINT of her character was a need to get away from it all and find something bigger and more exciting.
But Donna? Donna has her own story, her own thing, entirely separate from the Doctor. She is a woman who, on the happiest day of her life, has it all uprooted again and again and ultimately has her heart broken in as vicious and intentionally nasty a manner possible. All this, by the way, happening to a woman who is intensely emotionally vulnerable, who is clinging to the illusion of a better life than it actually is, and was so needy for attention that she fell head over heels in love with a guy who brought her coffee (and, incidentally, planned on feeding her to alien spiders.) That montage of her nagging her man for marriage is at once funny, pathetic and simply sad. She's so disconnected from the world that she doesn't even know about the most important events of the last few years. (We laugh at her ignorance of the Doomsday War, but let's face it, we all know at least one person who's barely aware that a place called Iraq even EXISTS). She's one of those borderline Bridezillas for whom the entire concept of marriage is so BIG to her, that it overshadows who the man is, who she is, how they relate and whether it even really matters. There's nothing but the Big Day. And it was just taken away from her.
That's Donna's story. That's who she is on the day that we meet her. The fact that she is travelling alongside an alien time-travelling demigod is incidental to her character. In fact, his very presence is a bother to her; she certainly isn't going head over heels in a crush like every nearly other woman since Grace Holloway. She doesn't just slap and yell at the Doctor for comic effect (although it really is pretty damn funny at times :) ); she does it because she is enormously hurt by his attitude. The second time she hits him, in the Torchwood lab where they discover the Huon Particles, it's an emotional gutpunch as well. "Don't you dare ENJOY this!" Her world has collapsed around her and is getting worse by the minute, and here this guy is, giddy as a schoolboy with a new toy. It hurts. It hurts her, and it hurts us and makes us feel a bit guilty that we're enjoying all this along with him.
In fact, it's probably the most Alien And Other thing about him in that episode, over and above killing the Racnoss: Not only does he not really care that her life has been wrecked, he's barely even AWARE of it. That's the point where she REALLY works out how different he is from the rest of us; up until then she treated him like a funny Man From Mars. Her realization at the climax is rooted in that moment.
And yet ... and yet here she is, having survived the worst day of her life, having her fiance laugh and mock how stupid she was and how everything they shared was a lie, knowing now that he had every intention of torturing and killing her without a lick of remorse ... here she is, after making a leap of faith on a crazy highway, having seen the beginning of the world and almost the end, and faced up to the most frightening individual in the cosmos and told him to back the hell down (including both MID-genocide, when he burned the Racnoss, and afterwards outside the TARDIS) ... and walks away with a sad smile, knowing that the world is much, much more than she ever thought it could be, and more importantly, that she herself might be as well.
That's what we know of Donna Noble, in 60 minutes. If they can translate much of this into the ongoing series, she has the potential to be the richest, most complex companion since Sarah Jane Smith.
Or maybe they'll just have her shout a lot and then fall in love with the Doctor. I'm cynical about that side of Who these days.
Time will tell. It always does.