What happened to Donna Noble in Doctor Who?
Get caught up on the fate of Catherine Tate's character ahead of the 60th anniversary specials.
Catherine Tate's Donna Noble, a fan favourite companion in Doctor Who, is making a comeback after over a decade.
Her initial debut in the 2006 episode Doomsday led to a journey that counts among most heart-wrenching journeys of any Doctor Who companion, marked by a notably poignant departure from the series.
As Doctor Who celebrates its 60th anniversary, Donna is set to reappear in three special episodes: The Star Beast, Wild Blue Yonder, and The Giggle. These specials also mark the return of David Tennant, now taking on the mantle of the Fourteenth Doctor.
For those intrigued by Donna's story, from her impactful entry to her dramatic exit, continue reading for a comprehensive look at Donna Noble's journey in Doctor Who up to now.
How did Donna first meet the Doctor?
Catherine Tate's Donna Noble first appeared at the end of Doctor Who's season 2 finale, Doomsday, when she suddenly appeared in the TARDIS wearing a wedding dress.
More like this
In The Runaway Bride, we found out that the temp from Chiswick had been getting married on Christmas Day, to man called Lance, who she'd met six months ago at work.
Together, the Doctor and Donna discovered that she had been drawn to the TARDIS because of a chemical reaction in her body, caused by Huon particles she had unwittingly ingested in liquid form.
She was being poisoned by her Lance, who was working with the Empress of the Racnoss. A ship full of her Racnoss children was buried at the centre of the Earth, after the planet formed around them Millenia ago.
The particles were intended to set them free, but the Doctor flooded the pit, stopping the Empress's plans. Donna saved him when it seemed he wouldn't leave, and would be trapped inside and drowned. Lance, meanwhile, was killed by the Empress.
The Doctor offered Donna the opportunity to travel with him, but she said that she couldn't live his life of danger and adventure. She planned to travel the world, and the two thought they would never see each other again. How wrong they were...
How did Donna and the Doctor reunite?
Over a year later, in the episode Partners in Crime, we learned that Donna had never properly travelled the world, and had instead spent a lot of her time searching for the Doctor, looking to take him up on his offer.
Through a series of coincidences (and a mystery to solve) the pair were reunited to stop Miss Foster's plans to use the Earth as an Adipose breeding ground.
Donna told the Doctor she had changed her mind and off they went, travelling through time and space.
Throughout their following adventures, the Doctor would notice a host of coincidences which seemed to be drawing the pair together. He overlooked them, but they would soon pay off in a big way.
Why did Donna stop travelling in the TARDIS?
In Journey's End, the season 4 finale, things seemed hopeless. The Earth had been stolen by the Daleks and placed in a pattern with 16 other planets to create a Reality Bomb, which cancelled out the electrical field binding atoms, destroying anything in its path. Davros planned to use it destroy the entire universe.
A Dalek had also shot the Doctor, causing him to begin the regeneration process. However, after healing himself entirely but before changing his appearance, he had siphoned the remaining energy off into his spare hand, which had been cut off by the leader of the Sycorax during a battle on Christmas Day years before (as seen in The Christmas Invasion).
He had grown another hand at the time, as he was still recovering from his previous regeneration, and the spare hand had been collected by Captain Jack Harkness.
In the aftermath of the half-regeneration, the Daleks captured the TARDIS, containing the Doctor, Donna, Rose Tyler and Captain Jack, and brought it aboard their ship.
As they exited the TARDIS, Donna found herself momentarily drawn back into it by the sound of a heartbeat. Then, the doors slammed shut.
The Daleks then plummeted the TARDIS into the heart of their ship, The Crucible, intending to destroy it, with Donna left inside.
However, when all seemed lost, Donna found herself drawn to the Doctor's spare hand. She touched it and a regeneration light enveloped both her and it. The hand burst from its cage and out of it grew another Doctor! The new Doctor transported the TARDIS to safety, but the others thought it destroyed.
The new Doctor revealed that when Donna had touched his hand, she had created a biological metacrisis, from which he had grown. He was also influenced by Donna, picking up some of her voice, and only had one heart, revealing him to be half human, half Time Lord. The Doctor theorised this had been somehow destined from the beginning.
Later, the new Doctor and Donna revealed themselves to the others, and Donna was zapped with electrical energy by Davros. This unlocked regeneration energy, which had fed back into her and made Donna half human, half Time Lord as well - the DoctorDonna.
She now had some of the Doctor's voice and his intelligence, and using her own human initiative and newfound smarts was able to stop Davros and the Daleks' plans.
It was revealed that this had all been influenced by Dalek Caan, a rogue Dalek who had saved Davros but had since become disillusioned with him and the entire Dalek race. He had therefore manipulated the timelines to ensure Donna was always in the right place at the right time for this to happen.
With the Daleks stopped, the Doctor and Donna returned the planets to their rightful places and dropped all of his friends back home. They also left the new Doctor in a parallel world, with Rose.
Then, tragedy struck. As Donna started to repeat her words and struggle to get her thoughts together, the Doctor revealed the truth - that the reason there had never been a human-Time Lord metacrisis before was because it wasn't possible. The information inside her head was too much and it was burning her up.
In order to save her life, the Doctor had to wipe Donna's memories; not just of the metacrisis, but of himself, the TARDIS and all of their adventures together.
The Doctor dropped her back at home with her grandad Wilf and her mum Sylvia, and told them that they had to stop her from remembering at all costs - if she ever remembered him or anything they did together, her mind would burn and she would die.
He said goodbye to Donna as he left, but she didn't have any sense of who he was.
When did we last see Donna?
We picked up again with Donna some time later, in the Tenth Doctor's swan song, The End of Time Parts 1 and 2.
In those episodes, Wilf was being plagued by visions, and so set up a group of friends to search for the Doctor, while Donna was planning for her second wedding, this time to a man named Shaun Temple.
Wilf managed to find the Doctor, but he warned again that Donna must not remember. Wilf went on to aid the Doctor in a new fight against the Master.
As the Master set his plan into motion to turn every human into him, Donna, along with Wilf, was one of the only ones who didn't, but she started to remember her adventures.
Her mind started to overload, but it turned out the Doctor had left her with a defence mechanism, which allowed her to wipe out some of the Masters in close range and then fall asleep, forgetting all that she had started to remember.
After facing off against the Time Lords and the Master, and seeing the human race reverted back to normal, Wilf signalled the Doctor's demise with four knocks.
The Doctor saved Wilf from a radiation chamber which was about to get flooded, but in doing so took it on himself, meaning he would soon die.
However, he took the opportunity for a series of goodbyes, including visiting Donna and Shaun's wedding. There, out of sight from Donna, he gifted her, via Sylvia and Wilf, with a lottery ticket he had bought in the past, using money given to him by Donna's late father.
With a final salute from Wilf, the Doctor left, and never saw Donna again. That is, until The Star Beast...
Doctor Who is available to stream on BBC iPlayer. Classic episodes are available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.