As David Tennant's Doctor and Catherine Tate's Donna Noble crash-land back on our screens for Doctor Who's 60th anniversary, there's one person they couldn't leave behind – the icon that is Sylvia Noble, played by Jacqueline King.


Sylvia, Donna's mum, became known for never taking any of the Doctor's nonsense. Now, she's back, with King promising: "The fierce mother/grandmother spirit is still there!"

Speaking exclusively to about what it was like to return with Tennant and Tate, King explains: "They are such lovely, genuinely lovely people, superb actors who I stand in the wake of and our parts had been written so clearly by Russell T Davies and he knows us so well and so brilliantly that we all just felt that we were putting on the old pair of shoes again and off we went."

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She adds: "I'm so surprised that [the specials have] happened because I always thought the whole thing about Doctor Who was that of course he regenerates and that it becomes new and different.

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"But I'm so thrilled for them, that they're going to get another glimpse of something that they've talked about, the fans, as being special in their hearts and I'm so glad that they're going to have another visit that isn't just going down memory lane.

"It's very much taking us into the future and taking us in an exciting route through different media and then, of course, we will launch into the next Doctor Who and it will progress from there. So I'm just hoping that people won't think it's too much going backwards and that it's helping the forward propulsion of the series."

David Tennant as the Doctor, the Noble family, and the Meep in Doctor Who
David Tennant as the Doctor, the Noble family, and the Meep in Doctor Who. BBC Studios 2023, Alistair Heap

Even all these years later, there's no one else in the whole Whoniverse like Sylvia, with King adding: "She's the most grounded [character] that I've seen. I haven't watched every episode of everybody else's. But I do love the fact that she gives them short shrift."

This time though, things are different for the Noble family – it's 15 years on and the clan has expanded, with Yasmin Finney playing Donna's daughter Rose.

As for how things have moved on for Sylvia and Donna, King teases: "They will be recognisably Sylvia and Donna as we knew them, on each other's case! Life has changed, life has gone on. But we have grown, and I think it is evident how much Sylvia loves her daughter."

On Finney's Rose, King adds: "Oh, it's glorious. She's lovely. And what an upcoming star she is."

It's been a long time since the Nobles last appeared in season 4, but King didn't want to revisit the episodes – and for a very good reason, pointing out: "The joy of Sylvia was that she was so grounded because she didn't know anything about what was going on in outer space. She hadn't got a clue.

"All she knew was her house and her family and her father. And you know, it was a small world and I think I wanted to keep that innocence. So I didn't really become very knowledgeable about what was happening in the rest of the episodes."

Plus, she's got many hopes for the specials, which she describes as "exciting, vibrant, and full of love".

"I'm hoping that [fans] care as much as they did, we had such a lovely reception after series 4. People were so kind and so enthusiastic about the Noble family and about their relationship with the Doctor and the brilliant rapport of David and Catherine, and so I think they will definitely see that again.

"And they will see the depth of that because of those years that have passed. They will see that they are still absolutely bonded and committed, and Sylvia still has a huge mistrust of the Doctor! And a huge fear of what the consequences of what Donna meeting him would be."

She adds of Davies's scripts: "He is such a superb writer, but he didn't need any of our input at all. He produced the scripts and we stuck very faithfully to them. But I'd like to believe that getting to know us enabled him to flesh out the characters even more as he knew what we did with them."

So... thinking beyond the specials, if the time ever came for Sylvia to return again, could it happen?

"I mean, when I was asked that after series 4, I used to laugh, [and say], 'Don't be silly, that's never going to happen.' But now of course I'm thinking, 'Crumbs! It has happened, and it's been joyous.' And if it ever happened again, I think I once said this to Russell T Davies – if I was up Mount Everest, I would drop everything and come down to be part of it again."

Doctor Who's first 60th anniversary special The Star Beast airs at 6:30pm on Saturday 25th November on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Classic episodes are available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.

Check out more of our Sci-Fi coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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