Doctor Who offers a case study in stellar character development: Donna Noble. She began as someone you’d gnaw off your own arm to escape from. She ended up heroic and self-sacrificing.
The good news: there’s an outside chance that Donna Noble (played by Catherine Tate, last seen on The Office), may be returning to Doctor Who for the 50th Anniversary special in November.
For those who don’t know, Doctor Who is a British sci-fi series about a human-looking alien (the doctor) who travels through time in his blue police box-looking machine (called the TARDIS). It’s been on TV since 1963, and it manages this feat because the Doctor can regenerate into a new body (that is, new actors).
The Doctor usually travels with a companion, who is typically 1) human 2) youngish 3) female and 4) highly impressionable. Oh, and they’re usually hot and have a crush on the doctor.
Exhibit A: Rose Tyler.
Exhibit B: Amy Pond.
And then there’s Donna Noble.
She was mouthy, rude and bossy. But she was also curious and persistent. And the writers gave her an amazing character arc.
When she’s first introduced, she’s about to get married. She’s a boorish bridezilla. When her wedding doesn’t turn out as planned (think alien spider creature), she refuses the Doctor’s call to travel with him.
But she changes her mind, and ends up tracking him down. Together they travel to Pompeii, get caught in a deadly 51st-century library planet, and meet Agatha Christie. Ultimately she’s given a monumental choice, the universe saving kind, but of course there’s a terrible price to pay.
The brilliance of her character development is that the Donna Noble we meet in the beginning would have made a different choice than the one she becomes at the end…
…which makes the way she ends the show heartbreaking. No spoilers here.
Here’s a clip of Donna Noble from Doctor Who:
And here’s Catherine Tate in one of her funniest sketches: