Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Girl Done Good

David Tennant and Catherine Tate as Doctor Who and Donna NobleShe’s suffered some stick our Catherine has.

In the lead up to the current series of Doctor Who poor Ms Tate’s name was dragged through the mud, trampled on and urinated over worse than one of East End Gran’s hand crocheted blankets.

And I have to raise a beautifully manicured hand and say that I too was guilty of unwarranted and heinous crimes against the red headed one.

To be fair though most of us were basing our opinions on the Doctor Who Christmas Special where Catherine’s character, Donna Noble, first made her televisual appearance. It was horrific. Donna Noble was brash, screechy, snotty and LOUD. Very loud.

But you know what? None of that was her fault. I blame the script writers. It was their fault. Shoot ‘em, I say.

Because suddenly with decent scripts, decent character development and an all round softening of her character traits, Donna Noble has transformed into the saviour of the show. I honestly feel that she’s the best thing to have happened to Doctor Who (“the new generation”) since Billie Piper started wearing lower cut tops in series 2 – or did I fantasize that?

And for that I credit the script writers. Allow them to regenerate, I say (with the possible exception of Russell T Davis).

Donna Noble is a mature, self confident woman as opposed to a flighty, easily impressed twenty-something and that fact alone has injected the show with something more solid and weightily resonant than a mere lovelorn travelling companion. As pleasant as Rose Tyler and Martha Jones were their moo-cow eyes began to grate on my nerves very quickly.

Donna Noble might be in awe of the Doctor but she doesn’t think he’s perfect. Not at all. She’s aware that he’s fallible. That he needs someone to rein him in, to hold him back. To question his motives. This creates a much more equally balanced relationship. The balance of power is as close to 50 / 50 as it’s ever been. There’s 2 way respect on the Tardis and that is always going to be far healthier than the alternative: a companion constantly falling into an admiring swoon while the Doctor looks on patronizingly... aah, good human, you’re so cute!

Donna ain’t cute and I like her all the more for it. She’s intelligent and doesn’t have to be led. She can jump to her own conclusions and work things out for herself. She can contribute intellectually and meaningfully. She can challenge. And my God does Tennant’s Doctor need that. He’s a great bloke and a great Doctor but he’s needed someone strong to restrain him for a long time. Tate is at last providing that strength.

And as TimeWarden has already pointed out, Tate also provides a vulnerability that is based on a sensitive assessment of any given situation rather than a mawkish, girlish response. She’s morally sussed. Intelligence and worldly experience are definitely the keys to her character’s success.

The other bonus of course is that without the soap opera storyline of unrequited love constantly getting in the way the show can concentrate on what we, the viewers, really want to see: decent, well thought out sci-fi.

Hoo-bloody-ray I say. Saturday night’s are halfway decent again.

All they need to do now is get the costume department to lower her tops...



Old Cheeser said...

As a long time Whovian I can't think of much else to add to this, Steve, except to say...I agree!

Admittedly Donna has still had some irritating moments where she half-descends into one of her previous comic creations (her "I dunno!" in the TARDIS at the start of the Ood story reminded me of the "laughing at a totally unfunny situation" character she played in her comedy show). But on the whole she's got depth and range to her.

My one wish however is that post-Donna (and WILL she be killed off at the end of the season? Rumour has it she will) we get a totally different companion i.e. not from Earth, not saddled with a family, not with a backstory (okay that last bit is a bit difficult to avoid I guess). And perhaps a long running male companion too? RTD has just been ploughing the same furrow and it's time for a change.

So much for the short comment!

I didn't realise you had manicured hands, Steve. Has Ms Noble been doing your nails for you?

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Actually Martha's my favourite assistant so far, much though I cannot disagree with anything you say about Donna's strengths and the fact I really ought to stick up for my fellow breth-reds of the auburn persuasion.

But at the end of the day I just see too much of Catherine Tate's 'characters' leaking into the script and find it hard to regard her as a serious actress. Martha had that mustard-keen and hungry side that had no problem being serious and was never just a frothy assistant there to swoon at his feet (much though she possesse amazing eyes for beguiling in turn!)

But you are right that Tennant's character benefits from more 'reining in' as long as he avoids emasculation in the process.

Steve said...

OC, being a long time Whovian, I value your opinion on all matters Who highly - and TimeWarden's too; so it's been interesting to hear your responses to the advent of Donna Noble to the Who universe. I only have the last 3 and a bit series to go on and I admit I don't see Doctor Who as the Holy Grail that other fans do... but I did share everyone's misgivings about Catherine Tate being recruited into the Who fold. But she's done a really great job in my opinion and I actually enjoy seeing her in the show and enjoy her screen time. I hadn't heard the "Donna to die" rumours but hope they are not true. Though it would be typical of RTD to finally create a half decent companion and then kill her off just to garner a "big finish" for the end of series finale!

Laura, red headedness has always been cool... just that some people weren't cool enough to see it. I think Tate is potentially a great actress but I agree she will have to work hard to lose her comedy personas... I've a feeling they'll be albatrosses around her neck for a few years to come.

Martha was wasted - they lumbered her with the unrequited love storyline and she had no where to go... hence her acting skills were never stretched or challenged and that's a great shame. Personally I blame the script writers... (but you already sussed that, right?) As for emasculation... grief, isn't it enough that Tennant's Doctor keeps his spare hand in a flask on the Tardis without him adding his meat and two veg at the same time?!

TimeWarden said...

You're very right about "Doctor Who" fans being over precious about "our" show, Steve! It is, after all, just a television programme and not a matter of life or death, except for the characters in the series itself... and even they usually come back to life!!

Regarding Catherine Tate, I have a feeling she would love to be shot of those comedy characters, now, in order to be seen as a serious actress. To a certain extent, I'm lucky in that I've only ever seen her show once, so her creations don't impinge on me too much... save for the time a short extract, from one of her DVDs, was on a loop in Sainsbury's.

I think as long as RTD is in charge the companion will have a family because it's an easy way of keeping emotional responses to the fore. I believe, in the present climate, the relationship aspect appeals to more people than the monster side of "Doctor Who" so, in that sense, it has become a soap, just one set in space, to give it a different dimension, that enables writers to be more allegorical than they can be in "EastEnders"!

Steve said...

TimeWarden, I think you're right regarding the emphasis on emotional weight that writers and producers now put onto any kind of drama - and fair dos if it's relevant (for example, I think it is justified in Heroes as the show examines how super powers affect otherwise ordinary people with the same lives and mundane problems that the rest of us face); but in Doctor Who I'm not sure how much it is relevant. I think in the past they've gone overboard on the back story and the companion's home life... interesting that they've haven't got nearly so involved with Donna's family this time round. Though ironically I'd love to see more of Bernard Cribbins!

Old Cheeser said...

Interesting debate chaps! I agree that it's time to tone the "family aspect" down although as you say Steve, it's been lessened a bit with the introduction of Donna's family who haven't played such a central role in proceedings. Maybe the next companion won't have any family atall! Whilst I agree that it gives some kind of "grounding" for the companions and shows how the otherwordly and alien can impact on the stuff of everyday life, we don't need to KEEP ON SEEING THIS. As you have all mentioned, this is surely RTD's influence. It will be interesting to see what kind of direction the show might go in once he stands down. I'm sure they can create a believable, fully-rounded character without a family! In fact, it could make him/her more interesting and intriguing - look at Turlough for example in old DW - we didn't find out much about him until his final story!

As for Donna dying, well it looks pretty much a dead cert (no pun intended) that she ain't in the Xmas Special, guvnor, so wot do we all reckon's gonna 'appen to 'er at the end of the season, eh? WILL RTD kill her off? Wot a f*cking liberty!!

Reluctant Blogger said...

I have to confess that I have watched very little of this latest batch. I am sometimes in the room when it is on but it has not managed to distract me from whatever else I have been doing. Although I do see the trailers of course - I know how fond you are of those!

My boys like Donna. They think she is cool.

I am rather partial to red hair myself but Catherine Tate doesn't really have IT - whatever IT is.

Steve said...

Hi again OC, I think it would be a great shame to kill off Donna - especially as she's proving to be better than the legendary Rose Tyler and the maudlin Martha Jones put together. I don't know... RTD likes to end things with a bang doesn't he? I quite like your idea that the next companion is a non-human... betcha they'll make it a female though...

Hi Gina, I know what you mean: sometimes I see a pic of Ms Tate and think "cor, she doesn't scrub up too badly" and then other times I think "Ooh, how very dare you..." She doesn't seem comfortable with glamming it up I have to say though I think she looks quite tasty in the picture at the top of this post. I have it on good authority (Karen) that pink is the colour for redheads this season. Good to see Catherine so on the ball...!

Rol said...

Hmmm... I remain unconvinced.

Steve said...

And, I suspect, unconvincible... ;-)

-eve- said...

Hahahah! I see.... so it's just sci fi that you want to see...! ;-) All the same, attractive stars do make it easier on the eyes ;-)

Steve said...

Eye candy is very much the nature of the game in both entertainment and commerce, I'm afraid, Eve... I guess it's the way we humans are wired up... rather sad when you reflect on the meaning of your most recent post. ;-)

kate5kiwis said...

hey steve,
loved your comment at r.b.'s most recent post, so popped on over...
we've only seen ms tate and mr tennant on youtube, in the "si-i-i-ir, are you the dock-tah?" episode (which the whole famdamily loves to quote bits of), so cannot comment seriously on your whovian chat.

but we do have a tardis.

it's our car lol. yep. looks like a phone box on the outside and is bigger on the inside.
rofl, off to lurk the rest of your blog
mwah X

Steve said...

Hey kate5kiwis, thank you muchly for stopping by - do hope you'll return. I shall take a long haul flight to your blog sharpish too!

I have to say Ms Tate improves greatly as the series progresses... though the rumours are her companionship of the Doctor is to be shortlived.

Your car sounds diametrically opposed to ours - which happens to be huge on the outside but the size of a matchbox on the inside... practical to neither man nor beast...