Doctor Who’s Martha Jones and Donna Noble were key companions of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, so why didn’t they stick around for longer?
Out of the many companions who have come and gone on Doctor Who, Martha Jones and Donna Noble were two who lasted for just one season – so why did they both leave so early? One of the essential parts of the beloved BBC sci-fi drama is the Doctor’s companions, who have been part of the character’s journey no matter where it’s taken them. Ever since Doctor Who began its original run in 1963, the Time Lord has always had at least one companion by their side to give the audience someone to represent them, while also grounding the Doctor throughout the adventures.
From the many men and women who have accompanied the hero for decades, the companion is as important to Doctor Who as the Doctor themselves. The show would not work if the Doctor were on their own. In the modern era of Doctor Who, which was revived in 2005, multiple companions have become huge fan favorites during and after their run.
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However, some companions’ time on Doctor Who was shorter than others’, especially in the Russell T. Davies era. While Billie Piper’s Rose had two seasons, Freema Agyeman’s Martha Jones and Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble, who were in season 3 and season 4, respectively, left after just one run each. While Martha and Donna did return for guest spots after their respective seasons, why were these companions short-lived on Doctor Who?
Why Freema Agyeman’s Martha Jones Was Just A 1-Season Companion
Martha arrived in Doctor Who season 3 as a companion that had romantic feelings for David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. By the end, Martha makes the decision to leave the TARDIS, as she saw no point in following a man that didn’t feel the same way for her as she did for the Doctor. Martha’s reasons also had to do with wanting to return to her family, as well as continuing her medical education.
However, Martha returned for a handful of episodes in Doctor Who season 4 as well as the spinoff series Torchwood during season 2. But former showrunner Russell T. Davies had planned to bring Agyeman back for the third series of Torchwood. But before Torchwood season 3 had been confirmed, Agyeman had booked a big gig on Law & Order: UK, where she’d star in 13 episodes, while Torchwood season 3 consisted of only 5 installments.
While it has been a mystery why Martha was written out of Doctor Who, it does seem like it wasn’t necessarily Agyeman’s decision. In an interview from 2009 with Digital Spy [via YouTube], after having joined Law & Order: UK, Agyeman had said Doctor Who and Torchwood was “something I didn’t want to disassociate myself with,” while also making it sound like it was an amicable departure, speaking highly of Davies in the same interview.
Why Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble Was Just A 1-Season Companion
When it came to Donna, the plan was always for her to be a one-season companion, due to what was coming in the following series. Doctor Who season 4 ended in a way where Donna could no longer be part of the Doctor’s adventures. After having gone through the meta crisis that made Donna part-Time Lord and part-human, it gave the companion a huge upgrade by having the Doctor’s mind part of hers, but at a deadly cost. After the war against Davros and the Daleks, Donna began suffering from the effects of the meta crisis, as her mind was literally burning from being overwhelmed by the Doctor’s mind. That forced the Doctor to erase all memories she had of him, his knowledge, and their adventures, so she could live.
If Donna ever remembered their time together, it’d kill her, hence why the Doctor stayed away from her. While Tate has been on the record that she enjoyed playing Donna, this was happening in the midst of Doctor Who concluding Tennant’s era, with Matt Smith taking over as the Eleventh Doctor. Tennant, Davies, and various members of the original production team departed as Steven Moffat was taking over the BBC drama for Doctor Who season 5. With the next Doctor, came a new phase of Doctor Who where they focused on new characters and stories. Despite Tate’s interest to keep portraying Donna, it would never have happened as the Eleventh Doctor was a new chapter in Doctor Who‘s life.
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