Donna Noble’s abrupt appearance in the final moments of season two threw me off initially, but eventually she started winning me over. At first, she came across as an annoying loudmouth, especially when she first demanded to know how the Doctor ‘abducted’ her from her wedding. But her fiery temper and humorous use of snark and sarcasm made me like her. Donna was a rather welcome breath of fresh air; Rose was too sweet and nice, and while that may have made her somewhat endearing, Donna seems more real. She wasn’t one to hold back exactly what she was thinking. I thought the Doctor and Donna’s dynamics were amazing; her wisecracking and boisterous personality perfectly complemented the Doctor’s goofiness.

But even as this new character began to grow on audiences, I appreciated the fact that Rose’s loss was not completely glossed over; the show didn’t start over, conveniently throwing the Rose storyline away and starting anew with Donna and the Doctor. The episode had recurring references to Rose–her jacket, Donna’s tactless mentions of her, last year’s Christmas, and the blonde girl at Donna’s wedding reception. I’m glad that this kept the continuity aspect going on; I was worried that Donna’s appearance meant an abrupt shift to a new pairing. The Doctor’s continuing somber mood everytime he is reminded of Rose underscores how much Rose really meant to him.

For an episode that’s supposed to be dealing with how the Doctor faces a lasting, tragic, on-screen loss of a companion, Ten seems pretty cool about it. He does retain that sadness, but he places it in the right place, at the right time. Save Donna and the world first, and come to terms with grief later. What I liked though, was how his sadness escapes him from time to time; he animatedly talks to Donna about Christmas and weddings and her job, and absentmindedly blurts out Christmas at the Tyler’s a year ago. His mood changes, but he recovers quickly. This pattern continues throughout the episode, finally culminating in the ending scenes, when he ruthlessly destroys the Racnoss and eventually ends up inviting Donna to travel with him.

I really liked the ending. I would have wanted to see Donna become the Doctor’s companion, but I thought it was actually nice for once to not have a girl fall head over heels in love with the Doctor. I mean, any other girl would probably have said yes (come  on–gallivanting through time and space with a really good-looking guy and she said no?!). But Donna didn’t. She lost a job and a fiance on the same day, but she didn’t deal with that heartbreak by running off with some strange man. What was really nice of her, though, was to pick up on the Doctor’s needs and tell him that he needs to find someone to rein him in when he gets too much out of control.

I am unsure whether the Doctor’s ruthlessness in this episode was due to the pain of Rose’s loss or perhaps it was just something innately hidden in him. Maybe it was a combination of both. Rose always was the one who’d remind the Doctor of his limits and tell him when he goes too far. She is, in a sense, the Doctor’s “heart”–and I also think it helps that the Doctor’s companion is a female. I don’t want to generalize, but females really are associated with emotions. It was what the Doctor needed most when dealing with stressful and moral decisions, and Rose helped him see that.

I also liked the Doctor’s reaction at Donna’s refusal–he was obviously taken aback and probably hurt too. I guess rejection and failure doesn’t come easily for him, not especially now that he’s just suffered a loss. I do think that that little scene offered a glimpse into how intensely lonely the Doctor was, that even though he had just lost someone, he recognized that he would need someone else to keep him company, keep him from being too ruthless and heartless, and maybe even keep him sane.