Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) is dropped off by the Doctor (David Tennant) to her Mum, Silvia (Jacqueline King). She needs a break and some TLC after her losing a life that turned out to be artificial, that she experienced in a certain library. Sadly her respite is not to be so restful when the Tardis and some external forces kidnap Donna and friend Natalie (Niky Wardley). To get back she just needs to steer the Tardis, find the Doctor (who has gone missing) and save the Earth in the mix.
Out of This World by Jacqueline Rayner
After being dropped back home by the Doctor, Sylvia is not keen on Donna going back to him. To focus her on other things Sylvia signs Donna up to speed dating, with an old school friend. But when a handsome stranger enters the dating even that seems too good to be true, Donna fears the Doctor is keeping tabs on her. The true however leads to death and danger… just what Donna was hoping to avoid for a while.
This is a wonderful opening episode. We get to see Donna centre stage from the off. There was, of course, no doubt Tate could carry her own in a series, but none the less lovely to see her get the chance. Her bestie from school Natalie is a wonderful mirror for Donna. It shows what she was like before she came to be with the Doctor, but maybe a more successful version. There is a wonderful guest turn by Strax actor Dan Starkey in this episode. Starkey always being great at voices, but in this one I didn’t realise for quite some time it was him.
Spinvasion by John Dorney
Under some force, Donna manages to steer the TARDIS to a planet she discovers is called Valdacki. Those who forced Donna into this journey with Natalie want to invade. Unfortunately someone got there first and due to some stunning PR, the Valdacki seem surprisingly happy about it.
The parallel’s between political spin and how we are lead to welcome changes against our best interests come thick and fast in this story (to a fault at times). The idea of what would make someone actually welcome an invasion to keep the status quo is a really strong one. However, when you get to people working literally for nothing and welcoming more hours of work, it does push credulity a little. But is a story full of humour in the smarm of the oppressor and his PR guru from Valdacki played by Phil Cornwell. Donna gets to find her feet as her own hero, learning to trust the lessons the Doctor has taught her and her own judgement. Meanwhile Natalie is gets to learn who her friend has become, adding extra pressure for Donna to save the day.
The Sorcerer of Albion by James Goss
Landing the TARDIS in the middle ages, Donna finds herself being mistaken by local sorcerer Parval (David Schofield) for Merlin. As she struggles to keep up the illusion of having powers, she is also trying to keep up the illusion to Natalie she knows what she is doing. As Parval tries to gain access to the TARDIS , Natalie deals with familiar face the TARDIS shows her in a bid for her help.
The guise of Merlin is as great a fit in this story as it was for the Seventh in Battlefield. Tate has so much fun as Donna pretending to weird power whilst really trying to keep control. We get a little more on her relationship with Natalie, who herself gets some good back story. Scofield too seems to have fun hamming it up (in the best possible way) as Parval. And as so often with a Goss script there is a reveal at the end that adds a lot of heart to the story.
The Chiswick Cuckoos by Matt Fitton
Donna’s life back at home is going great. She’s got a new job and is climbing the corporate ladder, her Mum couldn’t be more proud. All this off course comes to a surprise to Donna when she arrives back home with the TARDIS finally to find out about this new life. Who is pretending to be Donna, and how does this link to the Doctor (who has now started contacting her through the psychic paper)? Everything on this wild journey is about to come to a head.
Fitton gives us a great conclusion to this set. We get a crowd pleasing cameo from the David Tennant without undermining Donna as the hero of the set, Donna and Natalie get a very nice wrap up to their relationship and how they see each other after all this time and the overall story (which I will not spoil here) is very satisfyingly ended.
When I heard about putting a boxset into the timeline of Donna travelling with the Doctor I had mixed feelings. Yes, I wanted more Donna and knew she was a strong enough character with a strong enough actor to sustain a boxset. But I didn’t want it to seem forced or to have too longer period of time to be involved over numerous boxsets to feel like it fit the existing story.
As is almost always the case, Big Finish have nailed it. The catalyst for Donna needing a break is well taken from events from the TV show and gives her some emotional resolution to events. The set is (seemingly) a one and done, which is nice to have sometimes (but could maybe do a follow up from another point in her journey). Natalie taking up the companion role is a perfect paring with Donna and highlights how she has been changed for the better by her travels. And who doesn’t want more Silvia Noble? Quite the ‘wizard’ set.