Donna Noble: Kidnapped! grants Doctor Who‘s Series Four leading lady the spotlight with her own box set of adventures. Set directly after the traumatic events of the Library two-parter, we find Donna back home in Chiswick with her mother, looking for some peace and quiet…
Out of this World
Seeking to raise Donna’s spirits, Sylvia signs her up for an evening of speed dating and reconnects her with an old school friend Natalie Morrison (Niky Wardley). However, when Donna finds the TARDIS nearby, left open with the Doctor nowhere to be found, she smells trouble.
Emboldened by her travels, Donna thinks she in an unstoppable investigating force and daftness ensures. Soon, the pair are on a double-date with the smooth Adrian (Anthony Howell) and the decidedly odd Dennis (Dan Starkey).
Writer Jacqueline Rayner’s script is very funny, making the most of the cast, especially in the speed dating montage. It is also incredibly touching, such as in the moments between mother and daughter which broach the subject of grief.
Writer John Dorney provides full-on comic satire when, after a Donna-piloted TARDIS jaunt, Nat visits her first alien world: Valdacki. Thanks to the work of a ruthless PR company, the whole planet has fallen victim to an unusual alien invasion. Convinced it is to their benefit, the population have chosen to work as a slave labour force.
While Nat become an insider at the PR firm, Donna is relegated to the factories. Soon, she resolves to bolster the resistance message with her own unique set of skills.
With wide targets, from Ed Milliband’s bacon sandwich to Brexit, this clever tale aims for wry smiles rather than guffaws. We felt shades of Douglas Adams in the performances, particularly in Timothy Bentnick’s Ganthak and Phil Cornwell’s monstrous PR head-honcho Parsnip.
The Sorcerer of Albion
Brought back some one thousand years into Earth’s past, Donna and Nat find themselves cast in the roles of magician and apprentice, as the former is mistake for Merlin.
Trapped in a remote monastery, surrounded by mystical burning knights, the pair have to work through some issues and also deal with the power-hungry Pavel. The elderly sorcerordemands that “Merlin” gives him all her powers. Selfish and demanding, Pavel (David Schofield) is aided only by his granddaughter Vivien, played by Lydia West (Years and Years). With Donna incarcerated, it is Natalie who becomes the main protagonist – aided by the TARDIS in a clever way.
We loved the familiar dynamic between Pavel and his devoted granddaughter, and indeed the Extras reveal that writer James Goss’ inspiration came from Hartnell era. He also develops an explanation for the fate of the First Doctor’s notebook – a gloriously niche idea, but not at all distracting if you do not get the reference (we didn’t until it was pointed out.)
The Chiswick Cuckoos
Script Editor Matt Fitton draws Kidnapped! draws to a close back in Chiswck with, as the episode title suggests, some dastardly duplicates. While Donna has been away, Sylvia has been living, blissfully unaware, with a changed daughter; Donna has bucked up her ideas and scored a smart new job with Natalie’s husband Garrison (Sebastian Armesto), mapping trends in “big data”. With aliens interested in potential, the ideas here prefigure the rise in analytics – now the essential tools of modern politics.
In addition to a guest spot for UNIT’s Josh Carter, there is also space for an extended cameo from David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor.
While some Doctor Who spin-off series from Big Finish seem like a no-brainer, such as The Diary of River Song or The Paternoster Gang, others are more of a surprise. Donna’s TARDIS travels abruptly concluded in ‘Journey’s End’, before only a slight return in the Tenth Doctor’s finale. However, placing this boxset mid-season offers not only full-strength comic antics, but the chance to reflect on how time with the Doctor has changed her. Of course, it is all the more poignant given her eventual fate.
At the start, we struggled a little to differentiate between Catherine Tate’s Donna and Niky Wardley’s Nat, the latter understandably pitched to sound similar. As old school friends this makes sense and thankfully it became easier as the stories went on.
With director Barnaby Edwards keeping the balance between the comic and the dramatic, Donna Noble: Kidnapped! is full of heart as well as gags and it provides some lovely moments for the Donna/Sylvia relationship. As always, Jacqueline King shines in her role as the acidic Sylvia.
It comes as no surprise that Catherine Tate is more than capable of taking the starring role in her own boxset, and it would be great to hear more. Perhaps with a role for Wilf? We did miss him, especially in the final episode with the Donna duplicate!