It has been so long since I first watched Donna’s episodes for the first time that I don’t really remember such a moment anymore. So I started a rewatch of her episodes and looked for the moments that first made me go “ilu”.
Both from The Runaway Bride, the first is when Donna’s telling Ten how she met Lance:
"And he nagged, and he nagged me. And he just wore me down. And then finally, I just gave in." [flashback intercut] “ Will you marry me? (…) Go on, just think about it. We’d make a great couple. And I’d get rid of the dog, and we could do up that back bedroom.”
The whole montage was really hilarious (like a really, really subdued Lorna Morello), but it’s also great in how much it tells us about Donna’s character- and most of all, It feels so real and adds so much to the whole “everywoman” thing that builds the core of her character.
The other moment was the moment she finds herself jilted and betrayed by Lance: I like it in itself because it shows how vulnerable her character is, and how Catherine Tate hits it out of the park in a single line and breaks all our hearts- and I also love this bit, for the same reasons as the first moment above:
"Well, I couldn’t risk you running off. I had to say yes. And then I was stuck with a woman who thinks the height of excitement is a new flavour Pringle. Oh, I had to sit there and listen to all that yap yap yap. Oh, Brad and Angelina. Is Posh pregnant? X Factor, Atkins Diet, Feng Shui, split ends, text me, text me, text me. Dear God, the never ending fountain of fat, stupid trivia. I deserve a medal."
I just…ugh, I know many portions of fandom complain about contemporary pop references in Doctor Who (specially in RTD’s era) but I appreciate this paragraph of dialogue so much. It paints such a clear picture of real, living-flesh contemporary middle-aged(?) woman in my head. And it’s such a perfect list of things to be into that are deemed “superficial” and “mundane” and “shallow” and “ultimately unimportant”…all preciously significant words when Donna’s character arc comes into play a season later.
I also find the whole betrayal very interesting when considering some things RTD wrote in his book: before Catherine Tate had been signed up for season 4, and the next companion was going to be "Penny Carter". Penny’s very first introduction scene would’ve had her being jilted by her boyfriend. Benjamin then brings up the topic of likeability, to which RTD replies:
”(…) Doctor Who is designed to incorporate likeable characters, because so much else is going on. You’re creating monsters, plots, worlds, environments, so even fairly complicated characters like Rose are sketches,in a sense, to be filled in by good acting. A likeable character is shorthand, to get you into the story, fast. An unlikeable companion, for example, is going to rail against the conventions of the show, so holds you up. Even Donna had to mellow over the course of The Runaway Bride. For Penny, being jilted is instantly, automatically likeable, but we’re talking about scenes of only a few minutes in duration, because really she’s there to be chased by monsters. The jilting is shorthand. If she were awful, if she’d just jilted someone and was laughing about it (well, she’s already a bit unbelievable, in this crude example), then she’d be much more complicated, and you’d spend a lot more time trying to get to know her and engage with her, but that isn’t actually the point of 4.1. There are stronger voices saying, ‘Get on with it! Where are the monsters?’
To see Donna, wonderful, beautifully ordinary, “desperate-for-a-husband”, be betrayed like that, is imo definitely a masterful way of ensuring instant likeability.