And so, surprising himself, he gives it up suddenly: "I'm going to die."
Wilf says he's going to kick one day too -- "Don't you dare," the Doctor snaps lovingly -- and watches his Doctor, grown sad and alone. "I was told 'He will knock four times.' That was the prophecy. Knock four times, and then..."
Wilf points out about Time Lord regeneration and how the Doctor will just change. This is not exactly the problem. "I can still die. If I'm killed before regeneration, then I'm dead." But that's not it either. He says the real part, the worst part: "Even then. Even if I change, it feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away," he grits bitterly, "And I'm dead." Wilf weeps. I don't know why the Boomers lost this thing, this strong and complex thing our grandfathers had, where they knew love didn't make you weak. Not all of them did, my dad's a unicorn for sure, but I know their fathers had it more than ours did. And it is necessary now. It's what the Doctor needs to see, to make sense of the untempered schism in us all.
The Doctor spots Donna out the window, on the street, and Wilf immediately starts apologizing. "I had to! Look, can't you make her better?" The Doctor begs him to stop, cut it out, quit it, because this is another version of the Last Temptation, but one that tests the Steel boundaries far enough that not even on the Doctor's most manic day could he go back over that line. And of course, just like the Doctor, all you want is for it to work out, for Donna to get some back. And I think that this throws off the whole proceeding, because Donna is so fucking amazing that obviously she should be the star of the show and it should be called Donna Who, and clearly seeing her in Part One means that in Part Two she is going to save the day in a variety of outfits.
Which pretty much, I realized, misses the point of her story, which is that eventually the Doctor had to lose someone, really lose someone, Adric lose someone, in order for this year to happen at all. He had to lose Donna to love Jackson Lake, he had to lose Donna to dump Lady Christina, he had to lose Donna to abuse Adelaide, and he had to hurt Adelaide to realize what he was becoming. He had to come around to identifying with those who keep the line, instead of always coming up against it like with Rose. He had to stop hating and fearing the Steel Age, see its power in himself, and see his own potential for taking it too far. That's what masculinity is, and that's what this story is about, and you can't finish the Rose/Martha story until you raise the stakes with a Donna: That is how he was finally broken. And then as far as Donna: We already know she'll be okay, because Turn Left. She proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it doesn't take the Doctor to make her a hero.