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Doctor Who's giant arms required two people to lift, according to Catherine Tate

Donna Noble's arms were not just "too long," they were massively heavy

A still from the Doctor Who episode Wild Blue Yonder
Image credit: BBC

The visual effects on long-running sci-fi show Doctor Who have transformed over the years, from campy, low-budget practical effects, to digital effects, and then to astonishing practical effects.

In fact, the episode 'Wild Blue Yonder' from the show's 60th anniversary celebration in 2023 features some of the best practical effects in Doctor Who history. In the episode, the Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) come across creatures called Not-Things that look identical to them, except for one thing initially: giant arms.

Speaking at a panel at FANEXPO Dallas, Catherine Tate recalled how massive the giant arms were in person on set. Tate explained, "Out of shot, there were two people holding it up. I'd go 'My arms are too long,' and then two people had to hold it up into frame." Similarly, the oversized arms on the Doctor's Not-Thing had "pistons" inside that allowed David Tennant to move the fingers on the enormous hand.

The practical effects used to create the Not-Things' giant arms onscreen contributes to the episode's surreal and disturbing feel, while still maintaining the sense of playfulness Doctor Who is synonymous with. The boundary between Tennant and Tate's bodies and their giant prosthetics is utterly seamless, and quite an impressive feat.

The episode went on to become a hit with fans, with one fan from Barcelona cosplaying as Donna's Not-Thing at the FANEXPO Dallas panel. The crew members' efforts toting around Donna's huge arm definitely paid off. Even as the show continues to embrace digital effects - as can be seen in the final episodes of this year's season - hopefully this kind of thing will continue to demonstrate the importance of practical effects wizardry on Doctor Who.

If you want to start watching Doctor Who and don't know where to start, check out our handy Doctor Who watch guide. Or maybe you're already finished with the show - We've got the perfect Ten shows to watch when you're done watching Doctor Who guide for you too. If you're already heads over heels for the Fifteenth Doctor and want to learn more about the actor playing him, check out what he's been in before here. Or maybe you just need to figure out how the new series numbering is going to work (Are there really gonna be two series 1s? Yes.) - if so, this is the explainer you want.

Jules Chin Greene

Jules Chin Greene: Jules Chin Greene is a journalist and Jack Kirby enthusiast. He has written about comics, video games, movies, and television for sites such as Nerdist, AIPT, Multiverse of Color, and Screen Rant.


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