Review: Doctor Who – The Runaway Bride

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“Just”¦ be magnificent.”

If I do say so myself, those were the words that summed up my entire hopes about this Christmas special. I had so many expectations; a lot of which were actually met”¦ and though the packaging was a little odd at times, I certainly enjoyed myself.

Let’s begin with the bad.

I still hate the slapstick.

I’m sorry, but Donna swinging for her life on the thread of a gigantic web into the waiting arms of the Doctor”¦ only to miss and swing right underneath him into a wall with an accompanying silly sound effect”¦ it just doesn’t work for me. It was too obvious a joke and it just undermined the whole scene, but, admittedly, it was rescued a few minutes later thanks to the dialogue and Tennant’s portrayal.

Doctor Who doesn’t need slapstick. It can be funny without it. Tennant’s Doctor IS funny ““ the looks, the quirks, the asides”¦

Donna – “Lance!”

Lance – “Maybe I should get the police”¦”

Donna – “GET in here!”

Doctor – “”¦to honour and obey”¦”

Right there. That’s the proof.

The Empress of Racnoss herself had a wonderful design ““ how easy would it have been for the designers to give her human arms. To let Sarah Parish gesticulate with hands”¦ but instead they took that away from her and gave her spider legs/pincers. That shot of the Empress in her ship, the Webstar, manipulating events from afar with her many limbs, that was a simply fantastic shot.

Unfortunately it was let down by, when the Empress confronts the Doctor physically, her complete and utter inability to do anything except stand there and scream out orders. I understand the constraints of using prosthetics, but constantly cutting back and forth from the Empress, occasionally showing full body shots, but more often the head, just reminds you that, although the Doctor is currently ruining all her plans, she’s more than capable of physically intervening rather than shaking her head and writhing around.

That said, full props to Sarah Parish and her portrayal. The villain was exactly what she was intended to be, over the top, and Miss Parish did that wonderfully. You can call it chewing the scenery if you want, but it worked. It really did work.

So those are the major irritants I can think of right now. Some are a bit nit picking I suppose, but at least I haven’t gone after the blatant plot holes in the script.

Oh wait. Now I have to because I’ve mentioned them.

Huon particles.

Brilliant. Inspired. Marvellous.

I can buy it. I can buy the idea. I can buy the idea of them being an ancient power source that was wiped out millennia ago by the Timelords. I can buy Torchwood manufacturing them for their own purposes. I can buy Donna being a physical catalyst for those particles, as her body goes through so many chemicals reactions in preparation for her wedding. I can buy the idea of the Huon particles being attracted to the TARDIS because it also has such energy within. I can buy the fact the TARDIS was nearby our solar system so, rather than travelling through time, the Doctor just travelled across space.

And then we have the moment the Doctor reverses the effect and calls the TARDIS to Donna.

Again, I can buy it.

Then the Doctor goes back in time, oh, 5 billion years or so, to the formation of our solar system.

Our very own planet, in fact.

And then the Empress pulls them back by activating the particles inside Lance in reverse”¦

Wait a second.

We’re talking about pulling them back across time now. Not just space. If she manages to pull them into the future, why doesn’t she end up pulling all the Huon particles in the past into the future?

Okay. Nit picking. And Doctor Who is really hardly one of the best programs to follow for actual science, I suppose. But it feels very much like it’s breaking its own internal logic there, even if nothing in particular has been stated about how Huon particles work.

Something just really felt off there, but for the sake of the episode, I can let it go.

In regards to the episode”¦ what a ride. That’s the best way I can put it.

Oh yes, there’s all the recycled material from last year ““ spaceship hovering over London, killer Santa’s etc Russell T Davies really shouldn’t do that again next year unless he comes up with another way to tweak the setting, but for the story told, it works. And can be forgiven.

In some ways the episode peaks only a mere 10/15 minutes into itself, when the Doctor participates in a car chase”¦ in the TARDIS. And be honest? Who couldn’t smile at the TARDIS racing into “˜battle’, only after it’s done, the Doctor has to give her time to rest because, although she’s a spaceship, she doesn’t do that much flying”¦

On paper it must have sounded mad. When I first heard about it, it sounded mad. But it works. It really works. Some can criticise the CGI, the blue screen, but when I saw that TARDIS weaving between cars, smashing into some, the Doctor screaming out the doors at Donna to trust him despite what happened to the last person he asked to trust him”¦ I believed it.

And the kids watching from the other cars, silently crying out “Jump! Jump!” I believed it. What else would kids do?!

It’s Doctor Who being funny again and at the same time, pure fun.

Donna. The Runaway Bride of the episode title.

Catherine Tate, I have to say, I’m not the biggest fan of your particular brand of comedy. I just think there’s something crude about it”¦ but I very much enjoyed your appearance in this episode. Feisty, argumentative, bolshy ““ all perfect words to describe the character you brought to life. And how absolutely heart-breaking when you realise the guy you’re set to be married to, for better or worse, really is the worst. Donna worked best at her moments when she was arguing with the Doctor, slapping him, or generally just shouting.

What doesn’t work is when you force lines on the character that link back to the actors’ past work. The slapstick fall and the following “Thanks”¦ for nothing.” It just doesn’t match the rest of the episode. Sure the line made sense in regards to her character, but it doesn’t work as a part of the episode as a whole. It felt out of place, regardless of how true the line was.

And then of course, we have the final goodbye between Doctor and “˜companion’. The Doctor quite literally gives her the offer of a lifetime, and she says no. Which is exactly what I wanted to see, and I’m so glad Russell T Davies included this scene, where the Doctor goes out on a limb for this woman he has grown to care for quite suddenly, and she rejects him out right.

Doctor – “Well”¦ you could always”¦”

Donna- “What?”

Doctor – “Come with me.”

Donna – “No.”

Doctor – “Ok. It’s fine.”

Donna – “I can’t. No, but really, everything we did today”¦ you live your life like that?”

Doctor – “Not”¦ all the time.”

Donna -“I think you do. And I couldn’t”¦

I’m glad she won’t be a companion. She was too much of a one-episode character in my opinion. Her growth as a character happened within the entire episode. We saw where she was, and we could tell where she was going all in that one hour. We didn’t need to see any more of her.

Mind you, I wouldn’t mind seeing her again”¦ just to see how knowing the Doctor influenced her life.

“If I’m lucky.”

To be honest, the Doctor needed Donna. Not forever. Just for a time. To promote the healing. He didn’t need another Rose straightaway. The character needs to grieve. He needs time to adjust to her loss and to change, but stay the same. Donna was the perfect catalyst for that change. She said what needed to be said, and she wasn’t afraid to argue with the Doctor, even though she was afraid of him.

Donna – “And it’s terrible. That place was flooding, and burning, and they were dying, and you stood there like”¦ I don’t know. A stranger. And then you made it snow! I mean, you scare me to death!”

Doctor – “”¦Right.”

She sums it up best, ultimately, as how the Doctor needs someone. He disagrees. But he’s completely wrong, and though I’m not entirely sure I agree with Donna’s reasoning as to why, I can certainly see an element of truth in it, as to why he needs someone with him”¦

“”¦ because sometimes”¦ I think you need someone to stop you.”

Whatever problems I may have with Russell T Davies and the slapstick additions to Doctor Who, he can damn well hit the dialogue right out of the park. It works, it makes sense, and it’s passionate and heart felt.

This entire scene was the crux of the whole episode ““ the loss of Rose and its ultimate affect on the Doctor. He’s changed. He’s devastated. Heart-broken even. But it doesn’t stop him being the man he needs to be.

David Tennant nails the Doctor. He fits the part so absolutely, so completely, that I can’t imagine it now without him. I know he can still get worked up, I know he can get too touchy feely, to much hugs with the humans around him”¦ but he works.

He fits.

Anyone with any knowledge of the history of the show, the relevance of the name Gallifrey, simply couldn’t have helped at crack a the mention, but the a full on gurning grin with Tennant’s delivery.

I was on the edge of my seat. Seriously.

Tennant brings such a life, such a feeling to this character that Christopher Eccelston didn’t.

I’m not knocking Eccelston. Far from it. I very much enjoyed his take on the Doctor. But that Doctor was the survivor of a devastating war. His depression, his moroseness, and his anger”¦ it made perfect sense. When the Doctor regenerated into his current form, he shed that guilt he felt.

Or at least some of it.

That gives Tennant the room he needs to breathe, to play his version of the Doctor, who has moments just as dark, if not worse than the Eccelston’s. I’m not entirely sure the Ninth Doctor would have quite so easily killed all those young Racnoss”¦ that said, I’m not entirely sure how the Ninth Doctor would have reacted to losing Rose. She was his tether to remind him there was still good somewhere out there. To draw him out of his depression and guilt, if the Ninth had lost Rose”¦

Ah. The possibilities.

There’s one more thing I feel that needs particular attention”¦

After 2 series of the revived Doctor Who, in the big climatic showdown scene with the Empress of the Racnoss, the Doctor says the name of his home planet.

“Gallifrey.”

For some reason, the Doctor never said the name of his homeworld in the new series to date. Whether the writers wanted to avoid confusion, or silly words, I honestly don’t know.

But somewhere deep inside of me, there’s a glimmer, a suspicion, dare I say a hope, that Gallifrey is our “˜Bad Wolf’, our “˜Torchwood’, of Season 3. I’ve read elsewhere that that’s incorrect”¦ it’s another short phrase, two words really, in this episode which has apparently cropped up before in Doctor Who, that is the watchword for Season 3.

But I can hope eh?

Roll on Season 3. The Doctor in a blue suit? Martha Jones?

I’m watching.

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