Fun with good gut kick.
Russell T. Davies. I think what this man has done to Doctor Who, is absolutely nothing short of fantastic. He brought back to life a series which had been thought gone, and has helped to turn it into the powerhouse it is today with a strong guiding hand.
For that I am extremely thankful because it’s brought an element of fun to Saturday nights in front of the tv that hasn’t been there for a good while. All that said, I will freely admit I’m not entirely sure he’s the best person to write episodes of Doctor Who. I think, although he has brilliant ideas and themes, the execution gets a little bit mixed up sometimes.
So let’s get into it.
I think I was one of the few reviewers who actually enjoyed her turn in “˜The Runaway Bride.’ My argument was simple; she played the role exactly as it was supposed to be played. And I liked the complete and utter contrast to Rose. It was refreshing. I also said I hoped that we would one day see her again, to see how the Doctor affected her life, what changes she made because I was all too aware that the way that character was written in that single episode could never have lasted a whole series. That day of her life was quite possibly one of the worst she had ever experienced! No wonder she would be angry!
But now she’s back. And the character has changed. She’s softer. More thoughtful. Even investigative! I could see more than a few echoes of Sarah Jane Adventures’ “˜Invasion of the Bane’ in this story which also featured an evil company, a sinister businesswoman in charge who is not all she seems”¦ but the way that Donna was introduced as tracking this invasion so that she could find the Doctor was a nice twist. Basically in the time since she last saw the Doctor, which I think we can assume has been about a year, Donna has come to regret her choice not to go with him. She looks at her life now, she wants to do something with it as she determined to do so at the end of the Christmas special, but she’s not entirely sure how. And let’s face it; the Doctor can give her the trip of a lifetime!
So she wants in. And she figures the best way she can track him down is through somekind of emergency. Sure enough, for the first 20 minutes or so, we’re intercut between the actions of Donna and the Doctor as both investigate this strange company. Heck they even stand on opposite ends of the same street at one point! But they just keep missing each other. It’s funny. And it’s good humour that isn’t forced and doesn’t resemble the “˜Donna swings on the thread from a massive spiders’ web and into a wall with a loud clanging sound rather than into the Doctor’s waiting arms’ kind. Yeah, I’m still on that!
With the two heroes’ continuing their investigations, both follow similar methods of getting to the heart of the problem. Eventually, their separate roads lead to the office of the villainous Miss Foster, played perhaps a little bit too much over the top by Sarah Lancashire, where, both on opposite sides of the room, whilst Miss Foster interrogates/gives away her evil plan to a journalist who has also stumbled into this plot, the two lock eyes.
And the ensuing scene is both hilarious and brilliant acted. It’s possibly one of the best moments I’ve seen in the series just because it’s perfectly in tone with the episode! The two characters mime a conversation. You don’t hear a single word, you just know EXACTLY what they’re saying and its works brilliantly and, even though you know it’s coming, the joke at the end works because you’ve been sucked in.
Well done all involved.
Skipping ahead, the Doctor and Donna eventually team up and save the day. Oh c’mon. We all knew it was going to happen. The introduction of a companion episode serves two purposes; bring the two together, and tell us about the companion. We see Donna’s life, which is to me the more interesting part of the episode. She’s still living at home, working temporary jobs, but she’s doing it because she’s “˜”¦waiting for the right man”¦’ as she tells her granddad.
Her granddad by the way is portrayed in a return performance by Bernard Cribbins from the “˜Voyage of the Damned’ Christmas special. And he gives a simply touching performance here bringing depth to a character with only a short role. He’s the escape of Donna from her mother who simply nags at her about what she’s doing with her life, or rather what she’s not doing”¦ It seems appropriate at this moment to also mention that Donna’s father is not seen at all in this episode. This is due to the unfortunate death of Howard Attfield after the filming of “˜The Runaway Bride.’
When Donna finally finds her man, the relief, the excitement, the joy is a pleasure to watch because we’ve seen Donna struggle to find him. She wants this. And as an audience we want her to have her trip in the TARDIS; we’re invested in her this time around because we know she’s going to be there for a whole season. It’s not so much a case of “Oh we might as well like her because she’s here all the time now!” we actually believe in her and want her to get dream. And Catherine Tate sells this. I believe every word she says. Her life may seem no different than it did before, but it is. She’s so much more aware of everything around her and wants to experience it all. I’m very much looking forward to the continued growth of her character!
Also, full props to David Tennant for his role as the Doctor. It fits comfortably on him now, and there’s just a sheer, unadulterated sense of fun when watching him on screen in full on Doctor-mode. This man knows the character he’s playing, he knows how he wants to be seen, and he’ll play it to the full hilt. The episode tells us how this man, this Doctor, isn’t the same man as he was when Series 1 began. He doesn’t want to be alone anymore. He wants to travel with someone. Just look at the scene halfway through the episode, where the Doctor starts aloud at some discovery in the TARDIS, and suddenly realises he’s talking to thin air. He’s alone. Look at Tennant’s face. It’s heart breaking.
Then compare it to the near end of the episode where, having saved the day and she’s assumed she’s coming with him now, Donna unpacks all of her luggage from the back of her car (she’d been prepared. Just in case. Brilliant!), dumps it all at his feet, and stands in the doorway to the TARDIS and he just watches her. There’s confusion there. It’s not that he doesn’t want her, he does, he just wants to be clear. He wants a mate. Nothing more. Nothing else. Not after he broke Martha’s heart.
Donna’s ok with that. She isn’t mating with him! There’s that flash of the old Donna again, but it’s gone in a few moments as she gets what he means. She’s not interested in him like that. They’re just going to be friends.
I should make a mention to the special effects in the episode. The Mill has once again done some astounding work here for tv. Their design for the Adipose (described as sinister on the official website episode guide. Which is silly. The only Adipose seen here are nothing like that!) is extremely effective, and unashamedly cute. The toys will be all the rage soon, I imagine!
All in all, it’s good, fun adventure. With good guest characters/actors. It’s nothing like hard sci fi, and nothing like a sitcom or a parody as some might have feared. Catherine Tate has proven with both this episode and “˜The Runaway Bride’ that there’s more than one side to a character. Let’s just see where else she can go, shall we? How about”¦ Oh I don’t know”¦ Ancient Pompeii?
And just like that, they’re off!
Well. Almost. There’s still one more thing Donna has to do before the episode ends”¦ she’s got to leave her car keys for her mom. And she does so by popping them in a bin, calling her mom to tell her where to find them, and just for double insurance, she runs up to a passer-by on the road, and tells them that if they see a woman come by called Sylvia, just tell her to look in the bin! Donna runs off”¦ but the camera still lingers on the figure”¦ who turns to face the camera”¦ and my jaw thumped to the floor. Never in a million years. Not even the special advanced previews for the press had this moment”¦
Like I said, Russell T. Davies gets the ideas right if nothing else!
Bring it on!