Thursday, 29 November 2012

Review: Doctor Who 3.X: The Runaway Bride

The Doctor and Donna meet unexpectedly.
Doctor Who - Season 29, Christmas Special - The Runaway Bride
Written 21/10/12

Ah. Yes. Erm, this is embarrassing. I had gone into The Runaway Bride expecting to have something deeply vitriolic to say. Hate to spread. Something really venemous to make good similies out of, like, "worse than an ameoba's painting skills" or "more tired than an out-of-shape flamingo" or something. But, er, no. I kinda like this one. Is it bad that I don't quite know why? The Runaway Bride presented something very strange in that it is in a way a companion introduction story that's about a season too early and feels a season too late. It isn't really special and there's nothing really that brings it above the rest of Season 29 in quality but there is something strangely rewarding about it in the long run that, for me at least, gives it a barrell of well-earned charm.
     Just after The Doctor has lost Rose Tyler to a parallel Universe, mouthy bride-to-be Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) appears in the console room, having literally disappeared from her wedding without warning. Disgruntled, he attempts to return her home, discovering that the bride worked as a temp for a firm known as HC Clements and has managed to miss all of the major earth invasions over the past few years. She's being chased by last year's robot santas, who are being attracted by the huon particles that are somehow inside her. They go to the reception, where they've started with out her, but it turns out that the robots can track her there and The Doctor destroys them. Heading to HC Clements to find out what's going on, they find that Donna has been spiked with Huon particles by her reluctant boyfriend Lance in order to serve the will of the Empress of the Racnoss, queen of a species the Time Lords destroyed in the Dark Times. Heartily pissed off, The Doctor uses the Robot Santas' bombs to blow up undersea base, drowning the Racnoss and only just getting out alive. The Doctor drops Donna off home and pops off on his merry way.
     I initially detested the way that Catherine Tate played the role, in a way which really reflects half of my attitude towards Donna in general - she's often loud and comedically sociopathic without rhyme or reason, and doesn't seem so much human as she does a walking sitcom cliché. As the episode progresses, though, we see something truley remarkable - RTD's first successful piece of Character Development, which takes loud oblivious Donna and turns her into a conscientious woman ready for a better life. This development would continue when she takes up the companion mantle in Season 30, and despite its ridiculous payoff in Journey's End (which will inevitably have to be reviewed someday) it stands as one of RTD's best-written characters. And that, fundamentally, is why, despite all of the things I've mentioned, I like Donna.
You may not like her characterisation, but you gotta say
this action scene kicks ass.
     But what was it about the episode that made it just right enough for me to actually like it? It wasn't the very, very ambitious villain design, which features Sarah Parish in the largest prosthetic the BBC ever made, nor was it the muddled but ingenious plot by the Racnoss to have the Human Race for Christmas Dinner. No, it was... it was Tennant. This is the first time since initial broadcast wherin, outside a Moffat episode, Ten hasn't done something I found annoying. He was quite brilliant here, actually. I think the general comedic feel of the episode certainly added great chunks to my appreciation, and the darkness that RTD so loves was given out in just a small enough quantity to actually mean something for a change. (Although I did notice that The Doctor is happy to let the British Army shoot down the Racnoss Web, killing the Queen... let's not dwell on it too much.)
     So... yeah. The Runaway Bride isn't anything special, I suppose. But what it does have is just this great feeling, almost like a buddy movie, of two great friends coming together for the first time. Add to that a great deal of decent humour, a hammy villain (MY KEY! MY KEY!) and a really quite good piece of Character Development, and you've got the recipe for a Christmas treat that does that and so much more. It introduced Donna, showed us a more subtle side of Ten and gave me a good laugh on Christmas morn and again when I rewatched it. Good on you.


NEXT THURSDAY: NuWho's first So Bad It's Good episode...

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