The Runaway Bride

The Runaway Bride  – 25th December
By Russell T. Davies

Review and Commentary by Andrew Panero

There has been such a surfeit of Who stuff on television, radio and audio drama recently, which taken alongside all the usual stuff to do with Christmas, it’s been a hard job to catch up with writing any reviews.  But here we are over a month down the line and I’ve finally got round to penning my thoughts on this year’s Christmas special, which since it has now happened two years in a row has become promoted to a tradition.

After panning the last Christmas special I actually found this one a refreshing change. How nice to be away from the Tylers for a change, although we do have a few cameo flashbacks of Rose during this episode as the Doctor wistfully watches a woman with blonde hair dancing at Donna’s reception. Having dumped her in another dimension along with mum, boyfriend and alternative Dad, the Doctor has barely anytime to collect his thoughts before Catherine Tate materialises on the TARDIS deck in a wedding dress. Viewers in the UK will be familiar with Catherine from her show on BBC3 and her contemporary catchphrase, ‘am I bovvered?’ which nicely sums up my feelings towards her show. Her character on ‘The Runaway Bride’ is like an older version of the one she plays on her show, perhaps slightly more sentimental and with a tendency to slap Time Lords’ in the face. She also has a good set of lungs on her which come into good use, alternately bellowing with exasperation and yelling in terror as she is drawn into a plot involving ancient exotic matter, robot Santas and a race of giant spiders.

Sound familiar? I guess it’s kind of like Doctor Who remixed with several different stories and a few extravagant gestures and nodding winks to pop culture from RTD. Believe me when I tell you that that this isn’t meant as a criticism, as on this occasion the man pulls it off with style. The episode fairly crackles with energy and cool scenes such as the TARDIS car-chase and the formation of the Earth from cosmic dust. Catherine Tate is well cast and more often the butt of everyone’s jokes than anything else throughout the first half of the show. But we do get to feel for her at the end, something that is not easy to achieve with such an unsympathetic character as the one she plays.

Unlike last year’s Christmas special, David Tennant is well established as the Doctor and so there is no need, as there is in any new regeneration story to rely on the companions to carry the day. With the exception of the Third Doctor all incarnations so far have inherited their companions from their predecessors, which means that any new Doctor stories are immediately constricted as to what story lines they can run. Up until Tom Baker it seemed as if all the Doctor needed to do was pick himself up from the floor and get down to business, there’s been some considerable variation since that time. Some, like Peter Davison’s Doctor seem to need an entire adventure to recover, which is similar to the situation with The Christmas Invasion. This year the Doctor is very much in charge and I think the story benefits as a result. We also get to see some more of that darkness in his character when he uses the flood water from the Thames to drown the Empress of the Racnoss’ children; that this is also used to illustrate why Donna would not want to take up as a companion was a nice stroke.

So all in all a much more superior Christmas special than last year and with some interesting previews for the next series at the end. We all know by now that in this series he will get a new companion, Martha Jones, played by Freema Argyeman, who I believe will not be a contemporary (as in present day) character. This should be interesting; also of note, judging by the trailers, is that the next Classic Monster to be revived will be the Sontarans and that Dalek Sec is due to appear somewhere. I heard a rumour that it was in New York….