Thursday, July 02, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 2x14: "The Runaway Bride"

Written by Russell T Davies
Directed by Euros Lyn

Donna: “What the hell is this place?”
The Doctor: “What?”

This extract is otherwise known as the slightly mood killing scene from the end of “Doomsday”. Five and a half months since that excellent episode and the majority of spin-off series Torchwood reviewed, it’s time to take a brief look at the best show on television as it’s back for a second Christmas outing and to be honest, it’s a tricky episode to watch.

Not because it’s the first episode post Rose Tyler, who’s gone and unlikely to ever resurface but mainly because I’m supposed to take Donna seriously as a stand in companion when in reality you could view her more as a mission as opposed to a temporary assistant.

Although I’m a huge fan of Catherine Tate and her show, I have to admit that she wouldn’t have been my choice in the role of Donna Noble, even on a one-off circumstance and no amount of “let’s see her abilities as an actress” from Russell T. Davies and Phil Collinson was going to convince me otherwise. Anyway you slice it, this was stunt casting but if I could find Peter Kay tolerable, then surely Miss Tate stood a better chance, right?

The basics of Donna’s story have the woman landing inside the TARDIS as she was about to get married to her fiancé Lance Bennett on Christmas Eve and to say that she’s miffed over being transported on a mysterious ship with a strange man would be understating it. It also doesn’t need pointing out that The Doctor is confused and not entirely pleased himself with Donna on board either.

Unfortunately even for a guest character, you can tell it’s an almighty bad sign when in the first five minutes of their stint they’re annoying you to the brink of a violent reaction and even a far more patient person than me would have a hard time dealing with Donna.

Belligerent, loud mouthed and in general a pain in the arse, instead of worrying how she managed to go from one place to another, Donna decides that the best way of using her energy is to be as abusive as possible and when she isn’t dithering on about her wedding or dislike of Christmas, she works overtime in insulting The Doctor and blaming him for her dilemma. At the rate you’re wishing The Doctor would push her out of the TARDIS because Donna is more than a handful.

Of course like Donna and The Doctor, I also want to know why the hell this woman got into the TARDIS because it’s supposed to be impossible to get into The Doctor’s own ship without an invite so obviously something sinister is at foot.

Donna runs on the assumption that The Doctor kidnapped her and finding an item of Rose’s only arouses her suspicions even further. In fact there is a few times where Donna’s insensitivity and accusations really get on my nerves and while I understand that she’s in an unknown situation, I still can’t sympathise with the woman but it is refreshing to find a human not impressed with The Doctor, even if Donna exhibits this trait in a more negative manner.

When landing in London and shouting for taxis to get to her wedding, Donna’s brash manner really shoots herself in the foot. In a fantastic bit of continuity from “The Christmas Invasion” and our first clue that something is up with Donna, the Pilot Fish are back and while The Doctor can distract some of them with wads of cash flying in the air, Donna still gets nabbed by them when she finally gets her taxi.

The first really amazing thing about this episode happens when The Doctor has to rescue Donna from the most useless captor in the world. Yeah, The Doctor uses the TARDIS to literally chase after the taxi and while it may be hugely silly, that factor doesn’t diminish sheer entertainment or success as The Doctor gets Donna.

A turn around for Donna happens at this point as she goes from annoying to slightly bearable. The Doctor examines her and concludes that she’s nothing special but she has to be if the Pilot Fish are after and through flashback we find out that Donna is a secretary at HC Clements and her fiancé was in Human Resources. Flashbacks prove that Donna is annoyingly determined as she relentlessly hounded and wore Lance down until he agreed to marry.

As grooms go, Lance is a bit of a hottie and The Line Of Beauty’s Don Gilet makes an interesting choice for the role as we see him barely react when Donna in front of The Doctor lays into him for continuing with the reception in her absence. Donna’s way of diffusing attention by crying is kind of lame but at least The Doctor finds out that her and Lance’s workplace has Torchwood connections. It’s nice to see that particular thread being continued with.

Of course the reception really heats up when the Pilot Fish pay a visit with another failed attempt to snatch Donna. Still their determination has to be admired and continuing from last year’s Christmas special, our killer trees are back and causing things to explode and guests to be thrown into the air. Of course, The Doctor is even better when a sound system proves to slow these set of pests. Well exploding Pilot Fish sound better than Robbie Williams any day of the week.

The neat thing about the Pilot Fish that we learn is they have two kinds of orders – snare/kill things but they are also being controlled by something else. Last year it was the Sycorax, this year it’s something else and it’s a lot uglier than creatures that can use a blood type to hold the world to ransom.

Unlike everyone else, The Doctor has found something off with Lance and his company so when he, Lance and Donna all pay a visit to HC Clements a few bombs get dropped along the way. Well first off, those Torchwood connections go deeper and reveal a secret place in the lower basement and secondly that Donna is special in a way after all when it’s revealed that she has Huon particles inside her and although banned by the Time Lords a long time, she’s still been spiked with them and they are fatal enough. This explains the TARDIS and Pilot Fish debacle but thankfully there is more to it as it sounds a bit simplistic.

How exactly was Donna spiked with the stuff? Well she isn’t the brightest girl in the world but she’s not stupid enough to do it to herself so it turns out that her not so loving fiancé Lance is responsible and he’s not the only one with plans for the gobby bride either.

Our villain this Christmas is a disgusting spider like creature called the Empress Of Racnoss and with better eyesight than the slurring she calls speech, a hardly recognisable Sarah Parish chews up the scenery so much in her role, I’m surprised she didn’t gobble everyone else in the process.

The Empress came from a group of vicious creatures who basically eat everything and everyone within its path but somehow her species managed to get erased with only her as a survivor. This is hardly the first we’ve encountered something that was the last of its kind and it’s doubtful that it will be the last time either.

The Empress scheme for Donna seems simple enough as with Lance dosing his bride with energy over the past six months all The Empress has to do is have Donna devoured so her people can reclaim the Earth and for Lance, that’s a good thing because his hatred for Donna seems to know no bounds but his own density decides his own fate as he himself is stupid enough to believe that teaming with The Empress would benefit him in the end.

Did it come as a major surprise that when The Doctor and Donna used the TARDIS to escape The Empress for a bit that Lance would be drugged with all that energy and used as part of The Empress’ plan? Not really and once again, any sympathy I’m supposed to have for Lance, I just can’t muster.

It’s funny that in the space of thirty five minutes I’ve gone from wanting Donna dead to actually feeling a bit sorry for her but that’s how things go and basically how the character was suddenly sympathetic when it transpired that her groom is ten times more irritating than she was. Getting to see Earth before its creation is a stunning experience I wish we had seen with Rose but as Donna generates an appreciation for The Doctor, we’re given something very essential about the Racnoss.

So the Racnoss are the centre of the Earth and Donna managed to get snatched by The Empress while The Doctor did battle with a Pilot Fish. Lance got a comeuppance when The Empress used him as a first sacrifice and there’s a brilliant moment where the evil creature sees through a pretty blatant disguise but then again we all knew The Doctor was donning the black robe and Robot head for size.

The Empress made a bad decision to invade this Earth because while for the most The Doctor was too busy to grieve for losing Rose, he was able to vent his anger in a far more constructive way when he used the killer trees to foil The Empress’ plan and just like the Sycorax, she got no second chances when her own ship was blown to smithereens. Seeing The Doctor foil her plan brought out an even darker side than we’ve seen already and David Tennant handled that with his usual flair.

As temporary assistants go, Catherine Tate managed to prove her worth and while she made Donna likeable in the second half of the episode, I am so seriously glad that we’re not getting her on a regular basis, no disrespect meant of course.

With the threat over and The Doctor giving an unemployed, single Donna some Christmas cheer, her invitation of Christmas dinner to the guy she kept referring to as a Martian is declined. After all, he doesn’t do families even if they cook for twenty people on December 25th.

Of course The Doctor also gives Donna the chance of becoming a full time companion to which she refuses and uses the negative aspects of her experiences as leverage for her decision. While I’m glad not to have her as a companion, I did think she was right when telling The Doctor to find someone because he needs someone to keep him in line. His attack on The Empress justifies Donna’s statement to an extent.

The dealing with Rose’s exit was well handled in my opinion. I liked that it wasn’t rammed home too much but little things like Donna asking if Rose trusted him and Rose’s name at the end reinforced the fact that while The Doctor won’t be flying solo next year, Rose Tyler won’t be a distant memory either.

Also in “The Runaway Bride”

No “Previously On” but they did put Catherine Tate’s name in the opening credits for this one episode.

The Doctor: “It’s called the TARDIS.”
Donna: “That’s not even a proper word. You just made it up.”

Donna was supposed to get married at St Mary’s at 3:15pm. Her and Lance had only been seeing each other for six months. Jokes about Elaine Figgis to be distributed at once!

Donna: “Is that optional?”
The Doctor: “It is for me.”

Donna: “I’m in my wedding dress.”
The Doctor: “Yes you look lovely, now come on.”

All the money in this episode had Phil Collinson’s face on it and I think there was a brief glimpse to Rose’s old workplace Henriks.

Donna (to The Doctor, re Rose): “This friend of yours before she left, did she punch you in the nose?”

Speaking of Rose, we got Donna finding her top from “New Earth” and a brief clip from that episode too.

Donna: “You can do the explaining, Martian boy.”
The Doctor: “Yeah, I’m not from Mars.”

Sylvia (re The Doctor): “Oh for God’s sake the man’s an idiot. What harm is a Christmas tree gonna do?”

During “The Christmas Invasion” Donna was hung over and during “Army Of Ghosts”/“Doomsday” she was in Spain. In other words, Lance may have a point about her being thick.

Empress Of Racnoss: “Who are you of such command?”
The Doctor: “I’m The Doctor.”

The Doctor: “It’s all a part of the job, human resources.”
Lance: “This time, its personnel.”

I liked the design of The Empress; she almost looked a bit devil like as well and quite red even for a spider like creature. All of the eyes added to the creepy factor.

The Doctor (to Donna, re Earth): “This whole process is beautiful but only if it’s being observed.”

Donna: “I hate you.”
Lance: “I think we’ve gone past that stage sweetheart.”

Did anyone think part of the secret base and flood barrier underneath looked a bit like New Earth?

The Doctor: “What happens next is your own doing.”
Empress Of Racnoss: “I’ll show you what happens next.”

I have to give a double commend for the Season Three preview at the end and the Doctor Who Concert that aired six hours prior to this special. Plus who is this Mr Saxon bloke?

The Doctor (re Lance): “I couldn’t save him.”
Donna: “He deserved it.”

Chronology: December 24th and 25th 2007.

Donna: “Your friend, what was her name?”
The Doctor: “Her name was Rose.”

Standout music: I guess it has to be Slade’s “Merry Christmas” and Neil Hannon’s “Love Don’t Roam”. Didn’t Russell use that in “The Christmas Invasion” as well?

Well to be honest, “The Runaway Bride” isn’t the best title they could’ve come up with and while last year’s “The Christmas Invasion” was much better, this episode does show that post-Rose Tyler, the series is in very good hands, so here’s myself looking forward to 2007 even more.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

No comments: