New Who in conversation: The Runaway Bride (S02 Christmas Special)

Original fan art by Kathleen Jennings. Thanks Kathleen! Check out Kathleen's awesome artwork at her blog, particularly her regular Dalek Game pieces! And you might like to know that Kathleen is eligible for Best Fan Artist, if you're nominating for the Hugos… :)

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 6 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all. We’re going to work our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, as our blogging points. Just for fun! 

“The Runaway Bride” – Season two Christmas Special

The Doctor – David Tennant

Donna Noble – Catherine Tate

TANSY:
This Christmas Special was probably one of the most divisive Doctor Who stories in its time, because it all came down to whether you loved or hated Donna (Catherine Tate). I liked Donna at the time, but came to love her more and more in retrospect, and so I find that I like this story more every time I watch it. Having said that, I’m not in it for the plot!

TEHANI:
I love Donna! She was a bit bumpy in this, her first appearance, but she is so awesome!!

DAVID:
I liked Donna as a character, but in terms of the writing there were a lot of lazy stereotypes about women and about brides in this, and a bit too much fun at her expense, rather than fun with her. She was a great contrast to Rose, though.

TANSY:
I agree about the lazy stereotypes – and by the end of the RTD era I was so over WEDDINGS, I can tell you! But ultimately I think Catherine Tate rescued the character from sliding too far into generic chick lit cliche.

After the sweetness of Ten/Rose in Season 2, it feels like such a relief to have a companion yelling at the Doctor and smacking him around! The whole panic-chase sequence in the first act of the story with the two of them bouncing off each other, arguing and hailing taxis was great fun…

TEHANI:
The car/TARDIS chase was loads of fun, but the melancholy of bringing Rose into it was a nice touch. While Rose wasn’t and won’t ever be my favourite companion, it’s good to see she’s not just immediately dropped from memory. And the little flashback scene at the reception to me highlighted the fact that the Doctor actually does have some sort of real feelings for Rose. Which is interesting.
TANSY:
Part of me winces at the many references to Rose in this episode, but on the other hand I remember watching so many TV shows from the last century when there was a frustrating lack of acknowledgement of characters who had just left, so I haven’t made up my mind about this one. It’s important to Donna’s story that she knows who Rose is and what he means to the Doctor but oh, did he have to be quite so mournful? Am I a bitch for wishing he would put his big girl panties on and get over it?

I can’t understand anyone who reads their relationship as being platonic after seeing “The Runaway Bride”!

DAVID:
Oh, I didn’t get any more from it than someone mourning for a lost, platonic friend. :-P

TEHANI:
*cough* Liar *cough* :)

DAVID:
But yes, I think it would be very cold if the Doctor had just moved on and never mentioned Rose again after all she meant to him, especially considering the episode starts literally as he is saying goodbye to her!

Whether we run into Donna again or not (and I have tried avoid spoilers as best I can), I am glad that she didn’t come along with the Doctor at the end of the episode, talk about on the the rebound!

TANSY:
Yes, Donna isn’t the first companion to say no to the Doctor (that was Mickey take one!) but it gives her strength that she makes that decision. After an episode that sets her up as not being all that smart, she’s certainly more aware than Rose was about what travelling with the Doctor might mean.

On the rooftop especially, Donna starts to feel more human (instead of frantic and shouty, though I love her shouty) and we get some genuine emotion going on, quiet moments to balance out the crazy. Yes, I’m definitely in the pro-Donna camp.

TEHANI:
The rooftop really showed that Donna has more depth than shouting and smacking about – a good sign!

The music in this was so ANNOYING the second time around. I didn’t notice it first time, but on the rewatch it irritated me so much! Overloud, overly trumpetish or something, and really not at all suiting the story.

The monster was … hmmm. Over the top? And interesting in that we don’t MEET her until almost halfway through! Although to me, Lance is also a monster – horrible man, saying horrible things and breaking poor Donna’s heart.

DAVID:
The Empress was a good concept, but the performance was way too over the top for me, and the jokes? Egads. That “I do” bit makes all my lame jokes look like masterpieces of comedic improv. The idea of hiding something at the centre of a planet being formed was genius though.

TANSY:
Sarah Parrish is a really good and well-regarded British actress – but sadly she now joins the ranks of the Great British Actors who over egged the pudding when faced with a Doctor Who role … possibly there should be some kind of Graham Crowden Award for this phenomenon?

DAVID:
It  may sound overly harsh but when Donna says Lance didn’t deserve his fate, I found it hard to agree. What a  terribly cruel thing to do to someone, and what terribly cruel things to say to someone!

TANSY:
Ha well, I think it’s a bit much to say he deserved to die, but I certainly take some satisfaction in the moment, fictionally speaking – he is horrid to her, and I think it’s a measure of how much we’re on her side that we already know (as does the Doctor) that there’s more to Donna than the ordinary-person-brainless-chatter that Lance complains about.

DAVID:
There were some really nice moments with the TARDIS in this episode. Seeing the TARDIS materialise around them  was a wonderful visual effect, and the car chase was great fun! And, of course, the usual “it’s bigger on the inside” stuff. It did remind me how much I miss the old white interior, though. I do like the steampunk sensibility but I did suffer a brief wave of nostalgia for some reason.

TANSY:

I love the TARDIS chase down the highway, it’s a fantastic scene – I can’t believe people complained about it! It’s utterly joyous and I enjoy the lines when he’s trying to get her to jump out of the cab and she says she’s in her wedding dress. [DOCTOR: Yes, you look lovely, now jump!] Also, David, you might have spotted this one – I really like the moment when she realises she is being driven by a robot Santa, which feels like a callback to the ’70s Auton stories.

TEHANI:
You’re talking again about stuff I don’t know! What’s an Auton??

TANSY:

You saw them back in Rose – walking plastic shop dummies. They appeared twice in the early Seventies and then disappeared for 35 years!

Structurally speaking, I think this works very well as a Christmas special – ie an episode to be watched with the not-necessarily-all-Doctor-Who-fans family (assuming some people have families like that) while everyone’s overstuffed with food and/or a bit drunk, though it has to be said that there isn’t much Christmas content in it. I don’t mind that, though – the Christmas iconography that we do see in the episode is quite heavy handed and/or repeated from the year before. Really, more robot Santas? Were they that popular?  Also I am very much over the fake snow joke already (and not to spoil or anything, David, but this is so not the last of it). The ‘Christmas star’ alien ship is definitely ridiculous, and unnecessary.  

TEHANI:
I’m not yet jaded on the shoehorning of Christmas into these specials – I think it gives a nice continuity of a little something extra to the show, and as you say Tansy, lets people who aren’t necessarily fans enjoy the episode without feeling too lost, because it’s not necessarily part of the continuity. Although of course there is a lot in it for the fans as well!

DAVID:
I was more confused than anything to see the robot Santas, thought I was having flashbacks or something, but they at least addressed that with the halfway plausible idea that they had been left lying around. I actually had no issues with the Christmas Star ship looking the way it did, as it was quite weblike in appearance and fit the spider theme.

TANSY:
I did appreciate the fact that Donna’s chase to get back to her wedding was made all the harder by it being Christmas – and there’s a lesson to anyone planning a Christmas wedding, if you get accidentally teleported during the ceremony, getting a cab back to the church will be very tricky!

Oh, I did love her rant about the lack of pockets in a bridal gown, too, but that has nothing to do with Christmas.

DAVID:
Do people really have Christmas weddings? I found that harder to believe than the ship at the centre of the Earth! I am even more disorganised than usual around Christmas time and, considering I locked myself out of my house the morning of my wedding, I didn’t need any more chaos than I actually had.

I do like the concept of a Christmas special, and even though this was only the second occurrence you get the feel that the show is trying to create a tradition. Yes, they can be a little hit and miss but I went into it happy to give a bit of a chance, knowing I was likely to get something a little different than usual.

TANSY:
I love the tradition, don’t get me wrong! I wonder sometimes about the Christmassy elements, but the sentimentality of it is quite appealing, especially on the day itself. Although … worth noting for context that it’s only the last couple of years that we’ve actually been able to watch the Christmas Special at Christmas (well, Boxing Day) on TV in Australia – in these early days we were getting it just before the new series, often in the middle of the year. If you didn’t have the hang of Other Means which I certainly didn’t at this point, then the sense of occasion was a bit lost on us.

The combination of Doctor Who and Christmas is a lovely thing, and it’s funny to think that it wasn’t always this way. But it doesn’t ALWAYS have to snow (or fake sonic screwdriver snow) and I wasn’t keen on the robot Santa repetition. Having said all that, Raeli was rewatching “The Christmas Invasion” the other day, and the killer Christmas tree did make me grin!  It’s so cheesy it goes out the other side and becomes awesome.

DAVID:
I think that’s a very deliberate thing, and big part of the charm of the Christmas episodes (and to a degree, Doctor Who in general) is their ability to not take themselves too seriously. There always has to be a balance, of course, but they got it pretty right. However, I won’t be disappointed if there are no Santas or fake snow in the next one!

We have already talked about:

“Rose”, S01E01

“Dalek”, S01E06

“Father’s Day”, S01E08

“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10

“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13

Season One Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special

“New Earth”, S02E01

“School Reunion”, S02E03

“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04

“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06

Season Two Report Card – DavidTansyTehani


23 Comments

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23 responses to “New Who in conversation: The Runaway Bride (S02 Christmas Special)

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