Title: The Runaway Bride
Written by: Russell T Davies
Donna! Nerys! Saint Mary’s, Hayden Road, Chiswick, London, England, Earth, the Solar System! Tennant money! Racnoss! Huon particles! Webstar! Mr. Saxon! …Gallifrey!
Kicking off on Earth, The Runaway Bride starts with a fairly ordinary wedding ceremony – the blushing bride, happy relatives and jealous bridesmaids – but things quickly become more akin to the Who we’re used to when Donna (the bride. played by Catherine Tate, in what was the first – but not the last – appearance she’d have in DW) suddenly vanishes in a shimmer of gold and appears in the TARDIS. Just so.
Being a huge fan of Donna, watching this episode is always a great way of seeing how far Tate’s character had come by the end of Series 4. From the minute she appears within the TARDIS, we are introduced to a mouthy, small minded, madam who is intent on blaming Nerys for her misfortune. By the end of the episode it is almost as if she is a different person (in a good way). As the Doctor keeps telling her during the episode, Donna keeps missing the bigger picture.
As things happen (surely my most elegant plot description yet), we are introduced to Donna’ family, minus the lovable Wilf (due, in canon, to illness that prevents him from being at the wedding) but instead Howard Attfield appears as Donna’s dad, a character he would unfortunately not reprise for Series 4 due to his death during early production. Attfield was supposed to appear in most of the scenes in Partners In Crime in place of Bernard Cribbins – one of which, the scene on the hill with the telescope (“I’m not drifting, I’m wating”), is available to watch as an extra on the S4 DVD – but his deteriorating condition and subsequent death meant it was not possible. Worth noting is that later on in the show’s run, during Tennant’s final episode The End of Time Pt.2, Attfield’s character gets a tribute mention when the Doctor says that he travelled back in time to borrow £1 from Donna’s dad: to buy the lottery ticket for her wedding present that is implied to later make her a millionaire – a final farewell gift to his “best mate”.
But back to the episode at hand! The Runaway Bride is a delight to watch. Simples! The episode is a roller-coaster of emotion in every aspect. Viewers have references to Rose, who the Doctor has only just lost, thrown at them left right and centre but it’s not sad for a Christmas episode thanks to funny moments that lighten up the episode and provoke laughs throughout: something essential for a Christmas special. From the moment where Lance reveals his true backstabbing nature prompting Donna to say those three words to which he simply responds “that just made it easier!”, we are shown a different side to the bellowing bride who by the end of the serial has captured our hearts – who can watch a heartbroken Donna crying on the TARDIS seat and not want to give her a hug? Tate manages to portray Donna perfectly, juxtaposing the gutsy attitude with just the right amount of vulnerability. Tennant’s Doctor is on hand the entire time to keep the show moving though, and things draw to a satisfying conclusion – including a glimpse of the “oncoming storm” side to the Doctor we get to see properly only a few times in the Tenth incarnations time on the show. The chemistry of the two lead actors is immediately apparent on screen and they are a pleasure to watch together.
Sarah Parish (best known from Blackpool, Cutting It, Trust and, most recently, Mistresses) guest stars as Empress of the Racnoss: the big bad of the episode who has taken control of the menacing killer Santa Claus robots from The Christmas Invasion, in order to launch a plan that will summon her children from the centre of the Earth itself. Parish gives a great performance, and though at times the laugh of the evil oversized-spider can grate on one’s patience, she generally pulls off the role wonderfully. Perhaps worth saying is the continued ability of the very technically impressive Racnoss costume, created by Millennium FX, prosthetic to stand the test of time is certainly significant: the costume still looks good.
Favourite Moment: As Donna is wisked away by a sinister robot Santa in a Taxi she bangs on the windows as the car enters a motorway. All hope seems lost until suddenly, the TARDIS comes flying out of the sky and the doors fly open to reveal the Doctor with sparks flying from the console behind him, string between his teeth and bracing against the doors as the time machine hits the road with a bump, who unlocks the Taxi door and stretches out his hand to Donna telling her to jump. Meanwhile, the whole spectacle is being observed by two children in a car in front who are cheering Donna on, willing her to make the jump and enthusiastically showing their support. Donna asks the Doctor if his “dead friend” (Rose) trusted him, and he triumphantly replies yes – and she’s not dead. Donna leaps across the gap and the TARDIS peels away, the Doctor kicking the doors shut behind them – triumphant!
Drawing to a satisfying conclusion, The Runaway Bride will not fail to disappoint and provides plenty of comic relief during what should be, after Rose’s departure a festive-dampening episode for the Doctor. This episode is a strong contender amongst the Christmas Specials to date and should not be underestimated.
Next reviewed episode: http://youtu.be/26fAXQRG6Qw