Doctor Who - The Runaway Bride
And so, at long last, to Noise To Signal's review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special. Apologies for the delay, expect an article on the Torchwood finale and general wrap up of the whole sordid affair soon.
The Runaway Bride begins with a moody outer space shot of Earth which zooms in to London. Starting episodes this way seems to be one of Who's ways of implying that something *important* is going to happen this episode. Along with all the pre-episode hype, particularly surrounding the potentially difficult presence of Catherine Tate as temporary companion Donna, it raises expectations to practically breaking point. Added to which, last year's The Christmas Invasion was one of the best episodes of New Who yet.
So it's a little odd when what follows, for the best part of the whole episode, is a lot of ridiculous arsing about. Not a bad thing in itself, but one is constantly expecting this episode to do something more. The constant rush from set piece to set piece doesn't leave the episode time to breathe, and pertinent plot points are either indecipherably shouty, drowned out by Murray Gold's excellent bonkers new music ("Brief light hearted expositionary scene? I want TRUMPETS like on TOM AND JERRY and XYLOPHONES like on TOM AND JERRY. Then er, a GAY WALTZ. MORE TROMBONES, PEOPLE. I CAN HEAR MYSELF THINK. No, stop it, stop it, play JINGLE BELLS"), or barely register before something explodes at your face. Quality emotional beats, like the Doctor's recollections of Rose (from whom he was seperated forever at the end of the previous episode) feel fumbled and aren't given time to breathe (although did make me cry a little bit the second time).
Like The Christmas Invasion, the first two acts skirt around a fairly epic conclusion. Whereas last year this focused on the great set piece of the newly regenerated Doctor saving the day, this year doesn't have anything so important in the mythology of the show. But, acknowledging the need to wave its dick about because it's Christmas Day after all, does have a massive spider woman with a star shaped spaceship which is lasering the shit out of London and fires and a massive plughole and the Doctor being moody and saying "Gallifrey" for the first time and the Tardis jizzing snow out of its roof and shooting off into the sky like a proper spaceship. And a secret underground laboratory, and the draining of the entire Thames, and then, inevitably, the lengthy process of getting the fuck rid of Catherine Tate.
One thing that irked me, and while I hate reviews that suggest alternate plotlines this is one I feel really annoyed about, was the way the Doctor asks Donna to come with him at the end and she says no. He's like a sad needy little pony and is visibly gutted that a shouty, bickering witch won't accompany him. What would have been better is if Donna had asked if she could go and muck about in the future, as literally anyone actually would, and he'd turned her down. It would seem somehow truer to his character, and respectful to Rose's.
Another thing that irked me was the inevitable conversation about previous alien invasions of London and why the new character wasn't aware of them. In Spain, hangover, etc. If this is the 21st Century, when everything changes, will something fucking change? It's ridiculous. And while I like the change from last years family oriented episode to this years exploration of spending the holiday alone, the actual fact that it's meant to be Christmas isn't really that convincing. There's Santas and Christmas Trees and stuff, but it just doesn't stick, somehow. Maybe it's because it was all clearly filmed on the hottest days of July, in which case it's unfair of me to grumble about it really. Needs must and that.
So anyway, what's good about the episode? I've deliberately made you believe it's COMPLETE TURD using clever journalistic techniques, because that's how I felt after I first watched it. But subsequent viewings (I must have watched even episodes of Doctor Who I don't like that much about ten times. Just to make sure I've not missed anything) revealed how good some of the set-pieces actually are. They're great. Bloody great, in fact. I might go so far as to say bloody, fucking, completely and totally great. Let's explore them in detail! Every now and again I'll throw in a bad bit, just to remind you that the episode is at least a bit toss.
Well, there's the bit where the TARDIS FLIES DOWN THE MOTORWAY and GOES OVER A CAR and CHASES ALONGSIDE A CAR and the WOMAN HAS TO JUMP ACROSS and the doctor works the Tardis with lengths of string. That one's absolutely brilliant, cinema quality, great effects, lovely stuff. There's the MASSIVE EVIL PROSTHETIC SPIDER WOMAN. Which to be fair, looks a little bit stupid. It's clearly a woman with like, black lipstick on, and fake eyes, and a big body that they couldn't afford to make move apart from like her own arms. Still, it's fun, it's fairly impressive and nice to see they didn't make some arse CG thing like the Krillitanes (villains who, supposedly having the ability to absorb all the skills and abilities of their millions of victims, still look like a CG of a POO ON A STICK WITH WINGS). They go back to the DAWN OF THE EARTH and realise that EVERYTHING THAT HAS EVER EXISTED ON EARTH is built around the original rock which started to attract other rocks etc but it's NOT A ROCK it's a SPACESHIP FULL OF ALIEN BABY SPIDER SOLDIERS that were the last ones not killed by the time lords. How good's *that*. Oh and there's a bit where he escapes by materialising the Tardis around him, which is always pretty ace. There's the bit where Doctor Who causes a distraction by causing an ATM to vomit out a storm of tenners, which made my wallet quiver. There's also the fact that, bar a few "look I'm Catherine this is what I do it's called SHOUTING BLAH BLAH BBLAH" moments, the character of Donna is actually alright. She's annoying, but serves her purpose fairly effectively, and it's an interesting new dynamic with the Doctor. He's more serious and reserved, which is good, as a sign of the character and perhaps the performance maturing a bit.
There's a bit where Catherine Tate is stuck to the ceiling in a web but it kind of looks like cum, that bit's good. There's the bit where there's FIRE AND RAIN and Doctor Who uses a PlayStation to shout GALLIFREY and ruthlessly slaughter the stupid spider woman. That bit is very exciting. There's also some of Russell T Davies' excellent tendency to pepper dramatic moments with crass action movie dialogue. I shat my shoes laughing at the line "this time it's personnel", and also just the general idea of a spider alien woman being really sarcastic and funny. More over the top villains please, Doctor Who!
There's PROBABLY a bit where they actually go from looking round Donna's office to finding a secret underground Torchwood lair beneath a landmark, but I've FORGOTTEN IT. And also maybe a bit explaining as to how the mad spider has contol of the Torchwood laboratory, but I don't think I did forget that bit, I think they didn't put it in. Oh there's a totally blah bit where those fucking useless Santa robots, which it's not explained how the spider woman controls them now instead of the Sycorax, unless all robots are programmed to dress up like Santa at Christmas, which I think is unlikely, the Doctor kills them by putting his sonic screwdriver into a speaker's vagina and they all explode. And the Christmas tree bombs are the most completely useless bombs I've ever seen. They're like party poppers. Back to the drawing board, designers of alien robot exploding baubles! Do you know how much competition there was for the contract to manufacture alien robot exploding baubles for us! Earn your money! They didn't kill a single person!
To summise: a mixed bag. An episode which has enough to reward repeating viewing, but enough to make doing so a vaguely prickly experience. Which brings us to the matter of the preview for Series 3. Isn't it good how much that in itself, as well as there even being a Who special on Christmas Day (of which this is only the second), already feel like familiar traditions? It makes my love for Doctor Who shine from me and unite with others via the internet like an arousing beacon of faith and joy. Obviously this is going to be brilliant, and because I'm a bit pissed and determined to post this before I go to bed, I'll "review" it by merely recounting my thoughts upon seeing it. Accompany me into my own mind.
AAAAAAAHHH MARTHAS FIT A RHINO MAN A CAT MAN ITS ARDAL O'HANLON MARTHAS FIT DOCTOR WHOS IN A TUXEDO OH NO HE'S IN HIS NEW SUIT, THAT'S A RELIEF IT DOESN'T LOOK TOO BAD. SCREAMING WITCHES THAT LOOKS GOOD SHAKESPEARE PIG ALIEN THING WAS THAT? OH FUCK, A DALEK! THE BLACK DALEK! I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if the new series of Doctor Who isn't the BEST THING EVER, I'll eat my own heart. It's got Captain Jack, sexy new bird, Daleks but not as the finale, Face of Boe's message, alien planets, Shakespeare, Paul Cornell, and I'm moaning in agony just thinking about it. But it's important not to let this lust cloud my journalistic integrity, as this episode is not worth a higher review on the strength of it. Three out of five!