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Dec 25, 2006

Bride (In the Name of Love)

Given the context, given the time of year and given that the majority of people tuning into this episode would be zonked out on the sofa (having engorged themselves Racnoss-like on a diet of sugars and carbohydrates), this was about as perfect as Christmas entertainment gets. With one caveat.

This is no longer the show I was brought up on.

Now, we’ve all pretty much said that at one time or another these past two years of RTD-guided resurrection and renaissance that now sees the show warrant an annual prime-time Christmas Day event episode; not to mention an hour-long behind-the-scenes look at a tie-in concert, along with the full thing on loop via the BBC interactive guide. And that’s just today; we’ve still got the Torchwood finale, the pilot of the Sarah-Jane spin-off and various other bits-and-bobs before the tinsel comes down. When I was a kid I probably dreamed of having Doctor Who 24 hours a day; seems like thirty years on that dream isn’t too far from reality.

But anyway, that whole ‘this is no longer the show I was brought up with yadda, yadda, yadda…’ thing. Well, it isn’t, is it? But before you jump on the ‘the show has to move on / you can’t live in the past’ argument, then I’ll just say one thing. That’s fine. That’s okay. In fact it’s great. Because Doctor Who is - finally, irrevocably - far, far bigger now than it ever has been before. Too huge in fact to pander to the needs, desires and (yes, I’ve gotta say it) selfish obsessions of near-middle-aged blokes like me. And if you don’t believe me, then just take a look at the overnight ratings in tomorrow’s newspapers. Because anything upwards of 8 millions people will have tuned into The Runaway Bride and loved every single second of it. And to be honest I did too. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. The plot was half-baked, the humour so forced as to give subtlety a bad name and the moral about as transparent as Captain Jack’s spaceship tethered to Big Ben. But then I noticed two things: a) it had Russell T Davies’ name on the writing credits and b) it had more heart, passion, pace and downright zeal than a dozen Hollywood block-busters shoe-horned into the schedules to keep us from nodding off after the Turkey overdose.

The post-Queen’s-speech movie premiere is dead. Long live the Christmas Doctor Who special.

And for an episode which ostensibly tries to reunite a discontented bride with her jilted groom, it’s rather fitting that 'The Runaway Bride' fulfils the remit of the wedding day tradition itself. Something old. Something new. Something borrowed. And something blue. In fact, at times I thought I was tuning in to last year’s Christmas special, so redolent with some of the iconography of la Tennant’s seasonal debut of twelve months ago was this year’s episode. Zoom down from space into the opening action? Check. Robot Santas causing havoc for the Doctor’s ‘companion’? Double check. Christmas trees that go homicidal at the most inopportune times? Triple check with a psychotic fairy on top. And that’s without even mentioning the fact that Doctor Ten once again gets to show his real steel when given the opportunity to show mercy for an invading menace. All we wanted was a few shots of iconic London landmarks and the picture would have been completed. Oh, what do you mean we did..?

it had more heart, passion, pace and downright zeal than a dozen Hollywood block-busters shoe-horned into the schedules to keep us from nodding off after the Turkey overdose

But if 'The Runaway Bride' had any kind of template on which it riffed like a tribute band playing open-goal classics it was with the kind of screwball comedies that the likes of Cary Grant, Doris Day and a dozen other ghosts of Christmas pasts starred in for what seemed like eternity. In fact, the first half was perhaps the most successful in emulating the kind of frantic, breathless pace of those classic movies; with the second half degenerating slightly into a typically nonsense RTD plot about universal Armageddon. Or something. The Empress of Racnoss is a rather generic villain - although visually striking, and Sarah Parrish clearly has a ball playing her - and I’d have to watch the whole thing again before deciding whether there’s any narrative cohesion to her ’master-plan’ worth writing about. But again I’m probably missing the point. After all, you hardly bitch about the scenery when you’re riding the Big Dipper, do you?

And as if to underline how spoilt we Who cognoscenti have become these past two years of saturation exposure to what was once a niche obsession, there’s arguably one of the most bollocks-out attempts to place the show firmly within the realms of the ‘Event’ broadcast. And to all those - and you know who you are - who dissed the taxi-chase scene as soon as its Cardiff-concert leak hit the super-information-highway, I’ll just say one thing: cast your minds back two short years and try to imagine ‘our’ show producing a piece of barnstorming, punch-the-air televisual breathlessness like this. Talk about The Matrix with a phone-box or what!

...it’s rather fitting that 'The Runaway Bride' fulfils the remit of the wedding day tradition itself. Something old. Something new. Something borrowed. And something blue

And Catherine Tate? Well, back in July I wasn’t exactly unforthcoming in suggesting what a totally misjudged piece of editorial decision-making her appearance was at the end of an episode in which we’d effectively said goodbye to the show’s emotional touchstone for twenty-seven episodes. And I still think that going straight from Rose’s tear-stained goodbye to the prologue for a light-hearted Christmas romp was wrong, wrong, wrong. But you can hardly blame Ms Tate for that. And if there’s any one reason why 'The Runaway Bride' works as a piece of light-hearted frippery before (hopefully) the real deal of thrills, spills and a few tears starts again next April, then it’s largely down to the Bothered Bride. Crucially, she’s everything Rose wasn’t: bolshy, brainless and about as enamoured of the whole time & space gig as a mockney chav whose wedding day has just been hi-jacked would be. But she works; both as a relief from the more tailor-made companions that the likes of Rose - and soon Martha - subscribe to (basically the human embodiment of why the Doctor travels in the first place) and because she has a very real, emotional arc to fulfil. Despite warming just a touch to the impossible vistas of the Doctor’s universe, Donna never takes her feet off the ground. And is all the more believable for that.

Throw in a few arbitrary mentions of one or two things that us old-timers have waited to hear since the show came back - yes, the Doctor’s pockets are bigger on the inside, folks; not to mention the fan-baiting reference to something called ‘Gallifrey’ (hmm, wonder if that’s the last we’ll hear of this place over the next six months..?) and that pretty much sums up 'The Runaway Bride'. Slight? Probably. Hugely enjoyable? Oh, yes. Like I said at the start, this ain’t the show I grew up with. But it’s still a show I can fall in love with every now and again. And an important part of loving is learning when to let go, no..?

Coming soon: Shakespeare, blue suits and a trip to 30s New York. Not to mention the return of Dalek Sec and…rhinoceros-sontarans?!?

Comments

8.7 million viewers, rising to 9m at the end. Fifth highest show of the day.

Shame the show was still a bit pants, though.

Oh how I wish I was Sean...

If all else fails, just look at it this way...the continuing success of the 'new Who' paves the way for more material and DVDs of the 'old Who', so that's something to be happy about.

Me, I thought it was a nice bit of knockout fluff for Xmas.

I don't buy this excuse that you can be silly just because it's Christmas. The intelligent 14 year olds aren't pissed out of their heads as well, you know. Why can't you have a decent plot at Christmas? WHY??? I mean, the whole of the Thames going down the plughole in what amounted to nothing more than a trickle? In an abandoned (er, why????) TW base? WTF?

And move over Graham Crowden, Sarah Parish just knocked your ham into a cocked hat with her Ray 'sorry can't really move a lot' Hammyhausen turn as the shouty woman of Racnoss.

Bah humbug.

Huh, and I was the Scrooge last year.

I held off from utterly berating it because I felt left out last year.

Oh, well, we can hope that next year RTD will give the Christmas Special to Steven Moffat. He could do a cracking job.

Neil, I look forward to your review. I still haven't seen anyone explain the Bill & Ted Whoosh into the sky at the end though.

That was my review. You can't be negative on this blog without driving people away, apparently.

"and...rhinoceros-sontarans?!?"

They haven't turned the Sontarans into rhinoceroses! Those creatures are a new species called the Judoon.

They just go to the same tailor.

Phew! Personally, I'm relieved - messing with the potato heads would have been unforgivable.

I BET you wish you were Sean - he got a remote-controlled K-9 for Christmas :-)

Anyway, I thought we were looking for less misanthropic reviews post the blog-destroying experiences of Torchwood? Or are we saving our collective gushing for (ahem) the Sarah-Jane pilot..?

The RC K9 is excellent, I got it for my birthday earlier in the year. It's just a shame that the voices come out of the handset rather than the dog. I wanted to drive it up to the neighbours cat and make it stun him. Oh, well, can't have everything.

Plus I have my fab 4th Scarf. I also got two keyrings (Dalek and K9) and a sticker book.

"something borrowed, something blue"...

That would explain Murray ripping off - sorry, all right, "borrowing" then - a bit of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue".

Finally an Xth Doctor episode that I enjoyed from beginning to end - even the Gershwin ripoff. Well, almost all. The score during the chase still stuck sideways in my ears. But at least I didn't notice it until after it had passed ("oh no, he *did* use that bit after all, grumble grumble, bah humbug").

And I still reckon that geezer right at the end of the trailer for next year's Who is Peter Davison.

"And I still reckon that geezer right at the end of the trailer for next year's Who is Peter Davison."

That was Mark Gatiss. :P

>They haven't turned the Sontarans into rhinoceroses! Those creatures are a new species called the Judoon.

Three, two, one - you're back in the room.

A highly original new species. Was the Holmes estate not playing or were the production team having a really lazy afternoon?

John - Little fact about Sontaran design: when producing Shakedown, the BBC allowed Mark Ayres et al to use Sontarans if they got the permission from Holmes's estate; they were not, however, allowed the license of the character design, which is owned by the BBC. Hence the reason Sontarans were redesigned for that production.*

Now, unless these rhino-headed blokes turn out to be a clone race in a state of eternal warfare with a bunch of blobby gets, it's unlikely Holmes's estate would have a leg to stand on.

* As there's a possibility someone'll challenge this as merely some old crap out of Wikipedia, I'd point out it's some old crap out of Mark Ayres which got put into Wikipedia.

James, the K-9 I got for Christmas is the 1/4 size and not the tinny-voiced miniature which accompanied the Tennant figure earlier this year.

And John Leeson's voice comes from the actual dog and not the handset - 'Maximum Defence Mode'!

He's bollocks getting across carpet though...

The rhinos did have a very Sontaron feel to them.

Now if their giant helmets were white we'd be making jokes about RhinosoDavros.

*Remembrance of the Daleks reference*

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