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Dec 30, 2006

Down the Plughole

Bride1 I know I'm going to sound like an ungrateful old git complaining about the socks his kind-hearted granny has just given him for Christmas but I just can't let this one slide. And besides, it's probably safe to put the boot in because everyone else on the blog seems to have been dazzled into submission by the shiny tinsel and that increasingly bizarre mantra: 'it's Christmas - it doesn't have to make sense'.

I don't get it: is The Runaway Bride a non-canonical comedy sketch? A Yuletide Special where the normal "rules" no longer apply? Or is it - and please try to bear with me here -  just another episode of Doctor Who that should be able to stand up to the same level of scrutiny as all the rest? Just because half the audience are pissed-up and the other half are asleep in a cloud of sprout gas, does that mean the production team can just throw any old bollocks at us and expect us to swallow it, no questions asked? I always thought Christmas Specials were an excuse to pull out all the stops, not all the cliches!

Is The Runaway Bride a non-canonical comedy sketch? A Yuletide Special where the normal "rules" no longer apply?

Ah, but people don't want to see anything dark or gritty at Christmas time, do they? Well, that never seems to stop EastEnders; a programme that never compromises its rating-smashing, heart wrenching misery with some comedy parp-parp music. I'm not saying that Doctor Who should necessarily be grim and dark at any time of the year, it just doesn't need to turn into a pantomime once a year either (sadly, it seems to be doing that all year round these days). We're living through season 17 again, people. Just because it currently occupies the old Only Fools.. slot, does it really have to feel like a bloody sitcom?

Bride2 Don't get me wrong, The Runaway Bride boasts some great moments: surprisingly, Catherine Tate was far, far better than I'd ever dared hoped, especially given the broad strokes that laughingly made up her "character" (there's more flesh and bones on many of her comedy caricatures); David Tennant seems to have called a moratorium on the smug silliness that plagued him throughout season 2 (the closest we'll get to mourning for whatshername, I suppose); there are some great jokes ("I was scuba diving"); some wonderful set pieces (the formation of planet Earth), and Gallifrey finally gets a long overdue mention (which will be handy when they it back next season). So why can't we have a decent plot? Is that really too much to ask for?

Just laugh at the hilarious pratfalls and Sarah Parish hamming it up like Graham Crowden never happened, while Murray Gold drowns everything out with a melange of brass farts and comedy strings...

Bride3Inexplicable killer Santas, surreptitiously malevolent Christmas trees placed in handy locations just on the off-chance they'll be needed, spaceships hovering over Oxford Street, scenery-chewing aliens... didn't Russell give us these socks last year? The whole thing had a whiff of deja vu about it, but without the distracting novelty of a new Doctor to paper over the whacking great cracks. Like, where are all the Torchwood staff? On their Christmas holidays? Why did it take six months of dosing Donna with those particles when Lance just got drowned in them? And why not just kidnap someone instead of pretending to date them like that? I thought they were trying to take over the bloody planet? Was Lance the only insider they had working for them/her/what??? What a bunch of amateurs. Not wonder there's never any sense of danger.

...when the Doctor murdered them by tipping the entire contents of the Thames into a plug-hole with the aid of an X-Box 360 controller and a couple of baubles it was impossible to feel anything at all...

Bride4 And then there's the Empress of Racnoss. I bet she looked great on paper. Actually, I bet she looked exactly the same on paper, i.e.: she didn't move a muscle. Ray Harryhausen must have been choking on his turkey. I mean, would it really have killed the Mill to have her scuttle about just a teensy, weeny little bit? Or did they blow the budget on the embarrassing-beyond-words car chase? Two words: tractor beam. And no, I'm not going to get into that debate again.

We didn't even get to see her children so when the Doctor murdered them all by tipping the entire contents of the Thames into a plug-hole with the aid of an X-Box 360 controller and a couple of explosive baubles (WTF????) it was impossible to feel anything at all. But screw all that - just laugh at the hilarious pratfalls and Sarah Parish hamming it up like Graham Crowden never happened, while Murray Gold drowns everything out with a melange of brass farts and comedy strings. Sweet chocolate Jesus.

Oh, why am I even bothering? It's a kid's show and I'm nearly 40, for pity's sake! I sound like Scrooge! I half expect the ghost of DW Past (I dunno, maybe Pertwee) to visit me with the stark reminder that Doctor Who has never made any sense. That it's always been as daft as this and when I was 11 years old I lapped it up and if I was 11 years old now I still would. Reading through this "review" I sound more and more like the **** I swore I'd never turn into and I'm inches away from just deleting it and keeping my disappointment to myself.

Still, Torchwood looks good this week...

Comments

I enjoyed it as a comedy, but as soon as I try to read it as a piece of drama I come up against exactly the same problems relating to it as you do. Some people claim these episodes are better on second viewing but I watched it again today and it's already gone down in my estimation.

The jokes were good. That's about the best I can say for it.

I still think the Unquiet Dead would have made a far better Christmas Special than either of the Official Christmas Specials. Not only was it a better episode of Doctor Who, it was actually more Christmassy; had far more genuine christmas spirit (no pun intended) and traditional christmas themes; Santa suits and christmas trees just seems to be tinsel - it's a camp theme pub vision of christmas. Humbug, indeed.

The Hogfather was much better - fancy that, and it was set on another world!

I think someone didn't get a remote controlled K-9 for Christmas... :-)

Spot on - the best Doctor Who Christmas story is The Unquiet Dead. As for TRB, well, i liked it with reservations. Some of the writing was cleverer than you'd think (it seems to have flown over most people's heads that Donna, the one-off companion, works as, ha ha, A TEMP), the TARDIS chase was hands down the most gripping action scene in Doctor Who since the attack on the church in The Curse of Fenric 17 years ago, the laid-back Alan Davies-lookalike wedding cameraman was a hoot, the 'you had the reception WITHOUT me?!' line brought the house down. It's also clever how it works as a sequel to The Christmas Invasion, retrospectively plugging the plot hole of what the pilot fish look like underneath the Santa masks, and the Doctor refusing to come in for Christmas dinner is a neat reversal of last year's sitting down with the Tylers, saying more about his sense of loss than any amount of dialogue ever could. My main problem with it, surprisingly, was Euros Lyn's direction. For example, the Doctor releasing Donna from the web and her swing across the chasm to safety SHOULD be a thrilling moment, like Luke and Leia in the Death Star, but Lyn botches it completely. The Empress is impressive in long shot but Lyn keeps on insisting on close-ups that don't do the make-up job any favours, and the creature just seems to sit there with no movement. And even more than TCI, it's blatantly obvious that it's being filmed in blazing July rather than grey December. How could the director who gave such scope and style to 'Fireplace' and 'Tooth & Claw' have screwed up so badly here? And is this the real reason why he won't be back for Series 3? One does wonder.

Neil says "It's a kid's show and I'm nearly 40, for pity's sake! I sound like Scrooge! I half expect the ghost of DW Past (I dunno, maybe Pertwee) to visit me with the stark reminder that Doctor Who has never made any sense. That it's always been as daft as this and when I was 11 years old I lapped it up and if I was 11 years old now I still would."

I say, "well duh, about time somebody twigged for crying out loud!" It is a kids show. Always has been, probably always will be. You all need to calm down just a little. It isn't meant for you. I think the comment Declan made describes exactly how we should see the 'The Runaway Bride'.

But at the same time, the beauty of old Doctor Who is its ability to rise above its inherent daftness by not drawing attention to it; it's almost always been a disaster when it has because it also jetisons that crucial sense of fun. The Runaway Bride is well aware of how silly it is and positively revels in it in a fashion that would have made even Douglas Adams blanche. RTD deserves much credit for not falling into the same trap as the old series, but at the same TRB's self-knowing demeanour makes it more smug than anything seen in season two, which is going to be a much bigger hurdle for some fans to get over.

Scrooge? Nah, not a bit of it.

A case in point: okay, I think jokes about the fact that no one remembers big scale alien invasions is fair game. It's one of the sorest (and yet utterly necessary) ongoing conceits of the series and requires far greater suspension of disbelief than time travel and dimensional transcendental objects, so it's a good target for self-referential gags, but elsewhere there's a joke about the large number of secret bases hidden beneath London landmarks - and you think hold on all those stories were written by you, Mr Davies (with the exception of Rise of the Cybermen which I don't count because it was an alternative universe anyway) so rather than making jokes about the inane repetitiveness of it all, why not just come up with something original instead? Self mockery can show insight and humility, but if you're not actually going to do anything about the behaviour that you mock then it's just rather annoying.

"It is a kids show. Always has been, probably always will be. You all need to calm down just a little. It isn't meant for you."

The spec for Doctor Who has never been "a kid's show". It has always, since its very inception, been intended as a family show. That means crossing the boundaries of ages. It isn't always successful (Delta and the Bannermen for example), but at least it always tried. It never gave in and said "Oh, well, the kids will like it.". The new series seems to have lost sight of that, and have forgotten that kids can love darker stories (Talons of Weng Chiang, Genesis of the Daleks) which don't lose the adult populus.

Actually Pertwee played Jacob Marley on stage...

I'll get me coat.

But Doctor Who hasn't lost the adults. Watching the Doctor Who concert, during the clip from the Christmas special I was struck by how the look on the parents faces, mirrored those of the adults...

James says "The new series seems to have lost sight of that, and have forgotten that kids can love darker stories (Talons of Weng Chiang, Genesis of the Daleks) which don't lose the adult populus"

I never doubt that you know. Sadly for the kids, they probably don't see the deep complexities as you do. Damn them the fiends, they are in no position to judge a show as you James, of course. I remember my kid crying over 'Dalek'. Not sure whether she was sad for the 9th Doctor, or for the Dalek? James, please answer?

What I mean is that the stories are dark and deep enough for the adults, and yet enjoyable and written well enough for kids to enjoy. For example, The Caves of Androzani can be seen by kids to be about soldiers fighting over Spectrox, and a man looking to kill someone who hurt him, whereas the adults will see separation of classes, tensions under hard conditions, perversion in the views taken by Jek and by Morgus. Kids can enjoy the explosions and the shooting, and even the lava monster. Adults can enjoy the deeper psychology behind each move, and see love, hatred, fear, anger, and all the other emotions on display in their purest form.

When RTD does try that (New Earth, Aliens of London, Boom Town) he gets the balance wrong. When he tries to do a kids show (TCI, TRB) he loses the audience. When he just goes for adult drama (Tooth & Claw) he manages it easily, and by keeping swearing, sex, and gore out of it keeps it a family show.

Tooth and Claw could be made an adult episode by having more blood, more swearing, and a lesbian romp between Queen Vic and Rose, in the same way as Talons could have more gore and swearing. It doesn't, so it becomes accessible to the whole family.

Maybe it's time to stop doing a kids show, and start doing a family-friendly adult show.

Loved it. Then again, I know that the biased, RTD bashing bandwagon have forgotten what Doctor Who is and want their precious, badly written, overrated novels back.

...And yeah, I went there, "The Runaway Bride" aces crap like "The Ancestor Cell" and "Shadows of Avalon" anyday

Not even Chris Chibnall can plumb the depths of despair that was The Eight Doctors by Terrence Dicks.

*winces*

Oh, thanks for the reminder ...

http://tachyontv.typepad.com/waiting_for_christopher/2005/07/the_eight_docto.html

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