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Jan 11, 2007

Incy wincy spider

I will freely admit to coming to this special with every intention of enjoying it and succeeding in my aim. In many ways I think it proves the argument for showing Doctor Who in the winter – it’s much easier to create a spooky atmosphere in the dark and cold and people are more forgiving too.

The Runaway Bride has its problems – not least its title. As usual there are some plot points which fail to come together (such as the force-feeding of Lance with Huon-particle mineral water) which could have been explained  with a few lines of dialogue. So much of the plot hangs on shaky pseudo-science anyway, it wouldn’t have jarred at all to say, for instance, that the Huon particles in Lance were simply used to draw Donna back to the nest. In fact, it probably was said, it was just lost under Murray Gold’s score and Sarah Parish’s mannerisms.

And thus, handily, we come to the biggest turkey on the plate – the Racnoss. Such an opportunity! What could be scarier than a massive spider? Unfortunately not nearly enough is made of that fantastic prosthetic. So many shots are of the head in close-up, losing the scale and highlighting the human features. Why not make her scuttle about a bit, chewing the scenery on all sides? Admittedly Sarah Parish does some great stuff with all the head-tilts and jerky movements and I don’t think an ancient, omnivorous scourge of life on all planets should be subtle and underplayed. She comes across as little more sophisticated than a talking spider and it fits. Despite what Julie Gardner  may say on the commentary, we finally have a proper, evil villain who gets killed and that’s fine. No sympathy, no “I’m so sorry,” just incy-wincy killer spiders from the Dark Ages of the universe getting washed down the drain. Fantastic.

At last we’re seeing the Doctor we were promised – ruthless and scary and not constantly hopping about saying “avoid the void!” It’s a double-whammy of continuity glee as we get transcendental pockets and, at last, GALLIFREY. It actually brings in a lots of elements from the past: there was some City of Death, the secret at the centre of the Earth made me wonder about Inferno and the intelligent spiders, regrettably, recalled Planet of the Spiders. Finally, too, the whole “pilot fish” problem is sorted out. It makes much more sense for the robotic santas to be remote-controlled mercenaries – whose master I imagine we may meet next year (if a third special is commissioned). The big gong though has to go to the flying TARDIS sequence. Forget the physics, (the simplest way is just to think, “the Doctor’s smarter than me” as Salem suggested on the Canada Redux thread) it looks brilliant. The CGI is some of the best we’ve seen yet and when it spins up into the sky it’s a real punch-the-air moment. Don’t get me started on the final de-materialization though, what the hell was that supposed to be? In fact, my only quibble with the sequence is that I really didn’t like the children cheering them along, which other people loved. It just seemed too cheesy.

My biggest worry was always Catherine Tate – her programme is the sort of sub-Little Britain schlock which pollutes British comedy at the moment. It’s all endlessly repeated catch-phrases and gross-out “humour”. What happened to the Pythons, hmm? Intelligent, witty and 100 times funnier than a man dressed as a WI member being sick on a vicar. Of course, I needn’t have worried because the comedienne wasn’t writing and, as a character, Donna really grew on me over the course of the episode. She’s a brash selfish type but whose heart didn’t bleed when Lance said he’d prefer being the Empress’ escort than spending a night with Donna? Ouch! That’s just mean. She also fulfilled the wishes of many a blogger and kept the Doctor in check – delivering a quick slap when he started getting smug and flippant.

Being an RTD script, (oh here I go again, RTD-bashing) there’s a lot of excellent dialogue, my particular favourite being “walking in the dust”. I actually think he constructed a very good story – well-paced, exciting, entertaining and I watched with a cheesy grin – what more can you ask for? And before you reply, yes, I know: tighter script editing, a more dynamic villain and a remote controlled K9.


Actually, the Empress does explain the Huon force-feeding; she comments that 'now she know the bride's tolerance level', it's an easy matter to create another key. But it's so throwaway - as well as drowned out by Lance's glubs - that it's very easy to miss.

Thanks for the nod, Flick. Whenever I think I notice a "why didn't he do it this way moment" I always stop and remind myself there's a REASON that bullheaded and otherwise compentent women like Ace, Charlie Pollard, Romana, or Bernice Summerfield trust this man implicitly: He's already thought of it.

The spiderlady: Punch the air and slouch with face in hands. Simultaneously. Loved it and hated it. Felt silly and proud.

I can see how Donna could have become more likeable through the whole thing, but I still wanted to smack her. Bless for smacking him though. He needed it. And I did get a bit giddy when he off'd the spiderlady and family without a twinge of remorse. The Doctor's the ultimate good guy, but he's not always a nice guy.

Last but not least, the TARDIS chase was starting to lose me right up until it stopped spinning and the door opened. They had me at that point.

That last demat at the end though...*shudder* I hope that's not permanent..

The demateralisation at the end might not be the TARDIS... for all we know its a plot point for the third series. It might have been transmatted or something to that effect. But if it wasnt, well, it was nice as a one off, but i prefer the in/out/in/out.

Actually i think someone said something to that effect before...

I kinda think the Doctor was just doing it for effect...well, I prefer to think that. I never had a problem at all with the 'TARDIS in a car chase' stuff but some kind of rocket TARDIS I just don't want, for some reason.

Good review.

Totally agree about the cheering kids - reminded me of the cybermen who must have been working for the BBC as it was important to them to go into suburban houses and scare kids for no good reason other than someone thought it made a good shot.

It's implied as far back as 'An Unearthly Child' that the Tardis does, or at least can, take off vertically like a rocket, remember that pull back to the map of London? Or was that another story? I'm sure i've seen it happen in a black-and-white story though.

Loved your "incy wincy spider bit" :). Genius!

"It's implied as far back as 'An Unearthly Child' that the Tardis does, or at least can, take off vertically like a rocket, remember that pull back to the map of London?"

It was indeed AUC, but more a pull back from an aerial shot of a bunch of high rise buildings, that seemed at odds with a outer London area that had its own scrap yard.

Thank you all very much for your kind comments, and I'm intriguiged by the idea that the last demat was a plot-point for the next series. Still, that would rather undercut many BF/novel fans' hopes of a convenient gap and, apparently, the TARDIS can take off like a rocket although I've never seen AUC myself.

The Tardis also exhibits certain hover capablities as far back as Fury From the Deep, when the Doctor lands it on the ocean at the start of the episode.

Maybe the TARDIS rocketed off to pick up Captain Jackoff from the smoking remains of Torchwood.

As I recall, the TARDIS is perfectly capable of linear flight, just not great at it. the traffic scene bears this out. I say he was either showing off or picking up Jack, and Big Finish will always be able to find a good couple of gaps.

Incy wincy spider(s)
Crawl up the giant hole
Down comes the Thames
And the water takes its toll...

The Doctor's standing close at hand
His face is a a-grim
And the incy wincy spider(s)
Dont live to eat his limb(s)

Sorry 'bout the last line, couldnt think of anything that rhymed with 'grim'

Oops... It was supposed to be 'His face is ALL a-grim... Oh well, doesnt matter

Erh, not trolling(or feeding thereof), but if it didn't matter, why mention?

The poem/song/mutant haiku wasn't bad though. You did get the grim!Doctor though, and that's what really counted to us fans.

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