>TV Round-Up: Doctor Who

>The Runaway Bride
Can it be that new episodes of Doctor Who are becoming the norm and the expected for me? I have to admit, I fear this could be true since I found it difficult to muster up the same level of enthusiasm for the Christmas special episode of Doctor Who this year. Of course, a large part of the enthusiasm for last year’s story was the fact that it was our first sustained look at David Tennant at Doctor.

This year, it was a bit more subdued and looked at what life would be like on the show after Rose.

Having been a Who fan for years now and seen companions come and go, I have to admit the question of what is life like after Rose wasn’t quite as edge-of-your-seat as what is the new Doctor like. But I can see how the target audience for the new series would find it hard to know what life is going to be like for the Doctor after the departure of his companion.

Which brings us to “The Runaway Bride.”

One thing I have to keep reminding myself about these Christmas specials is they are, first and foremost, supposed to be fun. They’re intended to be viewed by the family audience after the big day of opening presents and consuming Christmas dinner. It’s supposed to have something for everyone and they’re not really intended for the hardest of the hard core Who fans like myself. They’re supposed to be light and fun.

And in that “The Runaway Bride” succeeds, for the most part. I will say that the overall story is better paced than last year’s “Christmas Invasion” (which had a long 45 minutes of waiting around for the Doctor to be fully recovered from his regeneration) but I’m not sure that, overall, it’s a better story. Certainly if I lived in the UK of the Doctor Who world, I’d be a bit worried that every Christmas an alien invasion seems to occur.

As I said, the story is fairly straightforward. The Doctor meets Donna, a woman who was walking down the aisle when she suddenly started to glow and turned into a stream of particles. She was drawn to the TARDIS becuase the TARDIS has similar particles in its heart and now the Doctor has to figure out how these particles got into Donna since they’ve not been seen around the universe for a couple of million years. Turns out her fiancee is giving them to her in her coffee each day and that he works for an emperess spider-woman who wants to revive her race, who just happen to reside at the center of the Earth. The Doctor must, of course, put a stop to this and does.

The story also deals with the Doctor’s depression about Rose leaving and his need for a companion to temper his alien half. Last year we saw the darker side of the 10th Doctor on sevreal occasions and it’s on full display here. The Doctor’s warning to the spider-queen is effective and Tennant does a good job of playing to his strengths in the role. He’s at his best when the Doctor is quietly threatening and you can see his scarcely under the surface anger. He’s less convincing when he’s trying to be over the top and almost Tom Baker-like silly in the role, which he does a few times here.

The other half of the team is the one-time companion, Donna, played by Catherine Tate. From what I’ve heard she’s a fairly big star in the UK, who is apparently very polarizing. You either love her or you hate her. I have a feeling the script is playing very much on the type of character Tate plays on another show or shows since we have constant references to Donna’s being a bit out of it and self-absorbed. I can only assume these are in-jokes I missed since I don’t know the context. Tate does fairly well in the role, though it’s a bit limited. She’s no where near as rich as Rose, but Donna isn’t mean to be. She does fulfill the companion role of screaming a lot, having the plot explained to her and getting into danger rather well. But I will say I’m glad they resisted the tempation to make Donna a regular companion. Once was quite enough, thank you.

In many ways, this story is a coda to last season. Having done that, I expect the pallet is clean for the new season, which from the long preview looks to be interesting. I will admit this year there’s not a single “event” I’m looking forward to like we had last year with the return of K-9 and Sarah Jane Smith, but it does appear we’re getting yet another appearance by an old enemy this year and a trip to meet Shakespeare. And a new companion, who I assume we’ll meet in the first official story of series three in a few months.

Until then, I intend to enjoy “The Runaway Bride” for what it is–a fairly straightforward, fun, light-hearted Chrismtas adventure designed to set the table for the next series.

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