Series: Doctor Who (TVTropes Recap)
Season.Episode: 3.00 “The Runaway Bride” (Christmas special between Series 2 and 3)
Original Air Date: Christmas Day 2006
Length: 45 minutes
Writer: Russell T. Davies
Lead Actors: David Tennant (The Tenth Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Sarah Parish (Empress of the Racnoss)
Synopsis: “A bride suddenly materialises in the Tardis. The Doctor must get her to the church on time, but the Empress of Racnoss, an alien spider, has other ideas… “ (from Wikipedia)
Reason for Watching: This category on the rubric is no longer relevant for Doctor Who.
Episode Re-watchability: I’ve already rewatched it once, and it was nearly as fun as the first time.
Final Verdict: A tremendously fun episode and a good move forward from the emotional weight of the Series 2 finale.
“The Runaway Bride” hearkens back to the previous Christmas episode, “The Christmas Invasion,” but fortunately avoids treading exactly the same ground. The robot Santa-musicians with their killer Christmas trees are back, but now they are being remotely controlled by a giant alien spider queen (The Empress of the Racnoss, played incredibly over-the-top by Sarah Parish) who is trying to awake her thousands (or more?) of “children” who are hibernating at the center of the earth.
That last sentence was exceedingly fun to write.
The plot’s back story feels too bold and illogical to be the subject of only a single episode, and if you think too hard about it (or much at all), it begins to fall apart. For instance, why are these ancient Huon particles supposedly so rare if they can be extracted from the hydrogen in water? But nevermind; the story is immaterial here. This episode is really about preventing the Doctor from wallowing in his grief over Rose and forcing him to move forward with his extraordinary life.
And he really has to move, too. Mere seconds after the portal to Rose’s dimension closes, wedding-dress-clad Donna Noble is standing bewildered on the TARDIS and screeching at him to take her back RIGHT NOW. This character is really an amazing balancing act. On paper she should be the most annoying thing ever, and yet somehow Catherine Tate gives her just enough intelligence (beneath her ditzy, oblivious surface), just enough kindness (despite her temper tantrums), and a reasonable amount of unlikely bravery that—in addition to being funny—she is actually a likeable character.
And regarding the strange man who is the Doctor, Donna can be remarkably perceptive. The real thrust of the episode comes after the adventure is over. The Racnoss, despite their horrible threat, have been defeated pretty easily by the Doctor, yet the victory was rendered unpleasant by the anguished screams of the Empress and her drowning children, and also by the unemotional grimness with which the Doctor listened to their pain far longer than he needed to. So it is that, at the end, when the Doctor offers Donna the position of full Companion—as I knew he would—she turns him down, citing the crazy danger of his life and how uncomfortable she is with how he deals with it (or the lack thereof).
I doubt many people have ever turned down such an offer in the Doctor’s history! Yet I think it’s good for him to experience rejection every now and again. Not everyone can, or should, be like Rose, dropping their loved ones and responsibilities in an instant to run off with him. For all her silliness and problems, Donna is an older and more mature woman than Rose, and her life experience causes her to see something about the Doctor that Rose never quite did. The Doctor needs Companions. If for no other reason than to stop him when he begins to forget mercy and justice, and instead indulges his anger at his enemies. The Doctor is not a god; he is limited, flawed, troubled, and often enough wrong. Donna realizes that being a Companion is more than just being a helper on a series of wild adventures—it means being the Doctor’s moral leash. At this time, that is too much a responsibility for her, she says, but the Doctor needs to seek out those who can do it. It is this piece of information we must keep in mind when examining Martha Jones’ role in the rest of Series 3.
As an ending note, this episode is not very Christmassy. It looks as if it was filmed in the summer (and it probably was) and has even fewer Christmas trappings than “The Christmas Invasion.” Not much of a holiday theme, either. I don’t think Russell T. Davies likes Christmas very much, the way he treats it.
The Doctor: You’ve seen it out there. It’s beautiful.
Donna: And it’s terrible. That place was flooding and burning and they were dying and you stood there like… I don’t know, a stranger. And then you made it snow. I mean, you scare me to death!