Still stunned from the loss of Rose, the Doctor is even more surprised when he finds someone else in the TARDIS – someone else who’s wearing a bridal gown and insists that she was only moments ago at a church walking down the aisle. Her name is Donna, and she’s neither impressed or pleased to find herself in an alien time machine.
The Doctor whisks her back to Earth, but no sooner has she arrived again than trouble follows: the robot Santas return, but this time they’re not homing in on the Doctor – they’re after Donna. The Doctor discovers that Donna’s body has been irradiated with a kind of energy that hasn’t existed for billions of years, and sets about tracking down the cause of it, eventually finding an elaborate but abandoned Torchwood installation beneath the Thames. But that top-secret organization isn’t behind the energy or the robots. The Empress of the spider-like Racnoss is, and she plans to use Donna to jump-start a diabolical plan to revive her nearly-extinct race…at the cost of the human race’s extinction. If the Doctor can’t find a way to flush this not-so-itsty-bitsy spider down the waterspout, Donna’s TARDIS travels may have already come to an end.
written by Russell T. Davies
directed by Euros Lyn
music by Murray Gold
Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Sarah Parish (Empress), Don Gilet (Lance Bennett), Howard Attfield (Geoff Noble), Jacqueline King (Sylvia Noble), Trevor Georges (Vicar), Glen Wilson (Taxi Driver), Krystal Archer (Nerys), Rhodri Meiur (Rhodri), Zafirah Boateng (Little Girl), Paul Kasey (Robot Santa)
Appearing in footage from New Earth: Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)
Notes: Despite numerous mentions that the planet of the Time Lords has been destroyed, this marks the first time in the new series that the name “Gallifrey” has been spoken on screen. (It’s somehow fitting, given that the name wasn’t invented until Jon Pertwee’s final season, over a decade into the original series’ run.) Sarah Parrish starred with David Tennant in the series Blackpool (which was seen in the U.S. under the title of “Viva Blackpool”). Though the Doctor says his visit to the formation of Earth is further back in time than he’s ever gone, one would presume that the TARDIS’ visit to “event one,” i.e. the creation of the galaxy (see Castrovalva, 1982), must by definition be even further back in time, though he had just regenerated and wasn’t aware of much of it. The extrapolator makes its first appearance since Boom Town. For only the third time in the series’ history (The Deadly Assassin, the 1996 TV movie), the Doctor arrives and departs without a companion. The “dark times” during which the Time Lords did battle with the Racnoss may or may not be the same dark times hinted at by Lady Peinforte in Silver Nemesis. When the Doctor and Donna run out of the TARDIS en route to their final confrontation with the Empress, Donna leaves the door open, but it’s closed a second later.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: A neat special episode that neatly splits the difference between getting some closure on the events of Doomsday and clearing the decks and just having a rollicking one-off adventure, The Runaway Bride may not be the greatest entry in the Doctor Who mythos that the new series has given us, but it certainly is fun.
Catherine Tate is simply sensational as a one-time-only sidekick for the tenth Doctor – so much so that, without wanting to prematurely judge Freema Agyeman or her character in the upcoming third season, I really wish she had stayed aboard the TARDIS. Donna has an attitude, she has guts, and let’s just cut to the chase, she’s certainly easy on the eyes (I found myself much more attracted to her than to Billie Piper). And she’s smart – for all of her cluelessness about the Doctor’s world, she certainly saw through his attempt to pass off huon particles as harmless. With the rapport the two actors built up, she would’ve been a dynamite addition to the TARDIS crew. Seems like the Doctor knew that too.
The script and David Tennant’s more-subtle-than-usual performance manage to make it clear that the loss of Rose is still an open wound for the Doctor, and yet he seems to delight in the fact that’s found a promising new prospect for a companion. There’s also a nice scene, if a little bit of a throwaway, to remind us that while some of us may have enjoyed Torchwood, they’re certainly not good guys in the Doctor’s world. Also not being a good guy is Sarah Parrish as the Empress of the Racnoss; there’s scarcely a surprising action in that character’s repertoire, but she gets full marks for chewing right through the scenery and making it impossible to ignore her. She’s literally a larger-than-life character, so why not? (Too bad no one saw fit to throw in some mention about the Doctor not having a good history with giant spiders.)
I’m a little torn on what would seem to be a return to the “Dark Doctor” theme of the late Sylvester McCoy era, Chris Eccleston’s era and the New Adventures novels. I guess that list demonstrates that there’s more of a precedent for that element being part of the series than not, but Tennant’s era thus far has been so cheerful and buoyant that it had succeeded in putting that element out of my mind.
Effects-wise, the freeway chase scene was spectacular, and spectacularly funny – the TARDIS really becomes her own character here, and astonishing at it is (still!) for me to get my head around it, the effects are on a caliber with the best of current American or Canadian-made SF, though I’m wondering if the TARDIS’ “take-off” in the closing scene of the episode is atypical (perhaps something to be explained in the next episode this spring?).