Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Reviews – Vol. 10.4
The Runaway Bride
Never a dull moment on board the TARDIS. No sooner as the Doctor bid a teary farewell to Rose but a mysterious woman in a bridal gown materialises in the control room, seemingly as confused as he is. This is Donna Noble, a short-tempered woman who is less than pleased with the unexpected situation. Unable to ascertain how she came to find herself on his ship the Doctor tries to return her to Earth. Naturally things take an unexpected turn with the arrival of robot Santa Clauses and Donna being abducted, leaving the Doctor to pursue her in a pretty awesome chase down the motorway.
Although it’s understandable that Donna is none to thrilled with her circumstances she does come across as unbearable for the first few scenes. With the talented Catherine Tate at the helm Donna is revealed to be a character of more depth and sensitivity, with her anger being the result of her home life. Donna does return to the Doctor’s side as a companion in later seasons to expand on this but even this brief appearance demonstrates a great talent at work with the character.
The reason behind all the mishaps is revealed to be Donna carrying a large amount of ‘huon particles’. This was part of a scheme by her duplicitous fiancée, who imbued her with the particles so he could summon the arachnid alien the Empress of Racnoss. Everything comes to a head under the Thames with the Doctor and Donna confronted by the giant spider beast. In flooding the chamber to destroy the menace the Doctor appears to be letting himself die with it until Donna convinces him otherwise.
This Christmas special does take a rather dark turn, with the Doctor’s grief over loosing Rose taking to the edge of suicide and Donna’s pain at being manipulated for nefarious purposes. It does take the wind out the events at the conclusion, but it doesn’t distract from the strong dynamic between the Doctor and Donna. The to performers are easily the highlight of the special with the cheesy looking enemy not quite reaching the bar.
Smith and Jones
Having had Donna turn down the opportunity to join him as a travelling companion (for now) the Doctor carries on. The new season opens with medical student Martha Jones heading for work in a London hospital. On the way she bumps into the Doctor – a stranger in her eyes – who makes a point of removing his tie. On her arrival she encounters him again, this time as a patient going under the name John Smith, yet he does not remember their first encounter.
When the hospital is suddenly transported to the moon and invaded by a group of humanoid rhinoceroses called the Judoon the Doctor reveals his true nature and explains the danger they are in. Like the Judoon, an intergalactic police force, the Doctor is there to seek out a blood drinking Plasmavore alien. With the oxygen slowing draining out of the building and the Judoon tagging everyone in the place searching for an alien the pressure is on to catch the culprit.
The Plasmovore is not ranked amongst the most threatening of Doctor Who villains. Appearing as an old lady and packing a bendy straw for carrying out the blood sucking deed she would be completely laughable if not for the Judoon putting so much emphasis on trying to find her. The notion of the galactic police force is more intriguing but they never get much attention beyond that.
Freema Agyemon is walking into a difficult role, being the replacement for the immensely popular Billie Piper as Rose Tyler. Not only did Rose help usher in the first successful revival of the franchise but she supported two different Doctors admirable. Agyemon as Martha Jones certainly does do a good job, coming from a very different class and culture as Rose, which initially feels as though they’re trying their hardest to make her different in every way possible. During the course of the episode she does establish herself as her own character in taking a bit more of a shine to the Doctor.
Not a fantastic episode, feeling quite like the writers and directors are trying their hardest to make a big impression with the new series, and featuring a joke villain. It does set the scene for the new story arc and gives the Doctor plenty of material to keep his stride up.
The Shakespeare Code
This is the kind of meeting that makes Doctor Who such a great series. The quirky and endlessly witty Doctor crossing paths with some of the biggest names in history. This kind of event, when the Doctor meets someone he truly geeks out over, makes the show worthwhile. The rug is quickly pulled out from under Martha and the viewers when Shakespeare turns out to be a loutish womaniser, giving a fresh take to the figure.
With the announcement that Shakespeare is working on the new play ‘Love Labours Won’, a play that is rumoured but never found, the people of the Globe and London are in a stir. Something darker is lurking in the shadows however – a group of witches are manipulating the Bard with the intention of using his play to open a portal. The ‘witches’ are, naturally, aliens who are trying to reach their home world. The Doctor and Martha delves into an investigation as to who is behind everything and how he can stop it, with the finale revolving around Shakespeare doing what he does best to repel the invasion.
Outside of the historical cameos and in-jokes there’s not a lot to elevate this episode above the average. The enemies are no more threatening than the old vampire lady in the previous episode and the gag about Shakespeare being a bit of a prick runs dry quickly. The historical reaction to Martha wandering around makes an interesting talking point but winds up feeling uncomfortable. The episode would have been improved with a greater focus on the investigation aspect of the story. More detective work with Shakespeare would be very welcome.