Having already reviewed the first Tenth Doctor Christmas story a few years ago, we jump straight to the second. The Runaway Bride features the debut of future companion Donna Noble, and even dabbles in the Dark Times (which is relevant to the current Time Lord Victorious storyline being released…) Overall though it is what it was always meant to be: a fun Christmas story, with a bit of Doctor rehabilitation after losing Rose in the previous story. Let’s take a look then!
The Doctor is baffled when a young woman is transported to the TARDIS on her wedding day, and attempts to find out how she is connected to an alien plot to destroy Earth.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
I mean… that’s their relationship summed up perfectly in two expressions, really!
The best part of the story is definitely the Doctor and Donna relationship, which is funny as when this first aired I was quite down on it because I found Donna “annoying”, but I have say, probably more due to her later series, she did grow on me. Now, in 2020 (just) I don’t really know what I was going on about, because I genuinely found her and The Doctor’s interactions here funny. Donna is in the middle of her wedding and suddenly finds herself in the TARDIS, getting angry at The Doctor for she presumes is some sort of alien kidnapping her, while our resident Time Lord is just baffled. The first half of the story sees The Doctor drop Donna off back home, only to realise she’s being pursued by the same Santa-dressed “Roboforms” from the previous Christmas special. A car chase including a jump from car-to-TARDIS later and they manage to make it to the wedding reception, where Donna is angry they had it without them (and oddly everyone was mad at her for pulling a “silly trick” by vanishing into thin air).
The reception is attacked by the Roboforms and soon The Doctor, Donna and her would-be husband Lance (Don Gilet) investigate the company the pair work for and find a large underground lab where someone is creating a very specific type of energy, one that hasn’t been seen since the “Dark Times” of the universe, and the same energy that flung Donna into the TARDIS. The Empress of the Racnoss (Sarah Parish), a race that was thought to be extinct since the Dark Times, arrives and reveals that Lance was actually on her side and had been secretly dosing Donna with the energy via coffee for months, and the whole relationship was a sham to please the Racnoss. The Doctor and Donna escape in the TARDIS and have a bit of a heart to heart…s, before they watch the Earth itself being formed and notice a Racnoss ship actually formed the core of the planet around itself. They return to Earth only for Donna to be kidnapped and brought to the Racnoss Empress, finding out that unsurprisingly she betrayed Lance and strung him up as well.
Turns out this was all to create enough energy to hatch the eggs she left in the centre of the Earth, and to give them a feast to start with Lance is dropped into the hole. The Doctor arrives in time to save Donna and then gives the Empress one chance to collect her children and be dropped off on an uninhabited world, but she refuses and so The Doctor floods the building, and specifically the hole where the recently hatched Racnoss are trying to climb up. Donna snaps The Doctor out of it in time for the two to escape as the Empress mourns the death of her children, then tries to attack London in her star-shaped spaceship… only to be blown to pieces by UNIT. The Doctor drops Donna off and the two part, the latter deciding not to go with the Time Lord on his adventures.
It’s a fun story overall, plenty of comedy but still some drama with what Donna goes through and The Doctor slowly becoming okay with having someone else on board his ship.
For as hammy as she was, still good use of practical effects!
My only real complaint is the Racnoss Empress. I don’t mind hammy, scenery-chewing performances, especially in lighter Christmas stories like this one, but this was just that bit too far for my liking. Some of her lines were bad enough (“eat you up all snicker-snacker” comes to mind…) but the delivery, well… lived up to them and more. It is sort of funny how OTT it is, but it’s also… not, a lot of the time…
I’m not sure how this has floated around the universe for billions of years without ever being attacked, but whatever…
This carries on directly from the end of “Army of Ghosts / Doomsday”, and Donna returns and begins travelling with The Doctor in “Partners in Crime”, plus the returning “Roboforms” from the previous Christmas Special “The Christmas Invasion” are all the obvious ones. Also in the story “Turn Left”, which shows a world where The Doctor hadn’t met Donna, reveals that The Doctor would’ve died via drowning during this story had she not been around to stop him.
I also have to mention that the opening moments of this story mirror the opening moments of the Eighth Doctor audio “Blood of the Daleks”, where the similarly mouthy Lucie Miller appears suddenly inside the TARDIS console room and begins to accuse The Doctor of abducting her, they both even refer to him as a “Martian”. Oddly Runaway Bride was filmed in July 2006, Blood of the Daleks was recorded August 2006, which means they were probably written around the same time, so maybe it was a big coincidence?
The Fifth Doctor encountered the Racnoss Empress, plus other members of her species, during the audio story “Empire of the Racnoss”.
Is it the poor quality screenshot, or was it poor green-screen? We’ll never know…
The Runaway Bride is a fun ride from start to finish, with the combination of Donna and The Doctor being comedic gold, and handy for a bit of drama. While the Racnoss Empress and her way… WAY over the top performance takes it down a bit, it’s still one of the more solid Christmas Specials on offer.