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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “The Runaway Bride”

(Don’t miss the introduction to my Doctor Who drooling…)

(previous: Season 2, Episodes 12/13: “Army of Ghosts”/“Doomsday”)

If it’s Christmastime in Russell Davies’ universe, that must mean it’s time for another extraterrestrial plot to take over and/or destroy the Earth, with the chance of alien spaceships over London 100 percent.

Oh, I make fun, but I do that only cuz I’m so embarrassed that I have, once again, fallen head over heels for Doctor Who, and for the Doctor. I had a few Who-free months there during which I forgot how deeply obsessive I can be over this silly show — how deeply obsessive I have been about this show since I was about 13 years old. But that’s fine when you’re a kid. I should have outgrown this nonsense by now, shouldn’t I?
All of a sudden, though, I once again can’t stop thinking about Doctor Who, or the Doctor. It’s pathetic, but I really am in love with him. I don’t mean I have a celebrity crush on David Tennant, though of course he’s totally adorable and I certainly wouldn’t turn him down. But he is not the Doctor, and I am in love with the Doctor — as Mia Farrow says about her imaginary perfect man in The Purple Rose of Cairo, “He’s fictional, but you can’t have everything.” I’ve been in love with the Doctor since I was 13, and through all his incarnations since, but this one in particular has really wormed his way into my heart. Sorry, Peter Davison Doctor No. 5, but I have a new favorite Doctor.

Part of that is down to Tennant, who’s such a wonderfully expressive actor, letting all sorts of emotion flit across his face in tiny but vivid ways, and conversely such a profusely physical one, too: the little hurry-up dance he does while waiting for the ATM in this episode is hilarious, for all that it lasts mere seconds onscreen. But none of his talent would matter if producer/sometime writer Russell Davies hadn’t completely reimagined Who along the same lines I would have done it, if I could have convinced the BBC to pay me, instead of Davies, to write fan fiction. Davies doesn’t just know the history of the show the way that only a lifelong and totally devoted Whovian could, he knows the way that Doctor Who geeks have always related to the show: as if we were seeing only the tip of the iceberg, dramatically and emotionally. We knew there was way more than met the eye in the old kiddie incarnation, and now Davies is showing us the rest of the iceberg that had been hidden below the dark, still waters.

So yes, “The Runaway Bride” is just a big goofy lark — it looks like Doctor Who is becoming an electronic equivalent of the British tradition of children’s pantomine at Christmas, though Davies is giving a whole generation of kids a complex about exploding Christmas trees and killer robot Santas. But it is loaded with stuff that makes you love how respectfully and seriously Davies is approaching Who… and with stuff that makes you hate him, the bastard, because he knows precisely which buttons to push to get us mad, or sad, or fall even more deeply in love with the Doctor, which is just a ridiculous thing for a down-to-earth, logical, realistic grownup to be doing.

Like this: Having the Doctor stand apart, all by himself at the bar at Donna’s non-wedding reception, haunted by memories of Rose, while everyone else dances happily to a song clearly designed specifically to taunt the Doctor: “Reel me in, my precious girl / Come on, take me home / Cuz my body’s tired of traveling / And my heart don’t wish to roam.” And clearly designed to taunt us, because we know that no matter how in love with anyone the Doctor ever is, there’s no way in the universe his hearts don’t wish to roam. We know he’s doomed to a life of lonely torment for however many more centuries he manages to escape being killed by Daleks. And thank you so much, Davies, for reminding him — and us — of that. What a pal.

Or even something as simple as the fact that the Doctor’s a bit rough-looking, a bit unshaven, from time to time. The Doctor never used to sport five o’clock shadow — used to be the Doctor was all but asexual. Davies isn’t shying away from the fact that the Doctor may be a Time Lord, but he’s still a man. Davies’ Doctor — as played by both Eccleston and Tennant — is masculine in a way that he never was before, except in the imagination of smitten fans.

So is it any surprise that a smitten fan would be totally infuriated by Donna? What a stupid bint! I mean, yes to Catherine Tate, who’s very funny, and I gots no complaints against the clear dramatic impetus behind throwing the Doctor in with someone who doesn’t like him, doesn’t like what he does, and just wants out. But she does not deserve him. She is not worthy of traveling with him. So yeah, it makes sense, from the perspective of creating dramatic conflict, that she should say, “Is that what you told her? ‘Trust me’?”, that she should snark to the Doctor about Rose when he’s only trying to save her life. But how dare she? Doesn’t she know how many of us would willing trade places with her? “You scare me to death,” she tells him, but c’mon: doesn’t he thrill you, too? If not, you don’t belong in the TARDIS, and it can only be a measure of the Doctor’s extreme loneliness that he would even ask someone like her to join him. Oh, Doctor: you’re as pathetic as we are…

Random thoughts on “The Runaway Bride”:

• “I’m a freelancer.” Yup, this is Generation X’s Doctor, that’s for sure.

• Wait: the Doctor robbed a bank?

• Two blokes are dancing together at the reception. Take that, bigots.

• Heh: “human resources” as evil.

• Margaret’s surfboard!

• “I’m making it up as I go along.” The Doctor and Indiana Jones, together again for the first time, in spirit, at least.

(next: Episode 1: “Smith & Jones”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
posted in:
tv buzz
  • Moe

    You need to fall head over heels for a better show called, “The Wire”. If you don’t get HBO, run out and get the first season set.

    http://www.metacritic.com/tv/shows/wireseason4

  • MaryAnn

    And this has what to do with Doctor Who?

  • Poly

    I am not very familiar with old Who, but the RTD era reminded me of Indiana Jones right from the beginning. The love of adventure not as meaningless distraction but as the meaning of life.

  • Moe

    Not a thing, Maryanne. Other than the fact that it’s a better show in every measurable way possible and i’d love to get your opinion of it.

  • I lived in England from ’79 to ’82, so I got to see a lot of the later Tom Baker and the early Peter Davison episodes in their original airings. For me, Baker is still the quintessential Doctor, with his incredibly long scarves and his more-cerebral-than-usual approach to being the Doctor. (For example, the bit in City of Death where he writes “THIS IS A FAKE” on the backs of canvases upon which Leonardo da Vinci has painted duplicates of the Mona Lisa.) Davison just seemed to come off as kind of weak, especially compared to Baker, but he did have some really good companions, especially Tegan, Nyssa, and Adric (who died in my all-time favorite Who story, Earthshock).

    I really liked Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor quite a bit, but I have to say that this past season, David Tennant has surpassed him. The way in which Rose was forced away from the Doctor was beautifully handled, and Tennant’s manic acting and facial expressions are priceless.

    As far as The Runaway Bride went, I agree with you: Donna Noble was pretty much a Nell Fenwick character (from Dudley Do-Right), constantly in peril and screaming for help the whole time. It strained credulity that she would be in the wedding dress the whole time… for crying out loud, couldn’t she have dipped into the TARDIS’ wardrobe at some point?

    And one point I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief on: A shaft running from below the Thames all the way to the center of the Earth? Come on. Wouldn’t it have been spewing liquid hot magma all over the place?

    Still, pretty enjoyable show.

  • Dennis Domingo

    Sister, I’m feelin’ ya. Like you I was a Who fan as a kid and I remember watching the show on late night PBS. I loved watching this anti-hero stroll into the unknown with a cast off self assurance that he would be able to sort anything that came his way. But I outgrew the show. And that was what I was afraid of when I tentatively picked up the new DVD’s. I went for the episode “Dalek” seeing as how I didn’t need any of the “introducing the Doctor” stuff of earlier episodes. I went right for the heart of it.
    Of course you probably knew what I found. He was still the all knowing Time Lord but he was being written and portrayed as a much more vulnerable, emotional being. I remember seeing the Doctor storm at that helpless chained dalek in shock at Eccleston’s portrayal of such raw, unforgiving rage. Piper’s sympathy for the dalek didn’t do much for me but the grief and guilt later shown by Eccleston as he ‘condemned’ Rose to death as well as his sense of loss not only of his people but of something that was once so integral to him, his compassion, showed me there was a very important idea the creative team behind this show had.
    I guess its the idea that the Doctor is being written and portrayed by people who “get it.” All the Sci Fi stuff is just something bigger than you to lose yourself in. That’s the part you grow out of (kicking and screaming all the way in my case) and it makes for a great first layer of story. But the makers of ‘Who’ also know who this character is and they use him and his supporting cast to speak about some very deep parts of human nature, loss, fear, healing, love and loneliness.
    Yeah, I’m lovin’ it too. Got hooked in Jan of ’07 and been absolutely mad for every scrap I can get since.
    Oh BTW, if you didn’t like Donna you’re in for a bit of a rude surprise.

  • Dennis Domingo

    Oh, btw, loved the blog.

  • MaryAnn

    Yes, I know that Donna will be returning next year. I’m hoping she will have grown and learned from her experience with the Doctor and will be a better person for it.

  • I’m a longtime fan of Doctor Who, and it’s a great show because not only is it terribly unique in form but it also keeps changing.

    Every fan of Doctor Who has his or her favorite Doctor. That’s a great thing.

    I’ve yet to see why so many fans regard Tennant as a strong actor or the best Doctor. To be fair, he has to contend with the combination a terribly misguided head writer/producer, and the worst music I’ve ever heard in the program’s entire history (and I’m including Mawdryn Undead).

    He has his strengths, but he is so undone by the manic speed and whimsical nature of the new program that his best moments are almost immediately obscured by something as silly as a musical dance routine with John Simm.

    His last scene with Simm is outstanding, but then we’ve just been treated to the most inane conclusion to any Doctor Who story ever recorded.

    He has his classic episodes, such as Girl in the Fireplace, Satan Pit and Human Nature, but more often than not I’m left wondering why I should care about him, the show or the story.

    Every resolution to a problem that the Doctor dishes out is so outrageous and nonsensical it can only be explained away as happening because the program wants it to be so.

    It’s like the Williams era of the Classic series only it’s not funny… and that’s all that era had aside from Tom Baker.

    But like I said, every Doctor has his fan and you can’t take that away from them.

    Tennant is definitely better this year, but still has a long way to go for my taste. Maybe I’ll luck out with the next one.

    … And yes, the Wire is an absolutely amazing program, as is Life on Mars.

    I cannot recommend them enough.

  • MaryAnn

    a terribly misguided head writer/producer

    Are you watching the same show as the rest of us? Russell Davies is brilliant. What do you see as “misguided” about what he’s done with the show?

    whimsical nature of the new program

    Okay, so you’re NOT watching the same show as the rest of us. Whimsical? I’m crying my eyes out at Doctor Who, and I never could have thought that was possible, even at the height of my Whovianism.

    His last scene with Simm is outstanding, but then we’ve just been treated to the most inane conclusion to any Doctor Who story ever recorded.

    Hey, I said NO SPOILERS. We haven’t gotten that far yet in the States — season 3 has only just started airing here.

  • Cthulhu

    I think something that hasn’t been touched upon is how Donna is far more like a “surburban English woman” than either Rose or Martha.

    She’s not particularly bright, isn’t interested in anything that doesn’t directly effect her, is really only interested in finding a bloke to marry and have kids & drinks far too much booze!! I should know – I live in the suburbs!! LOL

    In many ways she’s a fantastic character…

  • Sonia

    I would just like to very quickly say that I too think Tennant is brilliant.
    And I too have cried my eyes out!

  • boz

    4th season started with Catherine Tate, I just can’t stand her. She irritates me every second. There’s a major spoiler for 4th season premiere but I won’t tell it, not here at the least :)

  • MaryAnn

    Tate appears in the entire new season. So if you’re not a Tate fan, you’re in trouble.

  • I used to feel the same about Tate but she’s starting to win me over after Saturday’s episode. She has a chemistry with Tennant that the lovely Freema Agyeman never quite managed.

  • boz

    “Tate appears in the entire new season. So if you’re not a Tate fan, you’re in trouble.”

    I know, I still don’t like her.

  • Weimlady

    Just watched this on BBC America over the weekend and pardon the steam coming out my ears, but they freakin’ BUTCHERED it. If their hack-job version is all you’ve seen, dear reader, then go out now and get the DVD because nothing in MaryAnn’s blog will make any sense to you. In fact, the episode Turn Left will make no sense to you. I know–I was watching with a friend who only knew the show from SciFi and she was totally lost in Turn Left. Why? Well, the scene where the Doctor is lost in his destruction of the Racnoss and Donna has to call him back to himself so they can save themselves is GONE. So my friend had no clue as to why Donna’s not being there was important. She didn’t even realize the Doctor had died (in Turn Left) because Donna hadn’t been there to save him from himself.

    Other missing bits (just from memory–probably more)–

    *People driving by & making fun of Donna in her wedding dress trying to get a ride.
    *The Doctor & Donna trying to hail a cab (great bit of physical work by the two of them)
    *The Doctor’s little dance of impatience at the ATM
    *The Doctor’s memories of Rose at the reception.
    *Donna’s grief in the TARDIS after Lance has gutted her emotionally before the Doctor shows her the beginning of the earth.
    *The ENTIRE LAST FREAKIN’ SCENE where she invites him for Christmas dinner, he agrees, nearly escapes, comes back when she shouts (“You can’t half shout!”) for him, she says she wants to change her life and travel the dust of the Earth that she saw coming together, his offer to take her travelling, her refusal–ALL GONE!!!! Oh. My. God.

    There should be a law. The copyright violators on Youtube are at least respecting the artistic integrity of the program, which clearly its parent company is not.

  • Weimlady

    Just remembered another cut–where the Doctor is scanning Donna, trying to figure out what’s special about her.

    He says “Weird, you’re not special, you’re not powerful, you’re not connected, you’re not clever, you’re not important…?”

    They cut the speech after “powerful”. And of course that means we lost Donna’s line, “This friend of yours, just before she left, did she punch you in the face?”

    OK, I’ll quit now. Steam is still coming out ears but just sort of fizzling now, not whistling. Thanks for letting me vent. Could have been ugly otherwise.

  • Gaynell Bates

    They have done this with both Christmas episodes that they air since these run 60 min. plus in the UK and 45 minutes with 15 minutes of commercials. At least when the Scifi channel aired them, they put them in an hour and a half time slot. I’ll hate to see what they do with Voyage of the Damned since that starts around 70 minutes. If they cut that to 45 or under they’ll be cutting out about 1/3 of the story.

    GB

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