(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”)