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Monday, 25 December 2006 - Reviewed by A.D. Morrison

To start on a positive note, I’m glad to say that finally Tennant seems to be coming into his stride in the role of the Doctor – apart from one or two inappropriate bursts of manic energy, overall he gave a far more restrained performance than in many previous episodes, and I’m glad to see his hairstyle was more restrained too (combed flatly forward rather than gelled up into a spiky quiff as in the previous series).

This episode’s good points first (seeing as it’s the season of goodwill). The plot, though ludicrous, seemed fairly tight and to fit together adequately, with some attempt at explanations towards the end. The Queen of the Racnoss was well realised – if one overlooked the blatant black lipstick up close – bearing a passing resemblance to Tim Curry’s Devil in the Eighties film Willow. It would have been nice to have seen her scuttling about, but you can’t have everything. The Racnoss spaceship was well-designed too, and it was a nice festive juxtaposition to have it shimmering in the Cardiff night sky like a star. The Santas are always effective, even if rehashed from last year’s Christmas Invasion (they’re obviously freelancers too). There were occasionally strong and successfully witty exchanges of dialogue between the Doctor and Catherine Tate’s Donna, who didn’t turn out to be as irritating as she could have done. It was also nice to hear a mention of Gallifrey towards the end. The scenes with the Doctor showing Donna the creation of the universe was extremely well done, not rushed, quite slow-paced and very convincing – reminding me of the Fourth Doctor showing Sarah-Jane the devastation of Earth by Sutekh in Pyramids of Mars (though as opposed to Tom Baker’s gloomy gravitas in said scene, this time we get a slightly annoyingly enthusiastic and awestruck take from the current TARDIS incumbent. However, Tennant’s line about the human race’s way of making sense of the chaos with ‘Christmas trees and calendars’ was actually quite touching and accidentally poetic). And, even though I’m not really bothered about action scenes in Who, the TARDIS was put to very good – and pivotal – use, especially in the well realised taxi chase scene. In short, this episode, though ultimately superficial and camp (see below), is still an improvement on last year’s far more pedestrian and Star Trek-esque Christmas Invasion. This time, not a simple alien invasion, but something more intrinsic and complex – though why wasn’t the Queen flushed down the plughole, which would have been a nice touch, rather than blown up in her spaceship by a tank (cue the old UNIT denouement cop outs)?

On the downside – and with all RTD stories, there’s always one of these (bar perhaps Tooth and Claw) – the script, though fairly breezy and amusing in places, is still littered inevitably with legion popular culture references and maddening bursts of the very kind of mundanity one watches Dr Who to try to escape from. Yes, Lance’s mocking of Donna’s spoon-fed philistinism – so endemic a part of our modern culture – was admittedly quite funny, and yet RTD is not a writer who actually offers any really viably challenging alternative to such mediocre TV fodder, in spite of his holding free reign on one of the few series’ with potentiality to do this. This was exemplified by the complete crassness of the Big Brother scenario in the first series’ season finale – surely even Channel Four’s ratings for said ‘programme’ couldn’t ensure a four billion year run? (No doubt only the equally interminable Coronation Street could manage that). In short, RTD just can’t do polemic – or possibly can, but just can’t be bothered. Ironic then that a writer who consistently brings in banal pop culture references into his stories, and who opportunistically cashes in on the popular consciousness in terms of scenarios whenever he can (ie, Big Brother, Weakest Link and Trinny and Suzannah) – to save money on sets and time on the hard work of mapping out decent polemic – should in turn mock the very sources of his plagiarisms whenever the whim takes him. This is clearly a writer who doesn’t really take anything that seriously – including, unfortunately for us, Doctor Who. If he’s not pointlessly dragging in the most infuriating aspects of modern culture into the series (the Tylers, Kylie references and so on), he’s then sending them up and laughing at his own mock-creations (Jackie, Micky, Donna and so on). If the Graham Williams’ Whoniverse was like the Home Counties, then RTD’s is firmly entrenched in the peroxide blandness of Essex. Well, not all British people are from Essex – or Cardiff for that matter. Self-indulgence then is RTD’s greatest flaw. It sometimes seems as if he is making the series just to play to his mates over some beers.

Apart from one particular flourish of Gershwin-esque music at the Thames Embankment scene, which was fairly ok (though utterly ill-suited), Murray Gold has continued to excel himself with another truly atrocious and inappropriate score, dominating practically every scene so you sometimes have to strain to hear the dialogue (yes, I know Dominic Glyn and Mark Ayres used to do this too, but at least their scores were evocative and imaginative). I think Murray Gold is the lovechild of Keff McCulloch and whatever troglodyte bangs out the excruciating scores for Harry Potter. This is Doctor Who – not a Hollywood blockbuster! Some atmospheric music please – and less intrusively at that! Murray Gold should simply not be allowed to write another score again. He gets worse and worse and clearly has absolutely no feel for Doctor Who at all. His music is generic, tinny and dramatically dampening; it shows little originality or sign of true engagement with what he is scoring. It’s just bad music. Get rid of it.

The real solecism of this episode is of course the continuing re-emergence every now and then of the Doctor-Rose ‘romance’. This is just getting beyond the joke now. She’s gone for God’s sake. Just drop that thread – it was tedious and irrelevant anyway. The Doctor’s tearful look at the end of the episode when mentioning her name again could only be the expression of someone mourning a lost love affair – there’s no other way to interpret it, and apparently all concerned with the production of the programme today have absolutely no problem with this needless and undermining intrusion into the traditionally Sherlockian Doctor. Well, it’s a great pity it ever happened in the first place, and I just hope to God the same cheap plot device doesn’t resurface with the new companion in 2007. The writers just have to rise above such easy slush, and get on with decent story telling and more intelligent focus on the Doctor’s true character and nature.

What with heartache, a Doctor drooping like a lovelorn dog, stray brides and romantic flashbacks in discos… I don’t know. What’s going to be next? Four Daleks and a Funeral (well, he’s got those glasses)? Who, Actually? Well, we’ve already had Doctor in Love.

Overall then an inevitably break-neck and frivolous episode but admittedly fairly successful as pure children’s entertainment. And thankfully, apart from the slightly lewd comment from the Doctor whilst Tate’s cleavage bulged into view, ‘they’re bigger on the inside’, no other inappropriate sexual innuendoes were evident this run. Hopefully we’ve seen the end of the Kenneth Williams’ Doctor, and are going to see more of David Tennant’s from now on.





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Monday, 25 December 2006 - Reviewed by Adam Leslie

I've always been a champion of Russell T. Davies. While there have been a few elements that have mildly irked me - the over-reliance on earth locations being the main one - I've always defended him against the "sack him now!!" brigade. He put in huge amounts of effort and love into bringing Doctor Who back to the screen, and has provided the country with good quality Saturday teatime entertainment time and again.

My loyalty is slipping, perhaps. Last year we were given a Christmas Special; this year I felt like it was more of a Christmas Ordinary.

Averageness is not something I necessarily object to per se - we all have off-days, not everything can be cream of the crop. What I didn't like about this Christmas special, though, was that it felt like Russell Davies by numbers, it felt like a repeat. It worried me that, at a time when RTD should have been dazzling us with newer and greater things, he was so clearly saying, "well, it worked last year..."

Wouldn't Christmas have been the perfect time to have finally lifted off from the surface of the earth and have seen magical worlds of wonder? But no, more 2006 London ordinariness. Yet another mouthy Cockney (Rose Tyler Extra Strength; or a terrifying concoction of Rose and Jackie) whose plans with a somewhat hapless black boyfriend are shattered by the arrival of the Doctor. Those robots Santas, who last year were so creepy in their fleeting role, now just feel reheated and too much autons/cybermen/clockwork robots. The killer Christmas trees again (the baubles are bombs this time? Did a 10-year-old write this?). A big ugly alien with a big ugly spaceship floating above London. Yet more running and screaming as a casualty-free massacre erupts in the city streets (don't these people get tired of running and screaming? And the little girl with practically minutes to escape the marauding laser was sadly laughable.) A very familiar-feeling final confrontation in a very familiar-feeling underground lair. At least we were spared BBC News 24 on this occasion.

As for the ending... well, the Doctor has always had dodgy taste in women, as we know often preferring whiny airheads over proper companionship, but Doc 10 going all gooey-eyed over Donna's refusal to join him in the TARDIS was a low moment, even by his standards. I was half expecting him to say, "Donna, would you like to... ah, uh, never mind". Now, that would have made up for a lot.

So, what of the rest of the episode? David Tennant was good as ever, Catherine Tate had some moments (I'm not a fan of her show, but she was okay in this), and the spider costume was impressive. But it was all dramatically redundant - The Doctor saved the day by knocking some robots out with his sonic screwdriver, pocketing their remote-control bombs and using them against the baddie. Yes, it was as easy as that. There was never a real feeling of peril to any of it. Even The Doctor's rage as he flooded out the spider's nest - while nicely acted - felt like yet another box checked. Oh, and we mustn't forget to mention how great humans are.

So, it was okay. No big crime. Except... I just hope this isn't RTD out of ideas. Does he have anything else in him? Could he do a Castrovalva or a Warrior's Gate or an Enlightenment, or example? I'm beginning to see the template now; it's beginning to be a bit too obvious how the magician does his tricks.





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Monday, 25 December 2006 - Reviewed by Alan McDonald

Where last year's 'The Christmas Invasion' was about rebirth, renewal and starting again, 'The Runaway Bride' finds itself faced with the task of getting the Doctor past his grief over the loss of Rose.

As far as that goes, it is quite successful since, as ever, the real gold in this Russell T Davies episode is the emotional payoff at the end.

However, it says a great deal, I think, that halfway through the episode I found myself feeling sure that I would find the ending hugely touching and was willing most the episode away so that end would come sooner. This wish came mostly from the presence of two other RTD mainstays - the 'knockaround' opening full of chav jokes and the relatively simple main plot.

Davies proved last season with 'The Christmas Invasion', 'Doomsday' and 'Love and Monsters' (to some extent - it's great writing, just not necessarily Doctor Who writing) that he can develop an interesting plot in an interesting way but once again he seems to have fallen back into the habit of simply writing lots of chase sequences and having a villain do some posturing before he can finally get to the emotional payoff which he really wants to write. The TARDIS road chase set a new benchmark for the series and the trip to the beginnings of the Earth was lovely, but neither made up for the fact that the majority of this story was set around a wedding reception disco and a poorly-realised, rather bland basement.

Just when I thought the plot was taking a nice twist as the Empress of Racnoss (beautifully put together and played but, again, oddly written - a primal creature from the beginnings of the universe who does little more than make poor jokes throughout) ascended back into her ship, Davies goes for the cop-out option and has the Doctor rattle off an explanatory line about her power being used up so she can be very easily shot out of the sky.

'The Runaway Bride' isn't bad, as such, and the numerous glowing reviews in the press seem to put me in the minority, but it just felt very by-the-numbers and uninspired to me. When the Doctor and Donna are bantering or sharing their pain it is a beautiful piece. It's just a pity that the main bones of the story are so reminiscent of a bad Christmas present - very prettily wrapped but the present inside is nowhere near as exciting. And whoever came up with the ridiculously incongruous moment on those two-wheeled motorised things should be let nowhere near a TARDIS again ...

As far as the rest of the production goes, the crew struggle mightily with Davies' expectations and only half-succeed in finding locations which don't just look like large empty spaces given 'spooky' lighting. They are also fighting against the time of year, the summer's heatwave clearly interfering with the Christmassy feel which last year's special enjoyed. Tennant and, surprisingly, Catherine Tate are both very good and Sarah Parish's Empress is extremely watchable. Murray Gold's score, after the searing beauty of last year's highlights, is a little annoying in places but it is entirely possible that is due to Davies' direction that this episode feel like a 'romp'.

As for the season 3 trailer - didn't give much away, did it? The shots of The Globe and the black Dalek were very pleasing but the rest just seemed to be lots of running and screaming all spliced together. It does look like season 3 will be a darker one, though, giving Tennant more to play with.

Overall, then, the show seems in very good shape. It can do breakneck adventure in its sleep now, which is exactly why it should be pushed further into darker, edgier scripts. I'm not forgetting the intended family audience but there's a world of difference between a 'Girl in the Fireplace'/'Satan Pit' and a 'New Earth'/'Runaway Bride', so lets hope for more of the former.





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Monday, 25 December 2006 - Reviewed by Tom Hughes

Well after 27 episodes with Billie Piper in the role of 'Rose' I've got to say that when sitting down to 'The Runaway Bride' on Christmas Day I was a little apprehensive - What would it be like? Would I like it? How would this first episode without Rose compare to the previous 27? Well let's say now, all things considered I thought it was absolutely fantastic.

David Tennant put in one of his most confident performances yet as the Doctor. He seemed very comfortable with his role - something that lacked a little during Season Two. He's no longer the new kid on the block. Meanwhile Catherine Tate seemlessly fitted into the role of Donna, the instantly likeable loudmouthed, and dare I say extremely naieve bride about to be married. It's summed up after the Doctor finds out she missed the events of 'The Christmas Invasion' and 'Doomsday' - 'That big picture Donna, you seem to keep missing it'. Between the two of them they created a fantastic rapore with each other throwing in honest humour, drama, shock and the occassional flashes of darkness that set this episode apart from some of the others.

Of course the dyanamics between the actors that have contributed to the success of the episode would be nothing without the plot to hang it on. Here we had exactly the right balance. The honesty is that this plot was something light - like Christmas wrapping paper, something to wrap all these relationships together whilst staying in the background until the big climax. This allowed the opportunities for the writers to linger over some parts to give explanation, to develop the unsaid, whether it be the brief moments spent discussing how the Doctor spent last Christmas, or whether it be the moments looking at how Donna's relationship to Lance developed. I know that some people may not have liked this - but it's ideal for the series longevity because here we have a story which any viewer could watch regardless of whether they'd seen any other episode of the series.

How have I made these judgements? Well, the eureka moment so to speak is when Lance's true colours have been revealed. You know the relationships built up throughout the episode are successful when you get that genuine sense of sympathy for Donna that Lance has treated her so badly. This all brings things to a thrilling climax and one that leads to the Doctor finally saying the name of his home planet - fantastic!

This episode was the ideal Christmas romp, providing the right injection into the show to cope with the loss of Rose. Of course we know the series has a bigger mountain to climb now - we can see the success in one episode, we have even had a sneak preview into Season Three - the tantalising glimpse of an old foe, and a new companion. How these episodes will gell together though is anyone's guess, but if this is anything to go by we shouldn't have any problems...





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Monday, 25 December 2006 - Reviewed by Calum Corral

Christmas Day was not always this way. In the deep and distant past, there was little mention of Doctor Who on our screens but these days, you can't move!

1pm Dr Who confidential, then watch the concert on digital till 3.30. Take half an hour for Christmas dinner. 4pm - Jo Whiley and David Tennant on Radio 1 (Doctor Who is now the epitome of cool!) and then 7pm - the grand arrival of the most hyped Doctor Who episode ever. Then on to the web to listen to the podcast. From 1-9pm total Doctor Who!

What followed was an hour of fast frenetic entertainment gushing with excellent dialogue, smashing and stunning special effects, plenty of festive frolics, and of course, it was a lot of fun. Credit must be given to Russell T Davies who must have been itching to write this episode since Doctor Who hit the screens. What would happen if a runaway bride turned up in the Tardis and didn't want to be with the Doctor at all was the starting premise but some of the fantastic lines which followed were wonderful and so funny. I liked how she referred to the Doctor as a martian and her angry volatile reactions were fuelled by her being taking away at her proudest moment ... and the Doctor, heartbroken after losing Rose, almost powerless.

The amazing Tardis chase sequence on the motorway was simply stunning and had something of the Harry Potters about it. How J K Rowling must regret not taking up the offer to write a script for Doctor Who, especially now Who tops the annual charts. The Tardis shooting up into the air at the finale was also magical and loved the bit when the snow shower came on. I would like to see more of that kind of special effects done with the Tardis. Maybe it is just something they keep up their sleeves for Christmas after the spectacular crash-landing at the opening of last year's Christmas Invasion.

The Emperor of Racnoss was a rather horrible enemy and while there was some surprise twists and turns, especially with Donna's fiancee, the special effects were again excellent and Sarah Parish was suitabily villainous for the part.

There were so many great lines it is difficult to know where to start. I loved the comments from Donna that she missed the Sycorax last Christmas because she had a hangover, and she was on Spain on holiday during the Cybermen and Dalek invasions. It was just hilariously written right down to the Doctor's pockets being bigger on the inside than the out. Just first class.

The programme also had the underlying sense of loss the Doctor felt for Rose and there were some amazing occasions when it really brought things home, even during the chase sequence when Donna asked the Doctor if she could trust him, and then that final parting scene when Donna asked Rose's name and the look on the Doctor's face. It was also beautiful and pulled at the heart-strings.

Catherine Tate really added great personality and attitude to the part and she has to be commended for being perhaps the funniest and most enjoyable companion ever. The scenes between the Doctor and Donna were terrific and there was real dynamism between the two of them who played off each other wonderfully well.

I loved the final Tardis sequence as it shot up into the sky and of course the snow effect which was simply - Wow! It is everything Doctor Who should be. Even the sequence when Donna realised that the wedding reception carried on without her, and Donna's description about how she got together with her fiancee, which had more than a few white lies thrown in, added to the depth and feeling for the charactor of Donna who of course, you didn't like at first, but she quickly grew on you. I loved her fiancee's comments about how bored he was with her talk about the X Factor and such like! Just brilliant. The well-crafted dialogue was a dream come true and kept you giggling throughout. The range of expressions on the shocked Doctor's face at times was a real picture - it almost reminded you of the days of Pat Troughton and Tom Baker who had mystified expressions down to a tee.

The musical score throughout was as expected marvellous. I thought the music in particular to match the Tardis chase sequence was particularly good. And those flashbacks to Rose during the wedding reception were certainly pulling at those heartstrings again.

Donna's summation that the Doctor needs someone was an interesting moment at the end and certainly leaves you hanging on for the next season.

The season 3 preview looked exciting and Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones looks every part a spectacular addition to the cast. I thought from the brief clips she looked wonderful. With the Face of Boe making his final arrival, and a Dalek making an appearance right in the final clip, it certainly left you gasping for more.

Overall, a terrific day of entertainment for a Doctor Who fan like myself and a rip-roaring adventure full of dazzling brilliance which captured the essence of everything Doctor Who is about ... and perhaps makes the show now a staple diet of the Christmas tv schedules.





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Friday, 15 December 2006 - Reviewed by Eddy Wolverson

“The Moonbase” is an absolutely cracking little serial, and of all these missing stories, this story has such a wealth of photographic and audio material still existing that one can enjoy the story almost as it was originally intended. As with “The Crusade,” the Lost in Time DVD contains both existing episodes and the soundtracks to both the missing episodes, making the BBC Radio Collection CD virtually redundant. I say virtually, because I managed to get an extra bit of mileage out of mine, using the soundtrack with Frazer Hines’ narration in synch with the telesnaps on the BBC website to create a decent little reconstruction of Episodes 1 and 3!

I actually rate this story above both “The Tomb of the Cybermen” and “The Wheel In Space,” and although I prefer “The Invasion” as a story, this is definitely the best ‘proper’ Cybermen story of the Troughton era (the Cybermen we later see in “The Invasion” are overshadowed by Tobias Vaughn and UNIT. They barely even speak.) Surprisingly for a television show that aired in 1967, “The Moonbase” has a very realistic feel. The weather control device on the moon is populated by a very cosmopolitan crew, and the design of the place isn’t as cringe worthy as other contemporary takes on ‘the future.’ The story is also very good; fast-paced and exciting. The first episode sets things up wonderfully; Morris Barry’s direction is particularly good as he uses shadows of the Cybermen to build up the suspense – Joe Ahearne used a similar trick with the Daleks recently in “Bad Wolf” to similar effect, so Barry must have been doing something right! Sadly, lovely little touches like this don’t work on audio, but when combined with telesnaps you just about get the picture.

For the most part a tense and claustrophobic story, much of the plot revolves around the Doctor and his companions investigating the strange plague that is slowly killing the crew of the base. Like certain eagle-eyed viewers at home, the Doctor knows it is the Cybermen behind the plague, but he just can’t convince the crew of that until it is too late… However, Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis’ script certainly isn’t without humour; and quite clever humour at that. “The Moonbase” is notorious for the sexist treatment Polly has to put up with, not only from the “make a cup of coffee, Polly” Doctor, but also from just about everyone else she comes across in the story!

“Not you, Polly. This is men’s work!”

And so Doctor Who is hammered by critics for being sexist, which at times is a fair criticism – but not here! These critics forget that it is Polly alone who creates the ‘pollycocktail’ that destroys some of the Cybermen! If anything, in having Polly help save the day, the writers of “The Moonbase” were actually taking the piss out of sexist people, not endorsing sexism!

“The Moonbase” isn’t perfect though. As with the previous story, Frazer Hines’ Jamie is given little to do as the result of being written in at the last minute. He’s unconscious for the first episode, and then spends half the serial in sickbay with a fever. Moreover, after four years of television the Doctor finally visits the moon which is great, but he’s accepted far too easily by the crew for my liking. And finally, after all the hype surrounding the Cybermats, they don’t really impress at all. The story about how they carry the plague is clever and works well, but sadly the visual effects of the time weren’t quite up to the job.

Images of the Cybermen coming out of the sewers near St. Paul’s Cathedral, or emerging from the Ice Tombs of Telos are burned into the memories of so many Doctor Who fans, but I would argue that the Cybermen marching across the surface of the moon with that evocative stock music (the same piece used in “The Tomb of the Cybermen”) playing is just as enduring an image... It’s a shame it’s missing.