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...