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14 January 2015 @ 08:18 pm
NuWho Rewatch: The Runaway Bride  
The Runaway Bride is better if you watch it after you've decided Donna is great. Back in 2006 I was simply "Catherine Who?" and I found Donna rather over-the-top and irritating (NB. Tame Layman still considers Donna over-the-top and irritating. There was no way we were getting him to rewatch this with us). Since she dominates the story, if you haven't warmed to her you are never going to get much out of it.

Rewatching, I can see that it is actually quite carefully constructed. Once Donna accepts that something has happened then she moves on remarkably quickly with very little rancour. We get lots of opportunities to see beneath her surface bluster, if you are looking for them. You can see why the Doctor comes to like her (OK, given Tame Layman, I can see why the Doctor comes to like her).

The scene on the segways is, I think, the key turning point. Donna is laughing at the ridiculousness of the whole thing while Lance is bemused, irritated and anxious. It's like a litmus test for who would make a good companion. As an aside, given an equally ridiculous segway scene in Waters of Mars, I'm given to wondering exactly what Davies thought was so great about segways.

NLSS Child, who has google and Youtube (mostly Youtube, tbh) at her fingertips, informs me that Donna Noble translates as "Time Lady". That's not quite correct - it's more Noble Lady or Gentlewoman, perhaps - but it is still an interesting coincidence given I'm sure Donna's arc wasn't even a glimmer in Davies' eye at this point.

It's a better Christmas special than The Christmas Invasion. The Doctor is awake, for a start, and Donna is such a breath of fresh air as a companion and, even if you don't like her, a useful contrast to Rose. Catherine Tate, apparently effortlessly, conveys both her brashness and her decency and vulnerability. The story is also more self-contained than The Christmas Invasion which was trying to introduce Torchwood as well as tie into Rose's backstory and family while The Runaway Bride is expecting to be standalone.

I really enjoyed rewatching this, though, of course, I had been converted to a Donna fan since seeing it first time around.

*I think, anyway, Tame Layman notwithstanding.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/137146.html.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on January 14th, 2015 08:57 pm (UTC)
I wonder whether Russell knew that the locations where he used the segways existed (the tunnels underneath the Millennium Stadium, I think) and just thought that they would be a good visual?

I've seen it argued that RTD's problem with Donna in The Runaway Bride was that he was writing his version of a Catherine Tate Show character, and Catherine Tate as far as possible was delivering an actor's reading of the character rather than playing it as if she was one of her own creations. I'm not sure how far that works.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 15th, 2015 12:25 pm (UTC)
That's an interesting point about the character. I know I disliked Donna the first time I saw this, but warmed to her almost immediately in Partners in Crime, which might suggest a different approach to the writing.
shivver13: Ten with kittenshivver13 on January 14th, 2015 09:23 pm (UTC)
I pretty much agree with everything you've written here. I think that part of the point of the episode was that both the Doctor and Donna develop with help from the other: as you mentioned, Donna moves on and becomes more mature as she accepts what's going on, while the Doctor, fresh off the loss of Rose, starts to open up to Donna by the end of the episode.

I've seen the reasoning behind "Donna Noble" translating to "Time Lady", and you're right, it's incorrect. The actual argument was for "Donna Temple-Noble", her name after she marries Shaun, meaning "Lady Time Lord", but it was wrong. It stated that "Temple" comes from "tempus", the Latin for "time", but actually "Temple" comes from "templum", a completely different word. I do believe you're right in intepreting it as "noble lady".
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 15th, 2015 12:27 pm (UTC)
Of course, if RTD inserted it during The End of Time, then its entirely possible he was trying to make a slightly cack-handed latin pun.

I think its a shame somehow, that the Doctor's reaction to Rose's departure is basically reset after this so that Martha has to deal with it all, all over again.
shivver13: Ten with kittenshivver13 on January 15th, 2015 07:03 pm (UTC)
I'd like to think that RTD is a bit more careful with his references like that. :)

It is! I'm not very fond at all of the Doctor-moons-for-Rose storyline. It was great that they made Donna good for healing him of that, but it really detracted from Martha's story that she had to deal with it.
bigtitchbigtitch on January 15th, 2015 05:55 am (UTC)
I liked Donna as soon as she slapped The Doctor! He needs slapping on occasion!
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 15th, 2015 12:29 pm (UTC)
I think both Catherine Tate's age, and her acting chops, allowed Donna to be a much more forthright companion than the show normally gets away with.

Though really, there's no reason why a younger, thinner, actress shouldn't play a similar character - it's not like the age difference between a 40-something and the Doctor is significantly different to the age difference between a 20-something and the Doctor.
dm12 on January 16th, 2015 01:06 pm (UTC)
Non necessarily chronologically much difference, the difference is emotional. Donna is much more emotionally mature than the 20 year olds he'd been hanging around with. That's why she was capable of standing up to him, was more of an equal.

That first slap led hubby to say he liked her! (Well, after he noticed how full-figured she was....) The slaps changed after this episode, though. This time around it was that she was afraid of him. In later episodes, she (more gently) slapped his arm in fear for him, that he was doing something stupid.

Even by the end of this episode, both had developed beyond their initial issues. The re-set with Martha, I think was due to Donna's refusal to travel with him. He was surprised, but the look on his face said more; he was actually a bit devastated. He looked like a kicked puppy.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 16th, 2015 02:24 pm (UTC)
My feeling is that - given the age gap - all humans are going to seem pretty immature to the Doctor. On the other hand given this is a show by humans, for humans, its easy to see why we buy that an older companion would stand up to him better, and of course the acting and writing supports that conclusion.
dm12 on January 16th, 2015 02:50 pm (UTC)
Yes, chronologically, but I have to say that the Doctor often seems somewhat emotionally immature himself! That often happens in older age, LOL...

The Doctor himself said something very telling about their relationship when Wilf asked Donna if the Doctor was taking good care of her; the Doctor said very emphatically that she takes good care of him!

Absolutely, some of it was the writing, even though I got the impression that the writers were trying to make one big joke out of Donna. The ring/biodamper scene was one that particularly struck me. It was supposed to be a joke on Donna, but the way it played out was very sweet and tender, actually.

Most of it, though, has to be attributed to the two actors, who really pulled it off and transcended the jokes. Almost every episode had someone mistaking the two for a couple (which they would vehemently deny, as they were grinning at each other), and many episodes had other companions in them, as if Donna couldn't work on her own. The joke was on them, though, because of the way the actors played it. Donna truly shined in many of those episodes, contrasting against those kids he used to travel with. She was SuperTemp, and great with numbers, too!

Her back story, being a temp, really made her uniquely suited for life with the Doctor. Anyone who has ever been a temp knows what's required. You go into a new situation with a limited amount of time, must quickly assess both the problem and the people, determine the best course of action, execute that action.... then leave and move on to the next situation. Sounds familiar? It should, because it's exactly what the Doctor does!
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 20th, 2015 09:50 am (UTC)
Tennant and Tate's off-screen friendship obviously helped a good deal here. Once gets the sense they found they had a lot more in common than Tennant had with either Piper or Agyeman and that genuine connection is reflected in the way they interact on screen.
dm12 on January 20th, 2015 12:21 pm (UTC)
The funny thing is, you'd think they knew each other forever, but they only first met on the set of Doctor Who! Sometimes it just clicks!
Susanlil_shepherd on January 15th, 2015 08:49 am (UTC)
I hated this episode, but then I hate Catherine Tate, who I have always found desperately unfunny. So...

We didn't watch most of the season with Tate, because, you know Tate.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 15th, 2015 12:31 pm (UTC)
I have a very low tolerance threshold for sketch shows so was totally unaware of Catherine Tate before she was cast. I didn't much like the character when I first saw this, but took to her very strongly when she started her run as a "proper" companion. parrot_knight suggests above that Davies may have been deliberately trying to write her as one of her characters here while Tate was trying to do something more nuanced which could explain why I reacted very differently when he was writing Donna as Tate was playing her.
Susanlil_shepherd on January 15th, 2015 12:59 pm (UTC)
Pure prejudice on my part, but her delivery grates on me.

That this particular episode was full of the usual illogic and quite awful sfx did not help. Nor did the fact that I don't like Tennant's gurning and manic delivery, all to the fore here.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on January 15th, 2015 11:50 am (UTC)
I'm with Tame Layman on this one. For me, Doctor Who jumped the shark with Doomsday and, a few good episodes notwithstanding, I didn't really like it again until Moffat took over. At some point I intend to revisit this era and see whether I've changed my mind with the passage of time!
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 15th, 2015 12:33 pm (UTC)
I think the latter half of season 2 was very wobbly while, if memory serves, season 3 is mostly pretty strong until it all falls apart rather in the final episode. But season 3 is marred by the fact the companion is being asked to justify her presence in the TARDIS in a way Rose wasn't. I'm not sure the show ever jumped the shark exactly, but I do suspect that I'm temperamentally more forgiving of Moffat's excesses than I am of Davies'
Mayrain_sleet_snow on January 15th, 2015 12:04 pm (UTC)
I thought Donna was a desperately needed companion, in that she a) never fell for the Doctor, and b) was prepared to call the Doctor on his nonsense. Late Ten was apt to be highly melodramatic. Donna was good at pulling him down to earth.

I also liked seeing a companion who was bossy and loud and not a slender, impressionable early 20-something. I found her a more interesting character than Rose, Amy or Clara (though to be fair I haven't seen a great deal of Clara.) She made a change.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 15th, 2015 12:35 pm (UTC)
It is interesting that she is so much more effective at standing up to him than the younger companions, even though modern Who emphasises very strongly that the companion is supposed to keep the Doctor in check (although there are some interesting hints at role reversal between the Doctor and Clara). Clara is very odd as a companion and I'm interested in seeing what she is like on a rewatch. I've had a very strong sensation this year that her personality had been completely overhauled (into something more interesting) but it would be interesting to watch her earlier episodes and see if the hints are already there.
Mayrain_sleet_snow on January 16th, 2015 10:28 pm (UTC)
I think Donna projects assurance partly because of her occupation - she needs it as a temp, to get regular work - and partly because she's so insecure in herself. It's a deliberate masquerade, and the more forward she is, the less people prod into what she really thinks of herself. And Donna's assurance, outgoing behaviour, boldness, means that when she crosses the Doctor and doesn't back down. She refuses to be intimidated by him the way she refuses to be intimidated by anyone but her mother.

I don't think I've seen enough of Clara to really get a handle on her as a character.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 17th, 2015 11:14 am (UTC)
Part of it is clearly how she's written and played, and of course part of that is influenced by Catherine Tate's comedienne persona. However, I also suspect the fact she was an older actress had some influence on how the character was written.

It's one of those swings and roundabout things a bit. Her age may have been entirely irrelevant but somehow I doubt it!
dm12 on January 18th, 2015 12:49 am (UTC)
Perhaps, but there's another older actress, Alex Kingston. It's interesting the contrast between Donna and River. I have to say, I like Donna much better. She stood up to the Doctor without attempting to show him up, with compassion, and definitely without flirting. River tended to be too smug for my taste, always showing up with guns and a smirk. She never grew on me at all, and I'm still wondering where she learned his name, because he sure didn't tell her that at their "wedding."
Mayrain_sleet_snow on January 18th, 2015 10:23 pm (UTC)
I do think you've got a point, though I also like dm12's point about River Song. My kingdom for the River Song of Silence in the Library.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 19th, 2015 10:14 am (UTC)
The deterioration of River's character was very sad, because she started with a lot of potential.