Image Description: The Empress of the Racnoss
In a jaunt away from new TLV content, John Salway takes a look at the stories featured on the Road to the Dark Times Blu-Ray, and their place in TLV canon. This time, The Runaway Bride…
Our Road to the Dark Times has nearly reached its terminus (no, not that one) and we’ve finally arrived at the NuWho portion of the collection, which sees David Tennant tackle two hour-long specials. The first, The Runaway Bride, takes us back to Christmas 2006 – or is that 2007?
This tale sees the Doctor save prospective bride (and future Series Four companion) Donna Noble from the attentions of evil Santa robots, and their arachnid overlord, the Empress of the Racnoss. The Racnoss, we learn, haven’t been seen in billions of years since the Dark Times – hence this story’s presence in the TLV set. I’m quite surprised, as one of the few races we are explicitly told existed in the Dark Times, that they haven’t popped up in some form or another in any other TLV material – unless you count their brief mention in the Doctor Who‘s 2021 annual. There’s definitely some story potential to explore, as here we’re told that the Time Lords “murdered the Racnoss” to the brink of extinction, so some more explanation of that wouldn’t have gone amiss. Was it another epic war, similar to the Gallifreyans’ battle with the Vampire Alliance, or something even more sinister?
As the first episode of NuWho not to star Billie Piper as popular companion Rose Tyler, The Runaway Bride had a lot to prove, showing that the Doctor and the show itself could move on, and flourish, with other co-stars. And the story achieves this aim admirably, centring the focus on the sparky, constantly changing relationship between the Doctor and Donna, while at the same time exploring the effect that Rose’s loss has had on our favourite Time Lord. Catherine Tate is an absolute triumph as Donna, who is infuriating and adorable in equal measure, and it was a great move to get her back for a full series. But it was also a good decision to mature the character’s attitude slightly before taking her on full time, as the Donna we see here could be a bit much for an extended period!
The plot is absolutely bonkers, functioning mostly as an excuse to jump from set piece to set piece, as we head from a high-speed motorway chase to a deadly bauble barrage and all the way back to the creation of the Earth. It all just about hangs together, and probably won’t hold up to close scrutiny, but then it’s not really supposed to! This adventure is all about the journey, as Donna learns to see the big picture and the Doctor learns that he needs to move on – and perhaps spend less time murdering aliens surrounded by cascading water and blazing fire.
The Runaway Bride is yet another strong story in this collection, bringing a lot of heart and spectacle and proving that the Doctor Who relaunch had the legs to carry on beyond any single actor. Which, from 2021, seems obvious, but at the time made this one of the most important episodes ever!