A wide-view of Earth zooms to focus on a bride walking down the aisle. As she approaches the groom, we see she’s positively radiant: glowing, if you will! Oh dear, perhaps that’s a dangerous sort of glow. She screams, turning into light particles that zip away and re-form in the TARDIS so she can yell, “What the hell is this place?” Feisty!
The Doctor stammers it’s physically impossible for her to be here — here being the TARDIS. “That’s not even a proper word. You’re just saying things,” she snaps. No, he’s kidnapped her, possibly in service to her devious friend Nerys, and when she gets back to her husband, as soon as he’s her husband, they’re going to sue him so hard!
A yank to the TARDIS door jolts Donna, the bride, to the reality of her crazy space-and-time traveling scene. Introductions are exchanged, tool belts with whacky devices are rattled, and as the Doctor gets carried away with enthusiasm for possible theorems and postulates, Donna slaps him, exclaiming, “Get me to the church!”
While Donna needles the Doctor about a woman’s shirt on the railing (she assumes it proves his serial abducting ways; he mumbles about a lost friend and he tries not to come undone because it belonged to Rose), the scene shifts back to the wedding party going nutso.
The Doctor lands the TARDIS nowhere near the church. Donna huffs but panics when she steps out of the TARDIS. He gives her the “it’s bigger on the inside” excuse. Oh, just use your mobile, the Doctor suggests. “Have you ever seen a bride with pockets?” Donna shrieks. Dear god. I love her! Learning the groom’s name is Lance, the Doctor mutters, “Good luck, Lance.”
Taxi-hailing pans out; passing motorists yell at Donna (in her full bridal regalia) that she’s drunk or in drag. Finally the Doctor whistles, and a cab pulls over. Hooray! But neither of them have cash. Boo! “And that goes double for your mother!” Donna screams as the cabbie drops them off. Ahaha, oh my god, she is hilarious!
“Talk about the Christmas spirit,” Donna grumbles, though she hates the holiday. The Doctor Sonic Screwdrivers a payphone, explaining he’s done “something Martian,” (Donna insists he’s from Mars). She talks to her mum while he cah-jiggers an ATM machine for cab money. But then he spots Santa Creepers, those jerkwads from “The Christmas Invasion” — different masks, but still an eerie armored brass band!
When Donna hops into a cab with money from a sympathetic stranger, OF COURSE Donna’s driver is one of the Santa Creeps! “Help me!” she yells as they zoom down a motorway; she’s being “driven by a robot!” Yay, it’s the TARDIS and the Doctor here to save the day, though it’s a bumpy ride as the Doctor crashes the TARDIS about to maneuver closer.
The Doctor urges Donna to open the door: it’s locked, but he can Sonic it open. “Santa’s a robot!” she yells urgently while he tells her she must jump. She refuses, horrified by the danger. “Whatever that thing is, it needs you. And whatever it needs you for, it’s not good! Now, come on!” he yells back.
“Jump!” a pair of avidly interested kids in a nearby car mouth/yell. I love that they know exactly who to root for. “I’m in my wedding dress,” Donna objects. “Yes, you look lovely!” the Doctor yells. At his injunction to “trust me!” she demands “is that what you said to your friend?” She did trust him, “And she is not dead. She is so alive. Now, jump!” Donna leaps, the Doctor grabs her, and the kids celebrate wildly.
Donna and the Doctor realize they’ve completely missed the wedding. If only they had a time machine! Even if they did, they couldn’t mess with someone’s personal timeline. “Apparently,” the Doctor adds hastily. No one missed your guilty glance at the TARDIS, Doctor! Meanwhile, he’s got to take the Robot Santas off her path: “With this ring, I thee bio-damp,” he intones, slipping a special ring that blocks her signal from the robots.
The Doctor scans Donna, mentioning he met the Santa Creeps last Christmas (Donna missed the whole Sycorax invasion; she was hung over). But why go after her? “It’s weird. I mean, you’re not special, you’re not powerful, you’re not connected, you’re not clever, you’re not important.” Just before that friend of his left, “did she punch you in the face?” Donna demands, insisting he “stop bleeping” her with the Sonic Screwdriver.
What about her fiancé? The head of Human Resources where she temped, he started things by offering her a cup of coffee. He insisted on getting married (cue a hilarious sequence of Donna proposing, chasing, and badgering him into an engagement). The company, HC Clements? Security systems, Donna explains. Now it’s time to face the heart-broken guests. “You can do the explaining, Martian boy,” she insists. Poor Doctor; chatty as he is, he doesn’t stand a chance against Donna’s tough talk!
At the reception, no one looks broken-hearted. “You had the reception without me?” Donna bawls out. The music grinds to a halt, but it’s not long before questions fly. Donna weeps at the pestering; everyone falls silent again. When Lance holds her close, the guests applaud (while Donna, the awesome manipulator that she is, winks at the Doctor).
As the reception resumes, the Doctor borrows a cell phone. Turns out HC Clements covers none other than TORCHWOOD! Man, they are insidious! When the Doctor sees guests dancing, he remembers catching and holding Rose (from “New Earth”). Cripes, the poor Doctor!
The Doctor notices the videographer; he watches Donna disappearing play back, and realizes the particles are Huon energy, so ancient it can’t be hidden by a biodamper. Sure enough, the Santa Creeps lurk ever closer outside. The Doctor and Donna warn everyone from the Christmas trees just before floating ornaments turn into tiny bombs. Absolute hysteria breaks out: presents are knocked over, and one guy takes a flying leap onto the cake.
Oi, Santa!” the Doctor yells out. Word of advice (and this moment so reminded me of Nine in “Aliens of London”): when attacking a man with a Sonic Screwdriver, “don’t let him near the sound system!” The guests cover their ears at the screech, and the Santas shake apart. The Doctor discovers a second remote controlling the Santas. They’re not independent scavengers anymore; someone’s using them to get to Donna.
“Clever, clever boy,” our baddie of the week coos from her spaceship. She’s a red-faced spider creature who vows to “Eat you up all snicker snacker, travelling man.” As she descends to discover “Such secrets to unlock!” we see her ship’s a seven-pointed star, like a spider-web, or a Christmas ornament.
The Doctor explains Torchwood was behind the Battle of Canary Warf. Donna missed that whole Dalek thing; she was in Spain. “They had Cybermen in Spain,” the Doctor insists. “Scuba diving,” Donna shrugs. The Doctor shows her and Lance a secret floor. “Lance, inside!” Donna orders him to the lift. “Honor and obey,” the Doctor murmurs. Lance answers glumly, “Tell me about it, mate.”
The Doctor, Donna, and Lance take Segways on the hidden floor. Donna, despite her seeming lack of curiosity, is just made to be a companion; not only does she refuse to leave the Doctor’s side, but she starts laughing uproariously at the whole on-a-Segway nonsense. The Doctor joins in happily; Lance just looks discomfited.
At a door labeled “Torchwood,” the Doctor heads up a ladder, promising he won’t leave: “I couldn’t get rid of you if I tried.” “What the hell are we going to do?” Lance asks Donna. “Oh, I thought July,” Donna says serenely (love that she can reschedule their nuptials in the middle of this). Above ground, the Doctor realizes the secret area is built under the Thames flood barrier.
All three examine bubbling tube evidence of Torchwood’s “particle extrusion”: they’ve been manufacturing Huon particles into liquid form. The Doctor turns a knob: the liquid inside glows gold, and so does Donna. “Your body’s a battleground!” the Doctor exclaims (love the Barbara Kruger ref!). The inert particles need something living to catalyze inside. “Oh, you’re cooking,” he rattles on; the particles reach boiling point and “Shazam!”
Donna slaps the Doctor extra hard. “What did I do this time??” he complains, and man, he’s a petulant little boy with her. “Am I safe?” she demands. Okay, so the particles are deadly (that’s why the Time Lords got rid of them), but he’ll sort Donna out because he’s not about to lose someone else.
Oh, but she’s “long since lost,” our Spider Baddie observes, now with audio on the scene! She’s finished “hibernating at the edge of the universe” now that her “secret heart” at the center has called out to waken. Basically, shit just got real. Lance runs like hell while robots turn guns on the Doctor and Donna.
Erm, what’s that huge pit leading to the center of the Earth? “Dinosaurs?” Donna offers, trying to help (I love Donna). “Such a sweet couple,” the Empress of the Racnoss croons. The Doctor complains he didn’t come all this way to talk on an intercom. “Let’s have a look at you!” Hearing he’s the Doctor, she tells him to prepare his medicines, because she’s going to make them all feel crazy sick! She teleports in.
The Doctor explains the Racnoss consumed whole planets. Looks like HC Clements got turned into Christmas feast; his spats peek out of the Empress’s web. Donna, spotting Lance sneaking to the Empress with an axe, distracts her, with “look at me, you!” “The bride is so feisty!” the Empress comments. I said that way back at the start, lady!
Just as Lance is about to take aim he laughs. “Oh, that was a good one! Your face!” he sputters. Ah, crap. “I’m sorry,” the Doctor mutters, while Lance complains how thick Donna is. He dosed her with Huon particles in her coffee. He’s the Empress’s Consort, prepared to sacrifice humans to her hunger: “all there in the job title, Head of Human Resources,” he jokes.
Lance dresses down Donna and her plebian tastes. “I love you,” Donna cries. “That’s what made it easy,” Lance says, because he’s a nob-face psycho. He’ll have a chance to see the universe with the Empress. The Robots take aim, but the Doctor tells everyone to “Hold on just a tick!” He reverses the particle attraction process, and the TARDIS comes to save him and Donna.
At Torchwood, the Empress says if a key is lost, another must be cut. She doses Lance with Huon particles. Meanwhile, the Doctor flies a weeping Donna 4.6 billion years into the past, to the creation of Earth. “Puts the wedding in perspective,” Donna sniffs. But that’s what humans are so good at, the Doctor says admiringly; they make sense out of chaos with weddings, Christmas, calendars.
“Question is, what was that first rock?” the Doctor wonders, looking for the answer to what lies at the center of the Earth. Suddenly among the swirling rocks flies a Racnoss ship; it pulls the other matter to it to form the Earth. Okay, that creeped me out big time, that all of Earth is the casing for a long game alien stunt.
The TARDIS bangs about; it’s the particles pulling them back, reversing the Doctor’s stunt. He uses the Extrapolator (from “Boom Town”) to put them slightly off course, outside the Empress’s web-room. “I’m full of particles, but what for?” Donna asks. The Racnoss hibernated, stuck without Huon particles the Time Lords got rid of. Now Donna’s the new key. “And you have never been so quiet,” the Doctor says, turning to discover Donna’s been hauled away.
“I hate you,” Donna tells Lance as the Empress welcomes them to their “awful wedded life.” She purges the particles from them to rush down the hole Torchwood dug . Her children, in that center-of-the-Earth ship, will “wake from their sleep of ages” to “feast on flesh”. Ew. I’m kind of hoping they’ll eat her.
“Use her!” Lance hollers, pleading for Donna to be dropped down the hole first. The offended Empress lobs him down after her brood. “It’s Christmas!” the poor unsuspecting Londoners shopping above ground say of the Racnoss ship. “Harvest the humans!” the Empress cries as the star shoots lasers.
Disguised as a Robot, the Doctor sneaks in; he Sonics Donna swinging out a strand of web, but she falls. “The Doctor man amuses me,” the Empress preens. He’ll find a planet for her and her young, the Doctor promises, if she stops. When she declines, he deactivates her robots. “Guess what I’ve got, Donna?” he asks joyfully, showing her the remote. “Pockets!” Bigger on the inside!
The Empress shrieks in rage as the Doctor deploys ornament-bombs against her. Flames burst out even as the Thames water rushes in, flooding the hole to the center of the Earth, and drowning the Baby Racnosseses. “Doctor! You can stop now!” Donna yells out at the Doctor, who’s in the middle of his own epic vendetta. They run together as the Empress transports back to her ship, vowing to scorch the planet. But she’s defenceless, the Doctor points out; she used up all the Huon energy. As they escape, we switch to a bevy of tanks; they fire on the Empress’s ship on “Orders from Mister Saxon.”
“Just one problem,” Donna gasps out as she and the Doctor observe the scene. “We’ve drained the Thames!” Returning her to her parents’ home in the TARDIS, he scans her a last time. All the particles are gone, so she’s fine (you know, apart from the whole missed wedding, lost job, and kinda sorta becoming a widow all in one day).
He reminds Donna she hates Christmas, then asks, “Even if it snows?” With some “basic atmospheric excitation,” he starts flurries just for her. “You could…come with me,” he offers. It’s wonderful to see Donna is her own person, not exactly like Rose. “No, I can’t,” she says. “It’s beautiful,” he argues. “And it’s terrible,” she answers, like when he caused that vengeful destruction and “stood there like a stranger.”
“Tell you what, Christmas dinner,” she offers by way of consolation. He pretends to go in to pack; the TARDIS sounds while she yells, “Doctor!” “Blimey, you can shout,” he complains, halting his escape from All Things Domestic. “Am I ever going to see you again?” “If I’m lucky,” he says. Damn right! Donna’s pretty freaking awesome.
Still, he ought to find someone, she tells him. He needs someone to stop him sometimes. As for her, “Just, be magnificent,” he says. “I think I will, yeah,” she replies. “Doctor?” she asks, calling him back one last time. What was his friend’s name? “Her name was Rose,” he says before he departs for good in the TARDIS. Ugh, was! It’s breaking my heart all over again! Her name is Rose, but was, she really is lost to him. D:
Ah wooooheee ahwooo ahooo! Everyone, PUT POCKETS IN YOUR WEDDING GOWNS! You’ll never know when you might save the planet with some or other bit or bobble! For more past-series recaps, join me next week! For NEW DOCTOR WHO, join me tomorrow when I recap “Asylum of the Daleks”, w00t!