The Boxing Day issue of The Times reviews "The Runaway Bride" as the runaway success of the Christmas Day schedules with a glowing review. As it is a review after broadcast it has spoilers for those still to see it; therefore, click on the spoiler link for the full review.
Well, the Beeb killed off Pauline Fowler in EastEnders' now-traditional reliance on a Christmas Day wedding, birth or death to rev things up a bit, but at the end of the day, it was all put to shame by Doctor Who (BBC One) flushing a spider down the plughole.
Of course, Doctor Who has the not inconsiderable advantage of being about both the whole universe and the entire span of time - rather than just the lives of down-trodden, thin-lipped peasants in Walford spiting each other.
Under Russell T. Davies's sure guidance, the Doctor happily spent Christmas Day battling the Queen of Rachnos (Sarah Parish as a colossal, mad spider), before draining the Thames into a gigantic hole - and incorporating Catherine Tate, Slade's Merry Christmas Everyone and giant, web-strewn stars hanging over London on the way. Given this kind of scope, is it any wonder that, over the last two years, the Doctor Who Christmas Special has, finally, supplanted the Christmas Day episode of EastEnders as the flagship of the Christmas schedules?
This is a show that, in all likelihood, hasn't even entered its Imperial Phase yet, but still has an awe-inspiring sureness to it. David Tennant as the Doctor is now so ensconced in the role that I dare say he could spend an episode, due to some vagary of the Tardis, speaking like Arnold from Diff'rent Strokes and wearing a dress, and still be absolutely centred. That he's looking pretty hot in those sneakers doesn't hurt.
Everyone involved in Doctor Who is very much into how hot the Doctor is. To this end, Tennant has perfected a neat, scene-ending expression that goes "What? Eh? How did I get so incredibly foxeh?" which, to my recall, was last seen on The Fonz.
The two big selling points of The Runaway Bride were, ostensibly, the guests: Parish, as the vile Empress of Rachnos, and Catherine Tate as Donna, the recaltricant, eponymous runaway bride. In reality, however, Parish seemed a little hamstrung by her prosthetics, while Tate simply reprised her "Am I bovvered?" turn, but in a wedding dress, while running down some corridors.
She certainly knew what to do with her good lines, though.
"Don't you remember?" the Doctor asked, at one point.
"The Battle of Canary Wharf? Cybermen everywhere? The sky full of Daleks?" "I was in Spain," Tate shrugs.
"They were IN THE SKY!" the Doctor boggles.
"Scuba-diving," Tate says, visibly uninterested.
The real highlights of the show, it turned out, were twists on old favourites. To be honest, the show peaked around 12 minutes in, when the Tardis had its coolest ever moment - bouncing along the Westway in a shower of sparks, in pursuit of Tate in a cab. It looked absolutely thrilling.
I hope the CGI department awarded themselves all a brand new USB splitter as a special treat.
The other big highlight came whenever the Doctor had to mention Rose. The last time we saw the Doctor, of course, he was transmitting one last message to Rose, who was trapped, forever, in a parallel universe. He, like us, is still mourning the best companion he ever had - even better than K9 - and every mention of her resulted in gratifying, palpable pain in Tennant's eyes. Not least because Tennant must miss Piper in Cardiff, during all those long months of shooting.
They used to look as if they terrorized the local Nando's together. I bet they got through a lot of chicken. Who knows how the new assistant, Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones, will pan out, when the series returns in the spring? Maybe she won't like Nando's at all. But waiting to find out is, to be honest, the best way to keep going through the Boxing Day Depression.