In those terms, then, Season 3 is the natural next chapter in a forty-year romance between the Doctor and the Earth; it's a postscript for heartbreak. It's an examination of medical ethics. It's an examination of the role of the individual in the workings of religion. It's the story of a girl who pledged her life to help the world, and how she did it, in a Gospel told by and for the Doctor himself. It's a story of reversals and dark mirrors: defining the Doctor by precisely defining his opposite, and then resolving the difference; by resolving the question of power and its responsibilities by upgrading simple human power to a near-divine level, then giving Him a human heart. It's a biography -- actually, it's more precise to call it a working pathology -- for God. Most interestingly -- to me, at least -- is that it's the next step in what seems to be an ongoing project by Russell Davies to ask a very simple question: why do atheists (Joss, RTD, Ursula K. LeGuin) write better religious fiction than the faithful? Or, really, why do they do it at all?
II: The Runaway Bride
The Christmas Special begins with a repeated element from earlier seasons. In this season, more than ever, it pays dividends to pay attention to repeating images and concepts. We begin with a zoom into Earth, the fourth such in the new series. The first time, we said hello to a new friend; the last time, we lost her. And in the middle, we traded one Doctor for another, and said hello again. This time it's a goodbye. "The Runaway Bride" is a story about coming to terms with grief, finding the strength to admit that sometimes hope and love aren't enough; and it's a story about finding peace.
The Companion for this story, played by the wonderful Catherine Tate, starts us off, walking down the aisle, neon family either side. She's always been stable, always kept her valence shell full, non-reactive; until she met Lance, until she met our Doctor, she was odorless, colorless, monatomic -- but that's not why her name is Donna Noble. In every chapter of this story, you'll find a hymn: sometimes they're more hidden than others. Sometimes they're profane. But this is the Christmas Special, and so this is Donna Noble: give us peace. The first thing she does is open the doors of the TARDIS wide, and let some air in.