The Forest Bride was a comic story published in Doctor Who Magazine in 2021. Starring the Thirteenth Doctor, it was the first strip to be explicitly set after the on-screen departures of Ryan Sinclair and Graham O'Brien, with the strip currently being the magazine's only Thirteenth Doctor and Yasmin Khan-led story.
Behind the scenes, it marked the end of the main comic strip's second hiatus that started in March, brought about by the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Deep within a thick, lush forest filled with wildlife, a barefooted young woman wearing a green dress and flower crown named Monnay sprints in panic before catching her foot on a tree root and falling to the ground. She is caught by a group of people, also wearing all green, who grab her and tell her she should feel honoured and should go through their ritual willingly. As the group's elder looks on, a bard sings about their law requiring a fair maiden to be inducted as the forest's wife, and Monnay yells as two people push her towards a tree.
One year later, the Thirteenth Doctor lands her TARDIS in the forest but chooses to stay behind to fix the TARDIS biscuit dispenser while Yasmin Khan goes to look around. She relaxes upon taking an apple and hearing a party nearby, joining the green-clothed people in song and dance for their Bridal Day. However, she is interrupted by the sound of a scream and sprints to join them, finding a second young woman captured.
Meanwhile, the Doctor, finished with repairs, searches for Yaz but is distracted by seeing a series of faces engraved in the trees' bark. She wonders about their purpose and is disturbed further upon that seeing the final face is screaming with an arm reaching out of the wood. Hearing running, the Doctor bumps into the young woman Yaz found, who explains she had been told to run as her captors are held off. The Doctor immediately realises the woman was saved by Yaz.
However, Yaz has already been caught by the forest elders, who tell her that everyone knows about their pact to return the forest's kindness with a bride. With the previous woman having run away, the elders decide to use Yaz instead, forcibly changing her into the green dress of the forest bride and forcibly manoeuvring her towards the closest tree.
The Doctor runs up to the bride-to-be, who explains to her that she was happy to become "married" to the forest before Yaz interrupted. As they talk, the Doctor hears Yaz scream in the distance and runs off to find her. In a clearing, she finds the elder and the bard, both of whom explain that Yaz has already been blessed with the forest's greatest honour and has been integrated into a tree already.
Furious, the Doctor demands they get her out, but the elder explains that she cannot, and they needed to sacrifice someone or else they would all perish at the hands of the forest. The bard sings another song to confirm how generous the forest is for them. The elder explains that Monnay, who was chosen the previous year, was her daughter, but has since heard from the bard that she is happy and at peace. The Doctor does not believe that the bard is truly a conduit to the "forest realm" and asks him what Yaz is feeling. He explains that her life now has meaning, which the Doctor angrily denies. She explains to them about Monnay's tree and how she was secretly desperate not to be sacrificed.
After her explanation, the elder is devastated at what happened to her daughter, and the bard, knowing he has been uncovered as a liar, tries to run away. However, he is stopped by this year's bride and captured. The Doctor analyses his instrument and realises that the symbol on it, and their clothes, represents the British Arboreal Research Department, or BARD for short. The planet is a future colony world of Earth in which artificial trees were engineered to provide everything if they were properly fertilised. Additionally, they can act as stasis chambers to sustain life during a catastrophe, but the meaning of the trees' purpose got lost over the years, leading to the ritual.
The Doctor uses the bard's instrument to free all the former brides from their trees, including Yaz. However, Monnay is unable to be saved, having breached the tree with her arm when she was captured. The elder asks what they could do to make it up to them, and the Doctor explains that the brides have likely learnt a lot in their time frozen.
Later, with Yaz changed out of the green clothes, she and the Doctor walk back to the TARDIS. The Doctor theorises that the bard removed any strong woman who could challenge him and is proud of their resilience. As they take off and Yaz admits she was disturbed by the bard's glee at capturing her, the Doctor tells her not to worry, as nearby in the forest, the group of former brides round on him, trapping him in a tree for his crimes.
- The forest is having a Bridal Day.
Food and beverages
- The TARDIS has a biscuit dispenser. Biscuits it dispenses include fig rolls, garibaldis, and ginger nuts.
- A woman asks Yaz if she comes from the Thaos Woods or the Lomek Valley. Yaz claims she comes from "the Sheff Field".
- The Doctor once tried to throw a tea party for Yaz's birthday in Boston in 1773.
- The Doctor wonders if the faces in the trees are like "a tree version of Mount Rushmore".
- The Doctor says Yaz has a "heart of gold" and a "backbone of Sheffield steel".
- The Doctor claims to own a form of bug spray that turns its user into a giant bug in case of emergencies.
Original print details
- (Publication with page count and closing captions)