The Runaway Bride was the second Christmas special of the BBC Wales era of Doctor Who. It marked the first change of companion since the 2005 revival had begun, and also introduced the concept of the "one-off", one-story companion. Though Donna Noble did later return for a full series of her own, the original plan was for her only to appear in this episode, thereby blazing a trail that others like Astrid Peth, Jackson Lake, Christina de Souza, and Adelaide Brooke would follow.
The Runaway Bride was also, from a production point of view, the start of the third series of the programme.
Donna Noble suddenly finds herself being transported to the Doctor's TARDIS on her wedding day, and is soon caught up in an alien invasion. Donna finds it hard to accept the Doctor and his "martian" ways, but when she finds herself being attacked by Robot Santas and the Empress of the Racnoss, she may need the Doctor's help more than she thinks...
The Doctor is in his TARDIS as it orbits a supernova, finishes his farewells to Rose Tyler, when suddenly a bride appears in the control room. Both are astounded by this event. The bride, Donna Noble, demands the Doctor return her to the church in Chiswick where she was just in the middle of her wedding ceremony before appearing on the TARDIS. The Doctor tries to return there, but ends up near Oxford Street. Donna storms out of the TARDIS and tries to contact her family through a public telephone, while the Doctor wonders how she could have gotten aboard. Donnas tries to get a taxi, but the taxi drivers she sees believe that she is dressed for a fancy dress part, drunk and a drag queen (in that order). She realises she has no money for a taxi, so the Doctor gets some from a nearby ATM. While he is doing this, Donna gets some money from a passerby, finally gets a taxi and gets in.
He then notices familiar masked Santas, recognising them as the robotic scavengers from the previous year's Christmas, leveling their weapons disguised as instruments at him; he distracts them by using his sonic screwdriver on the ATM to make it spit out money and causing a crazed rush from the nearby crowd, and then goes off in search of Donna. He finds she has managed to collect some money and is taking off in a cab, though its driver is another one of the robotic Santas. Donna quickly realizes that her cab is not taking her to the church, and discovers that the Doctor has managed to engage the TARDIS in pursuit of the cab along a highway and is able to rescue her. However, such an endeavor has put a strain on the TARDIS, and he cannot use it for some time.
The Doctor gives Donna a ring to prevent the Santas from tracking her and tries to learn more about her, learning that she works at a security firm called H.C. Clements, and that that is where she met her husband-to-be, Lance. The Doctor takes Donna to her reception, to the relief of Lance, her family and their friends. The Doctor learns that H.C. Clements is owned by the Torchwood Institute, and that through footage taken by the photographer at the wedding earlier, that Donna was turned into Huon particles, a source of energy that hasn't existed for billions of years, since "The Dark Times", and cannot be masked by the ring he gave her earlier. He finds the reception hall surrounded by the Santas, and that they have rigged a Christmas tree's ornaments to fly off explosively at the crowd. Using the sound system at the reception and his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor is able to shake apart the robots, and trace the source of their control to a star-shaped spaceship hanging above the city, but shortly loses its signal.
The Doctor asks Lance to take him and Donna to H.C. Clements, learning that after Torchwood One's dissolution in the Battle of Canary Wharf, someone else took control of the company. The Doctor discovers a basement level not on the floor plans and the three travel to it, finding themselves in a long tunnel that eventually leads to the Thames Barrier. There, the Doctor discovers a laboratory where Huon particles have been manufactured and stored in liquid form. The Doctor determines that Donna was saturated in them, and due to the stress of her wedding day, causes the particles to catalyze and activate, pulling her into the TARDIS' own source of Huon particles. A large hole also extends across the room, the Doctor surmising that it was dug out by Torchwood's laser technology and extending to the center of the Earth.
As they explore, a half-humanoid, half-spider teleports into the lab, which the Doctor recognises being one of the Racnoss, a race thought wiped out billions of years ago by the Fledgling Empires during the Dark Times of the universe. The Racnoss calls itself the Empress, and has fashioned a large web above the pit, where the body of H.C. Clements still hangs. As the Doctor talks to the Empress, Lance sneaks around behind it with an axe, threatening to strike, but quickly reveals that he has been working with the Empress; he had spiked the coffee he gave to Donna every day with Huon particles as to allow them to mature in her, so that the Empress can use their activated energy to regain her ancient power. However, as the Doctor and Donna are targeted by more of the robotic agents under the Empress' control, the TARDIS materializes around them and they escape. The Empress is not thwarted as she knows exactly how to achieve the same result with Lance, and begins to force feed him the Huon liquid while trapping him in her web.
The Doctor takes the TARDIS to the creation of the Earth to learn why the Racnoss has dug into the core of the planet, and finds that a Racnoss spaceship is the actual core of Earth, the rest of the planet forming around it, and that if the Empress were to use the Huon particles, she would be able to reawaken those still on the ship. Armed with that knowledge, he and Donna return to a corridor by the laboratory, but Donna is immediately captured into the Empress' web, while the Doctor is held at gunpoint. The Empress begins to activate the Huon particles and, knowing that her fellow Racnoss will be hungry, severs Lance from the web dropping him into the pit.
Meanwhile, the Empress' ship descends over the city, initially mistaken as a Christmas star before it starts firing on the city. The Doctor manages to sneak back into the laboratory and issues the Racnoss a final offer, to take her and her kind to a planet where they will not threaten anyone. She refuses, and the Doctor reveals himself as from Gallifrey, his long-gone race having previously defeated the Racnoss, and will do so again, using some of the explosive Christmas ornaments to burst apart the walls and flooding the room with water from the River Thames. The Doctor is caught up in his act and doesn't move until Donna says he can stop. The Doctor is able to escape with Donna into the TARDIS, while the Empress teleports back to her ship, moments before it is blown out of the sky by tanks under orders of "Mr. Saxon".
The Doctor returns Donna home, but she is desolate having lost her job and her fiancé the same evening, and the Doctor uses a burst of energy from the TARDIS to make it snow in hopes to cheer her up, and offers her to join him on the TARDIS. She declines, but encourages him to find someone, recognizing that he had just lost someone himself. The Doctor tells her briefly about Rose, and then disappears into his TARDIS.
- The Doctor - David Tennant
- Donna Noble - Catherine Tate
- Empress — Sarah Parish
- Lance Bennett — Don Gilet
- Geoff Noble — Howard Attfield
- Sylvia Noble — Jacqueline King
- Vicar — Trevor Georges
- Taxi Driver — Glen Wilson
- Nerys — Krystal Archer
- Rhodri — Rhodri Meiler
- Little Girl — Zafirah Boateng
- Robot Santa — Paul Kasey
|Executive Producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner|
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
This episode marked a big change in the make-up department, with Barbara Southcott becoming the more-or-less permanent make-up designer on the show. Also, Millennium Effects became "Millennium FX" with this episode, and have been credited thus since.
- According to the Doctor, the creation of the Earth is the furthest back he has ever travelled.
- 'Mr. Saxon' orders the destruction of the web star.
- There is a Torchwood Institute base under the River Thames extracting Huon particles, which exist within the Heart of the TARDIS.
- The Doctor asks if Lance is a bit overweight with a zip round his forehead, obviously alluding to the Slitheen.
- The Doctor uses the Tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator which seems to have grown into the TARDIS somewhat.
- A controversy occurred during filming of this story as guests at a hotel were awakened and frightened by gunfire and explosions during filming of one scene in the street below, including one who had just returned from the conflict in Israel.
- Though set at Christmas, this story was filmed in late July, with an average temperature of thirty degrees, centigrade. David Tennant was quoted as saying he was "blinking boiling" during filming.
- As part of the 2006 Children In Need concert, a four minute clip from this episode was shown. It features Donna riding in a taxi, unaware that it is being driven by a Robot Santa. The Doctor gives chase in the TARDIS down a motorway and tries to persuade Donna to jump between the two vehicles. The unveiling of Christmas-special preview footage for Children in Need became an irregular tradition afterwards, with the 2008 campaign featuring a preview of DW: The Next Doctor and the 2009 edition a preview of DW: The End of Time, Part One.
- This is the first appearance of companion Donna Noble. It is debatable whether Donna qualifies as an actual companion for this episode, though in the eyes of the show makers, she gains this status. She also receives a lead credit at the start which, normally, only the Doctor and his companion(s) receive. She returned in Partners in Crime and left in Journey's End, both in Series 4.
- Catherine Tate was unable to attend the traditional first cast read-through of the episode. David Tennant's then-girlfriend, and former guest star Sophia Myles (The Girl in the Fireplace) read the part of Donna Noble on this occasion.
- The reprise of the cliffhanger scene from Doomsday had to be refilmed for The Runaway Bride as the change of cinematographers resulted in a discontinuity in terms of lighting between the earlier footage and that shot for the special. (DCOM: The Runaway Bride)
- The "TARDIS car chase" sequence was the first part of the episode to be publicly screened when it was included in the Music and Monsters charity concert TV special, broadcast several weeks before the episode.
- In the DVD commentary it is confirmed that a scene filmed, but cut from broadcast, would have continued on from Donna pointing out a piece of Rose's clothing by showing the Doctor angrily throwing it through the open TARDIS doors and into space. Executive producer Julie Gardner explained to David Tennant in the commentary that it was cut as being too melodramatic. The cut scene was not included with the other deleted scenes on the DVD release.
- Two songs are heard during Donna's wedding reception: "Merry Xmas Everybody" by Slade, and an original song, "Love Don't Roam", which makes reference to Rose's disappearance. "Merry Xmas Everybody" would be heard again in the alternate timeline of Turn Left. It was also heard previously in The Christmas Invasion.
- After the Doctor informs the Empress that he is from Gallifrey, she screams in anger, shouting "They (the Time Lords) murdered the Racnoss", Ironically, she is killed when her ship is ordered shot down by Mr Saxon, who in actuality is the Master, a Time Lord
- It should take Lance more then 30 hours to reach the center of the earth traveling at the terminal free fall of 120 MPH or 48 KPH. If this is the case, he should have died when the water flooded the shaft, and not eaten, unless the Racnoss children were incredibly fast climbers.
- In was suggested that the Torchwood helicopter be used for certain shots by Patrick Schweitzer, this was turned down.
- The Doctor references Gallifrey by name for the first time on-screen since the revival of the series (however in NSA: The Stone Rose the Doctor mentions his 'Gallifreyen signature').
- 9.4 million viewers
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- This is the first episode to be filmed in the new Upper Boat studios.
- Filming also took place in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. (Representing the Torchwood base)
When the Tardis arrives back from the centre of the Earth, The Doctor and Donna rush out leaving the Tardis door open and yet in the very next scene the door is closed.
- The Tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator was first seen in DW: Boom Town.
- The Robot Santas previously appeared in DW: The Christmas Invasion.
- These events are referred to by the Master in DW: The Sound of Drums
- When the Doctor is standing waiting for the cash machine, the shop Henrick's is seen. Rose Tyler worked there in DW: Rose
- The episode DW: Turn Left shows that in a world where Donna never met the Doctor he would have died in the process of stopping the Empress of the Racnoss' plan and failed to regenerate.
- Donna comments the Doctor "stood there like a stranger." This may be a reference to the BBV video series starring Colin Baker, the chief character in which was initially assumed to be a thinly veiled version of Sixth Doctor by many fans.
- The upstairs section of the bar where Donna had planned her wedding reception has a Manchester Suite, last referred to in DW: The End of the World.
- Donna says "St Marys, Haven Road, Chiswick, London, England, Earth, The Solar System!", in DW: Rise of the Cybermen when they enter Pete's World, Mickey Smith says "London, England, Earth".
- When the Doctor remembers Rose during the "Love Don't Roam" sequence, a very short clip of Billie Piper as Rose Tyler from DW: New Earth is shown; this is Piper's last physical appearance on the series until DW: Partners in Crime, although in the interim a drawing of her is seen in DW: Human Nature.
- The Doctor shows that his pockets are "bigger on the inside." Although never stated outright, his fourth incarnation's clothes were implied to have similar qualities. (DW: Genesis of the Daleks)
- The Empress of the Racnoss calls the Doctor a "physician". He would later be known as "the Sainted Physician". (DW: The End of Time)
Home video releases
- This episode was released as the sole story on Doctor Who: The Runaway Bride, alongside the full Children In Need 2006 concert. Extras include Music and Monsters, the Dr Who Confidential/ Children in Need 2006 Special Concert
- It is also included in the Series 3 DVD boxset.
- BBC Episode Guide to The Runaway Bride
- The Runaway Bride at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- The Discontinuity Guide to: The Runaway Bride at The Whoniverse
- The Runaway Bride at The Locations Guide