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 modern-era 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. This episode marked the first appearance of Sylvia Noble.
The Runaway Bride was also, from a production point of view, the start of the third series of the programme though, as with most Christmas specials prior to 2012, the episode was considered a standalone.
This episode is also the first of the "Mr. Saxon" Arc.
The concept and title had been considered by head writer Russell T Davies since the BBC Wales incarnation of the show was greenlit in 2003. It had intended to be a series 2 episode, but, after Russell learnt with little warning from Jane Tranter at the BAFTA screening of The Parting of the Ways that not only was there to be a 2005 Christmas special, but a 2006 one as well, Bride was moved ahead to the Christmas slot and "took on a whole new lease of life" as a story following Billie Piper's departure from her role as Rose Tyler but before the new companion, introduced at the start of the full third series, came in. Bride's spot was replaced by Tooth and Claw, which in turn was bumped up from episode 6 to episode 2. (DWMSE 14)
The episode makes a lot of references to Rose, as the story takes place straight after her departure in Doomsday. The Doctor would continue to be hung up on losing her, until their reunion in The Stolen Earth.
Donna Noble is escorted down the aisle by her father to her waiting groom, Lance Bennett, at her Christmas Eve wedding. Halfway down the aisle she is surrounded by a mysterious golden glow. Screaming in horror, Donna dissolves into a cloud of energy that goes flying up through the ceiling. The guests are left baffled. Was Donna just abducted?
In outer space, the TARDIS is orbiting a supernova; the golden energy enters the time machine. Inside, a tearful Tenth Doctor has just finished saying his farewell to Rose Tyler when he looks up to see Donna; she is shocked to find herself in the odd location. He is flabbergasted as to how she ended up in the TARDIS. While he gets increasingly confused as to how somehow got inside in flight, Donna becomes equally angry and confused as to what's going on.
Donna is irate at being stolen from her wedding and blames the Doctor, demanding answers; she even threatens to sue him. She thinks her friend Nerys got her back with an elaborate prank. She yanks open the doors and finds herself staring out into deep space. Shocked back to her senses, she realises the Doctor is an alien and what she is seeing is real. The Doctor cannot figure out how she gained entrance to the TARDIS, and Donna demands that he return her to the church. She gives VERY detailed information as to where it is, since the Doctor is an alien. She spots Rose's shirt and accuses him of having abducted other women. The Doctor tells her it belongs to a friend, but "she's gone".The Doctor tries to get to the church in Chiswick, but accidentally lands the TARDIS near Oxford Street. Donna calls him a Martian, then storms out of the TARDIS. She then sees that the outside is smaller, going into shock again and rushes off. The Doctor rushes after her, telling her to go back; however, she is too weirded out to want to. The Doctor then notices that it's December 24, 2008; he wonders why she chose to get married today. Donna tells him that she hates Christmas and plans to honeymoon in Morocco. Donna tries to get a taxi, but the taxi drivers believe that she is dressed for a fancy dress party, drunk and a drag queen in that order. She goes to a payphone, which the Doctor zaps with the sonic screwdriver to work. Donna calls her mother, telling her frantically where she is; the Doctor goes to get her money for a cab.However, he Doctor notices familiar masked Santas. They are the robotic scavengers from the previous year's Christmas, levelling their weapons disguised as band instruments at him. He distracts them by using his sonic screwdriver on the ATM to make it spit out money, causing a crazed rush from the nearby crowd.
He goes off in search of Donna and finds her taking off in a cab, its driver yet another of the robotic Santas. Donna quickly realises her cab is not taking her to the church, and finds the Doctor has engaged the TARDIS in pursuit of the cab on the highway, watched by two astonished children in the back of a car. The Doctor urges Donna to jump from the taxi to the TARDIS, which she is reluctant to do and asks if the woman he lost trusted him. The Doctor confirms this and tells her to jump, which is echoed by the children watching from their car. Donna, after some hesitation, jumps into the Doctor's arms and the TARDIS spins off into the sky with the children cheering it off.
The TARDIS lands on a roof. Donna sits on the ledge, as the Doctor uses a fire extinguisher to put out flames inside the control room; all that excitement put too much strain on the old girl. He tells Donna that the TARDIS needs some rest before she can be used again; he then notes playfully that for a spaceship, it doesn't really do too well when it comes to flying. Seeing Donna is cold, the Doctor lends her his jacket. She jokes that he is way too skinny as the coat wouldn't fit an average-sized man. The Doctor asks if he missed her wedding, to which she confirms; he tells her that she still has the honeymoon, which Donna passes off as just a holiday.
Donna laughs that it's too bad he doesn't have a time machine; then they could just go back to when she vanished. Not wanting to disturb her more, the Doctor subtly says it would be impossible due to the laws of time. The Doctor gives Donna a bio-damper ring to stop the Santas tracking her and tries to learn more about her. After finding out she missed the Sycorax's attempted invasion the previous Christmas (she was asleep with a hangover). He then learns she works at a security firm called H.C. Clements, where she met her husband-to-be, Lance.
The Doctor takes Donna to her reception, where Lance is dancing with Nerys. Donna is shocked and furious that her friends and family are having the wedding reception without her, and begins to argue with her mother and family. The shouting continues until Donna bursts into tears — with a big wink to the Doctor. The party continues, and during the dancing the Doctor spots a woman with long blonde hair and is upset as she reminds him of Rose. He then borrows a mobile phone to look up H.C. Clements. He learns the firm is, or rather was, owned by the Torchwood Institute. The wedding photographer's video footage shows Donna was infused with Huon particles, a source of energy that hasn't existed for billions of years. The Doctor realises that Huon particles cannot be masked by a bio-damper. He grabs Donna and they run outside to find the hall surrounded by the Santas. He realises that the Christmas trees are rigged as well, and the ornaments fly explosively at the crowd, causing havoc and injury. Using the sound system at the reception and his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor shakes apart the roboforms and traces their control to a star-shaped spaceship hanging above the city, then loses its signal.
The Doctor asks Lance to take Donna and him to H.C. Clements, learning that after Torchwood One's dissolution in the Battle of Canary Wharf, someone else took control of the company; Donna has no recollection of it, claiming she was in Spain, even when the Doctor mentions that there were Cybermen in Spain as well. Donna says she was scuba diving at the time; the Doctor sighs that she's always missing the big picture. The Doctor finds a basement level not on the floor plans and the three go there, finding themselves in a long tunnel that leads to the Thames Flood Barrier. The Doctor discovers a laboratory where Huon particles have been manufactured and stored in liquid form. The Doctor determines Donna is saturated with them. The stress of her wedding day made the particles catalyse and activate, pulling her into the TARDIS. There is an immense hole in the floor of the room. The Doctor surmises it was dug by Torchwood's laser technology and extends to the centre of the Earth.
As they explore, a Empress of the Racnoss|half-humanoid, half-spider teleports into the lab. The Doctor recognises it as one of the Racnoss, a race thought wiped out billions of years ago by the Fledgling Empires in the Dark Times. The Racnoss calls herself the Empress. She 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 behind it with an axe, threatening to strike, until they both start laughing and he reveals he has been working with the Empress. He had spiked the coffee he gave to Donna every day with Huon particles to mature in her so the Empress can use their energy to regain her ancient power.
Lance then explains that he only went through with marrying Donna to make sure she didn't leave; he had to put up with tortuous hours of listening to her gab on and on about ridiculous pop culture things. But now, he can finally be free of her and resume his life. The Doctor notes that Lance's involvement was in his job title "human resources". The Doctor and Donna are targeted by the roboforms under the Empress' control, the Doctor reverses the particle activity with a vial of liquid Huon particles he'd collected earlier. This causes the TARDIS to materialise around them so they can escape; the Roboforms open fire, but the TARDIS shrugs off the shots and dematerialises. The Empress is not thwarted. With the knowledge gained by dosing Donna, she knows how to achieve the same result with Lance. She 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 Empress has dug into the core of the planet. He tempts the distraught Donna into looking, and they find a Racnoss spaceship is the actual core of Earth, the rest of the planet forming around it. Were the Empress to use the Huon particles, she would reawaken those on the ancient ship. As the Doctor puts this information together, the Empress uses the Huon particles now in Lance to attract Donna and the TARDIS. They begin to materialise near the Empress, but the Doctor uses percussive maintenance on the Tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator (which appears to have TARDIS coral growing around it) to skip sideways into an empty corridor. As he listens at a door, Donna is captured and suspended in the Empress' web. The Doctor realises she is gone, then opens the door to find a black cloaked robot aiming a weapon at him.
The Empress activates the Huon particles, which purge from Donna and Lance and fall down the hole. Knowing her fellow Racnoss will be hungry, she prepares to drop meat down for them. Lance asks her to choose Donna; she considers it, but decides to send Lance down inside for being rude. With the web severed, Lance falls, screaming into the light before. Donna is now horrified of sharing his fate.
Meanwhile, the Empress' ship descends over the city, taken for a Christmas star until it fires on the city, causing panic and destruction; one little girl is nearly electrocuted by a laser before her father pulls her out of the way. She catches the Doctor as he sneaks back into the laboratory, in disguise as a roboform. The Doctor cuts the spider web with his sonic screwdriver, with Donna swinging on a strand to him; however, it's too long and Donna hits a wall with a comedic metallic clank. "Thank a lot." Donna sneers.
He offers the Racnoss one last chance: he will take her kind to a planet where they will threaten no one. She calls him funny, declining his offer, then tells the firing squad to aim, but they shut down as the Doctor calmly says, "Relax". He pulls a remote resembling a very flashy RC car controller from his pockets (which he says are bigger on the inside). The Empress proudly declares that the roboforms will not be necessary; her children will dine on Martian flesh tonight. The Doctor reveals that he is not from Mars, but Gallifrey.
The Empress is enraged as she exclaims, "They (the Time Lords) murdered the Racnoss!" The Doctor simply responds, "I warned you... you did this," and holds out a few of the explosive Christmas ornaments ominously. The Empress realises she has gone too far and pleads for mercy, but it is too late — the Doctor throws them into the air and uses the remote to control the ornaments like remote-controlled bombs to blow holes in the tunnel. Water from the Thames rushes in, swirling around the Empress and then reaching and travelling down the tunnel to the Earth's core, drowning the Racnoss within.
The Doctor stoically — coldly, even — watches as the water pours in, flames rush up and the Empress screams in anguish for her children. Donna's look grows horrified, and it takes her yelling out to the Doctor when they are both soaked, "Doctor! You can stop now!" to snap him out of it, at which point a look of terror comes across his face as well as if he realises what he has done. They escape into the TARDIS while the Empress teleports back to her ship, vowing to scorch the Earth; the Doctor replies that the opening of the Secret Heart and the Webstar's assault on London has drained its energy and left it defenceless. Humanity isn't, however, and the powerless Webstar is blown out of the sky by Challenger 2 tanks under orders of "Mr Saxon", presumably destroying the Empress and the Racnoss species with it.
The Doctor returns Donna home, but she is desolate, having lost her job and her fiancé the same evening. The Doctor uses a burst of energy from the TARDIS to make it snow, hoping to cheer her up. He invites her to join him in the TARDIS. She declines, but encourages him to find someone, recognising he has just lost someone himself and that sometimes he needs someone to stop him from doing something terrible. 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 Meilir
- Little Girl – Zafirah Boateng
- Robot Santa – Paul Kasey
Uncredited cast Edit
|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.
- Donna once had a dog, which she would have got rid of if Lance married her.
Food and Beverages Edit
- Lance made Donna coffee, which got them talking.
- Lance mentions Pringles, and how Donna seemed to get excited when there was a new flavour.
- "Mr Saxon" orders the destruction of the web star.
- Lance says that Donna talked excitedly about "Brad and Angelina", "Is Posh pregnant?", X Factor, the Atkins diet and feng shui.
- Connie decorated the tree.
- Lance's parents are Iris and Stan Bennett.
- Donna think Nerys is behind her suddenly appearing in the TARDIS
- On her first day of school, Donna was sent home for biting.
- When trying to hail a taxi, passersby assume Donna is either drunk or in drag.
- Lance is the head of HR.
- The church Donna and Lance are getting married in is called St Mary's. It's on Haven Road.
- Donna planned to have her honeymoon in Morocco.
- According to Lance, Donna cannot point to Germany on a map.
- The Doctor compares Donna to a microwave and a pressure cooker.
- Lance pretends to attack the Racnoss with an axe.
- There is a Torchwood Institute base under the River Thames extracting Huon particles, which exist within the Heart of the TARDIS.
- Donna's wedding dress is from Chez Alison.
- There is a W H Smith near where Donna and the Doctor try to hail a taxi.
- Donna describes H.C. Clements as a "posh locksmith".
- The Doctor asks Donna if Lance is a bit overweight with a zip round his forehead — alluding to the Slitheen.
- After the Doctor informed the Empress that he is from Gallifrey, she screamed in anger, shouting, "They [the Time Lords] murdered the Racnoss!"
- Donna repeatedly mistakes the Doctor for a Martian.
- The Racnoss claims she has being waiting at the "edge of the universe".
- Donna thinks there might be Dinosaurs under the Earth.
- Donna, sarcastically, says she was playing ten pin bowling before she appeared in the TARDIS.
- Donna was scuba-diving in Spain during the Battle of Canary Wharf.
- The Doctor uses the Tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator, which seems to have been incorporated into the TARDIS.
- The Doctor uses a bio-damper to keep Donna hidden from the robot Santas.
Story notes Edit
- 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 The Next Doctor and the 2009 edition a preview of The End of Time, Part One.
- This is the first appearance of companion Donna Noble. 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. She reappears in The End of Time but only as a guest star.
- 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 parallel world of Turn Left. It was also heard previously in The Christmas Invasion. It's heard again during the dream crab dream of Last Christmas.
- It 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.
- The fake bank notes created for the episode featured the faces of David Tennant and Phil Collinson. The official Doctor Who Facebook page later posted images of these.
- A new version of the Doctor Who logo is introduced in this episode. This is the first time the logo has changed without the title sequence changing with it.
- The title sequence reverts to its original colours after being modified for Series 2.
- During their audio commentary, David Tennant and Julie Gardner reveal that a sequence was shot but cut in which the Doctor and Donna took a bus to get to Donna's wedding reception. Actress Bella Emberg would have made a second appearance as Mrs Croot (from Love & Monsters) during this scene.
- Another deleted sequence mentioned by Tennant and Gardner during their commentary involved the Doctor, Donna and Lance travelling to H.C. Clements in Donna's pink Smart car. During this sequence, David Tennant's parents, his sister-in-law and his two nieces all appeared as extras in the background. However, none of them ended up in the finished episode.
- 9.3 million viewers (UK final)
Filming locations Edit
- This is the first episode to be filmed in the new Upper Boat studios.
- Filming also took place in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (which represented the Torchwood base).
Production errors Edit
- In the scene when Donna asks the woman if she could borrow £10 as it's Christmas, you can clearly see that Donna is wearing sports shoes instead of her usual white wedding shoes; Catherine Tate had been wearing sports shoes between takes.
- Even though it is supposed to be Christmas, it is obvious that the special was filmed during the summer, because all the trees have leaves on them, etc.
- When Donna returns to the reception, and the Doctor borrows a gentleman's phone, you see a menu item that says "Play". It is obvious that the HC Clements search that the Doctor does is a movie clip on the phone.
- The mask of the Roboform which abducts Donna in the taxi has eye lenses on its Santa mask which change from plain blue to fake eyes like those seen on the masks of other disguised Roboforms.
- The Doctor had previously encountered the Racnoss Empress when his fifth incarnation stumbled upon her conflict with the Time Lords. (AUDIO: Empire of the Racnoss)
- The tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator is still integrated with the TARDIS systems. (TV: Boom Town, The Parting of the Ways)
- The Doctor first called the Robot Santas "pilot fish" when they appeared before the Sycorax Invasion. (TV: The Christmas Invasion)
- The Master later referred to these events. (TV: The Sound of Drums)
- When the Doctor is standing waiting for the cash machine, the shop Henrik's is nearby. Rose Tyler worked there when she met the Doctor. A sign for Henrick's is also on the taxi that the Roboform used to kidnap Donna. (TV: Rose)
- In a parallel world where Donna was not with the Doctor for these events, the Doctor would have died without regenerating after stopping the Empress of the Racnoss. (TV: Turn Left)
- The upstairs section of the bar where Donna had planned her wedding reception has a Manchester Suite, as did Platform One. (TV: The End of the World)
- Donna says, "St. Mary's, Haven Road, Chiswick, London, England, Earth, The Solar System!" When they entered Pete's World, Mickey Smith said, "London, England, Earth". When the Tenth Doctor first came out of the TARDIS on the Sycorax ship he said, "London, Earth, the Solar System!" (TV: Rise of the Cybermen, The Christmas Invasion)
- The Doctor remembers Rose Tyler in a moment from their time on New Earth. (TV: New Earth)
- The Doctor says that his pockets are "bigger on the inside." Although never stated outright, his fourth incarnation's clothes seemed to have similar qualities. (TV: Genesis of the Daleks)
- The TARDIS starts to dematerialise, before taking off vertically into the sky. (TV: Fury from the Deep)
- Donna puzzles over the fact that there's a secret base hidden right under a famous London Landmark. This prompts the Doctor into saying in a sarcastic tone, "I know. Unheard of." The Doctor previously dealt with an underground base that housed the Nestene Consciousness hidden under the London Eye, (TV: Rose) while Torchwood has another base in Canary Wharf, (TV: Army of Ghosts / Doomsday) and UNIT has one at the Tower of London, (TV: The Christmas Invasion, The Power of Three, The Day of the Doctor) while Miss Kizlet's company would later be shown to be based at the Shard (TV: The Bells of Saint John) and the 3W Institute is inside St Paul's Cathedral. (TV: Dark Water / Death in Heaven) On a parallel Earth, Battersea Power Station was shown to be a Cyberman factory. (TV: The Age of Steel)
- Donna wears the same wedding dress once again in her virtual life inside the data core of the Library. (TV: Forest of the Dead)
- The Doctor is surprised that Donna doesn't remember Earth's recent encounters with the Sycorax (TV: The Christmas Invasion) and the Cybermen and Daleks in the Battle of Canary Wharf. (TV: Army of Ghosts / Doomsday)
- The Doctor attended Donna's next two weddings. (AUDIO: Death and the Queen; TV: The End of Time)
Home video releases Edit
- 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 and the Dr Who Confidential/ Children in Need 2006 Special Concert.
- It is also included in the Series 3 DVD box set.
- 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