TARDIS Index File

The Runaway Bride (TV story)

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The Runaway Bride
Runaway Bride main
Doctor: Tenth Doctor
Companion(s): Donna
Featuring: Sylvia
Main enemy: Empress of the Racnoss
Main setting: London, Christmas Eve 2007
Key crew
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Euros Lyn
Producer: Phil Collinson
Release details
Story number: 178
Season/series: 3
Premiere broadcast: 25 December 2006
Premiere network: BBC One
Format: 1x60 minute special
Production code: 3.X
Confidential: Music and Monsters
←Previous Next→
Doctor Who television stories
Doomsday Smith and Jones
Production order
Love & Monsters Smith and Jones
Christmas specials
The Christmas Invasion Voyage of the Damned
Memorable moment
Doctor Who - Donna kidnapped by The Doctor - BBC01:23

Doctor Who - Donna kidnapped by The Doctor - BBC

Another memorable moment
Doctor Who - Taxi vs Tardis - BBC03:23

Doctor Who - Taxi vs Tardis - BBC

One more memorable moment
Doctor Who - Ultimate Battle The Doctor vs Empress Rachnoss - BBC03:40

Doctor Who - Ultimate Battle The Doctor vs Empress Rachnoss - BBC

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.

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.

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.

Summary Edit

Killer Santas, exploding baubles, an alien spaceship shaped like a giant starChristmas with the Tenth Doctor is anything but a silent night...

Plot Edit

Donna Noble prepares to walk down the aisle to her waiting groom, Lance Bennett, in her Christmas Eve wedding. Halfway down the aisle she is surrounded by a golden glow. She dissolves into a cloud of energy that goes flying up through the ceiling.

In outer space, the Tenth Doctor is orbiting a supernova and has finished his farewell to Rose Tyler when he looks up to see Donna in the TARDIS. He is flabbergasted as to how she ended up in the TARDIS.

Donna is irate at being stolen from her wedding and blames the Doctor, demanding answers. 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 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 and tries to phone her family while the Doctor wonders how she could have gotten aboard. 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 realises she has no money for a taxi, so the Doctor gets some from a nearby ATM.

Tardis rescue bride

A harrowing road rescue.

The 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. Though Donna is out of danger for the moment, the endeavour has put a considerable strain on the TARDIS and the Doctor cannot use it for some time, saying that she doesn't do much flying despite being a spaceship.


The Doctor gets to know Donna.

The Doctor gives Donna a bio-damper 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 acquires unusual transport.

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. 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.

Introducing Empress of the Racnoss - Doctor Who - The Runaway Bride - BBC03:55

Introducing Empress of the Racnoss - Doctor Who - The Runaway Bride - BBC

The Empress of the Racnoss reveals herself.

As they explore, a 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 itself 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. However, as 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 dematerializes. 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.

Doctor donna watch the earth form

The Doctor and Donna watch the formation of Earth and the solar system.

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 severs Lance from the web, dropping him into the pit.

Webstar destruction

The Webstar wreaks destruction on London.

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. He cuts down Donna so that she can swing to safety, then 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 defenseless. Humanity isn't, however, and the powerless Webstar is blown out of the sky by 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.

Cast Edit

Uncredited cast Edit

Crew Edit

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


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.

References Edit

Animals Edit

  • 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.

Individuals Edit

  • "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.

Locations Edit

Music Edit

Objects Edit

Organisations Edit

Species Edit

  • 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.

Sports Edit

Technology Edit

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.
  • 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 traveling 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.

Ratings Edit

  • 9.4 million viewers

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

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • 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.

Continuity Edit

Home video releases Edit


The Runaway Bride DVD Cover

  • 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.

Footnotes Edit

External links Edit

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