"The Runaway Bride"
is a special episode
of the long running British science fiction television
series Doctor Who
, starring David Tennant
as the Tenth Doctor
. It was produced for Christmas
2006, broadcast on 25 December
), and played much the same role that "The Christmas Invasion
" played the previous year, introducing the third series while not actually being part of it. It features Catherine Tate
, who appeared in the TARDIS
at the end of the previous episode, "Doomsday
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. Donna, the bride, 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 got aboard. He then notices familiar masked Santas, recognising them as the robotic scavengers from the previous year's Christmas
, levelling their weapons disguised as instruments at him; he distracts them by using his sonic screwdriver
on a nearby 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 motorway
and is able to rescue her. However, such an endeavour 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, 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 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's 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 centre 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's 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's 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's ship begins to descend towards 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). The Empress shrieks in fury, accusing the Time Lords of having murdered the Racnoss, but the Doctor simply tells her that what happens next is of her own doing, and using some of the explosive Christmas ornaments, bursts apart the walls and floods the room with water from the River Thames, drowning the infant Racnoss at the Earth's centre. 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 end of "Doomsday" is featured as part of the pre-title sequence, although the scene was actually refilmed. In his online podcast commentary for the episode, David Tennant explained that this was due to a change in lighting supervisors, and the one hired for this episode liked to light the TARDIS interior differently; the scene therefore had to be refilmed in order to match.
- The first shot of the zoom-in to Earth was previously used in "Rose", "The Christmas Invasion" and "Army of Ghosts", but this time it zooms into the church rather than the Powell Estate.
- The Robotic Santa Clauses and Christmas Trees from "The Christmas Invasion" return in this story. The Santas are unmasked for the first time.
- This story is the first mention of the ancient form of energy known as "Huon particles", as an element of the Heart of the TARDIS.
- This episode reveals that the London branch of the Torchwood Institute had a base under the Thames Barrier. Donna remarks on how amazing it is that a London landmark could be a secret base, although the Doctor gives a less than surprised response. London landmarks have previously been bases for the Nestene Consciousness, based under the London Eye in "Rose", UNIT under the Tower of London in "The Christmas Invasion", the Cybermen in the parallel Earth's Battersea Power Station, the Torchwood Institute in 1 Canada Square in "Army of Ghosts" and "Doomsday" in the revived series. Those seen in the original series include the War Machines based in the Post Office Tower in The War Machines (1966) and the Chameleons in Gatwick Airport in The Faceless Ones (1967). Although not set in London, Torchwood
Three's base beneath Roald Dahl Plass uses the same concept.
- The Doctor makes use of the Tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator, last seen generating a force field in "The Parting of the Ways", to shunt the TARDIS to a different location once it lands. It appears to have been integrated into the TARDIS systems, as a portion of it is covered with TARDIS "coral".
- This is the first time that Gallifrey, the Doctor's home planet, has been referred to by name on screen since the series relaunched in 2005. Gallifrey is also referred to in some of the tie-in novels for the new series.
- The tank commander who opens fire on the Empress's ship is heard to say that he has orders from "Mr Saxon". The name first appeared in the 2006 series episode "Love & Monsters" as part of a headline on a copy of The Daily Telegraph being read by the Abzorbaloff. It also features in the spin-off series Torchwood, as a poster on the door of the Ritz Ballroom in the episode "Captain Jack Harkness" and features as the main plot arc keyword of the subsequent season of Doctor Who.
- The use of the TARDIS lamp to fire a discharge (in this case to excite the atmosphere and produce snow) is also a first for the series.
- Donna Noble joined a list of characters who are considered companions, even though they don't meet the usual criteria. Like Grace Holloway before her (another disputed companion), Donna declines an invitation to join the Doctor in his travels. However, she returned as the Doctor's companion for the duration of the 2008 series.
- In "Turn Left", this story is revisited with the Doctor and Donna never meeting. We learn that she saved his life when she pleaded with him to leave the Racnoss lair in this episode. If the Doctor had never met Donna, she was never around to get him to leave and the Doctor would have ended up dying in the explosion.
References to other stories
- The Doctor refers to the "spaceship overhead" seen in "The Christmas Invasion" (these events given as having taken place the previous year), and to the Battle of Canary Wharf between the Daleks and Cybermen, as seen in "Doomsday". However, Donna had not seen any of these events due to a hangover and a scuba-diving trip in Spain, respectively.
- At the end of this episode, the TARDIS takes off vertically like a rocket. The first time this was seen was in the Second Doctor serial Fury from the Deep (1968).
- The unmasking of the robot Santa driving the taxi is reminiscent of the Episode Two cliffhanger of Terror of the Autons (1971), when the Third Doctor, while inside a police patrol car, unmasks an Auton disguised as a police officer.
- A bus is shown carrying an advertisement for Henrik's department stores (the department store Rose Tyler worked in). The store itself, and an employee holding an advertising banner for it, are featured in the background of the scene where the Doctor uses the cashpoint.
- When the Doctor asks about Lance, he says, "He's not a bit overweight with a zip round his head, is he?". This is a reference to the Slitheen.
- The Doctor first used the sonic screwdriver to manipulate a cashpoint in "The Long Game".
- Labels from a modern-day Magpie Electricals (from "The Idiot's Lantern") are featured in this episode's gallery on the BBC Doctor Who Website.
- Russell T Davies had the idea for this episode from the very beginning of his association with the programme, and he planned to air it in Series Two. With the public announcement of two Christmas specials and the private knowledge of Billie Piper leaving at the end of Series Two, Davies decided to elevate this story to the Christmas special, not introducing the new companion immediately, and filling the slot with "Tooth and Claw".
- Catherine Tate's name appears in the opening credits along with David Tennant's.
- This was the first full-length episode of the revived series that did not feature Billie Piper's name in the opening credits. She was previously not credited on the short online interactive episode "Attack of the Graske".
- The Doctor Who logo in the opening credits has been slightly redesigned from the previous one, with more background detail and flare on the "lozenge" that the words "Doctor Who" sit on.
- For legal reasons, the production team made obviously fake banknotes for the scene where money comes flying out of a cashpoint. The £10 notes feature the Doctor's face and the phrases "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of ten satsumas" and "No second chances — I'm that sort of a man". The text is a reference to the Doctor's actions and dialogue near the end of "The Christmas Invasion". There were also £20 notes featuring producer Phil Collinson. These had the phrase "There's no point being grown up if you can't be a little childish sometimes" printed on them, misquoting the line originally spoken by the Fourth Doctor, (Tom Baker), in Robot, "There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes." All notes and the cash machine were labelled "London Credit Bank". The notes have become collector's items, regularly selling for £50 or more.
- Night filming of scenes involving gunfire, explosions and a tank disturbed some Cardiff residents, including one American woman returning home from the conflict in Lebanon. These scenes, as well as those on "Oxford Street", were filmed on St. Mary Street outside Howell's Department Store in Cardiff City Centre; Cardiff Castle is visible behind the tank in some shots.
- The TARDIS chase scene down the A4232 Grangetown Link Road was shown at a Children in Need concert, which featured a live orchestra performing many of the music themes from Doctor Who, including the Dalek music and Rose's theme. The clip was leaked online shortly after the event and the concert and clip were shown earlier before the episode officially aired on Christmas Day on a Doctor Who Confidential special at 1:00 p.m.
- Due to her extremely busy schedule, Catherine Tate was unable to be present for the script readthrough. As a favour, her part was read by Sophia Myles, who played Madame de Pompadour in the 2006 series episode "The Girl in the Fireplace".
- In a podcast commentary for the episode, David Tennant and executive producer Julie Gardner discussed a sequence that was cut from the broadcast. As broadcast, after Donna finds a piece of Rose's clothing and challenges the Doctor about it, he angrily snatches it from her and sets a course for the TARDIS. As originally filmed, the Doctor first opens the TARDIS doors and throws the garment into space. Gardner said it was cut as it was too melodramatic a moment.
- This is the first Doctor Who episode to be shot at the new dedicated Upper Boat studios in Pontypridd; the TARDIS set had previously been housed in former warehouse space in Newport.
- Although the episode was set during Christmas, filming took place in July, where temperatures reached 30C in Cardiff during filming.
- The Doctor has no regular companion in the TARDIS in this episode, but Martha Jones, played by Freema Agyeman, appears in the "Coming Soon" clips broadcast at the end of the episode.
- In the lead-up to transmission, Radio 1 reported that Billie Piper might appear in the episode "in one form or another". Although she did appear, it was only briefly (and uncredited) in flashbacks from "New Earth". Her character, Rose, was also discussed by the Doctor and Donna, but only named in the last line of the special.
- Sarah Parish has co-starred with David Tennant in two other BBC One dramas: Blackpool (2004) and Recovery (2007). Catherine Tate co-starred with Tennant in a sketch for Comic Relief (2007) which made several Doctor Who references.
- Don Gilet previously appeared with Sarah Parish in Cutting It.
- Catherine Tate returns in series 4, reprising her role as Donna Noble, this time as a full-time companion.
- Jacqueline King and Howard Attfield are introduced in this episode, and were both due to return in "Partners In Crime", the first episode of the 2008 season. Jaqueline King did return but Howard Attfield died shortly after completing the shoot, and his scenes were reshot with Bernard Cribbins as Donna's grandfather.
- This was the first Doctor Who story to be broadcast with in-vision British Sign Language interpretation, in a UK repeat on 30 December 2006.
- The episode was followed immediately by two trailers, one for "Invasion of the Bane", the pilot episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, and one for the double-bill finale of Torchwood, both of which aired on 1 January, 2007.
- The Series 3 trailer at the end of this episode contains a clip of a man loading a gun with the sound of squeals in the background. The clips in the trailer for the next series tend to be for the first 5 or 6 episodes. However, as of yet we have not seen this scene in any episodes. It is likely to have been a deleted scene from either "Daleks in Manhattan" or "Evolution of the Daleks."
- The final official ratings for "The Runaway Bride" gave it an audience of 9.35 million viewers, making it the tenth most-watched programme on British television during Christmas week.
- "The Runaway Bride" was released as an individual episode, along with the Doctor Who Confidential special "Music and Monsters", on 2 April 2007 as a basic DVD with no special features.
- The episode made its North American broadcast debut in Canada at midnight on 19 June 2007, on CBC, after the premiere episode of Series 3, "Smith and Jones" three hours earlier.
- The episode made its Australian broadcast debut on ABC on 28 June 2007, before Series 3 airs with "Smith and Jones" on June 30.
- The episode made its US broadcast debut on 6 July 2007, on the Sci Fi Channel, directly ahead of the premiere episode of Series 3, "Smith and Jones".
- The episode made its New Zealand broadcast debut on Prime on 20 August 2007, before Series 3 airs with "Smith and Jones" on 27 August.