Harman Patil (Editor)

The Runaway Bride (Doctor Who)

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Produced by
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Air date
December 25, 2006

Script editor
Incidental music composer
Written by
Euros Lyn

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Executive producer(s)
Russell T DaviesJulie Gardner

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"The Runaway Bride" is a special episode of the long-running British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, starring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. It was produced as the Doctor Who Christmas special for 2006, broadcast on 25 December, the second Christmas special after the previous "The Christmas Invasion" which introduced the third series while not actually being part of it. It features Catherine Tate as Donna, who appeared in the TARDIS at the end of the previous episode, "Doomsday".


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The episode opens immediately following the events of "Doomsday". The Doctor, still upset at the loss of Rose Tyler, is shocked to find a woman in a wedding dress standing in the TARDIS console room. The woman angrily accuses him of abducting her from her wedding and demands to be returned. She angrily rips open the TARDIS doors, to see that she's actually in outer space. She tells the Doctor her name is Donna, and he does several tests to find out how she got into the TARDIS in-flight. The Doctor returns her to Earth, where she storms off to find a cab to return to her wedding. The Doctor is accosted by robotic Santas, and uses the TARDIS to fly alongside the taxi Donna is in to rescue her from the Santa that is driving it. The flight overloads the TARDIS, and the Doctor is forced to set it down on a nearby rooftop. The Doctor gives Donna a ring that will mask her from the Santas, and escorts her back to her wedding.

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The Doctor meets Donna's groom, Lance Bennett, whom she had met and fallen in love with while working with him. He reviews the video footage of Donna's disappearance from the wedding and recognizes that she managed to absorb a great deal of huon particles, which would have drawn her to the huon particles contained in the TARDIS. The Doctor realises that the ring he gave Donna cannot mask the huon particle signature, and soon the reception hall is attacked by more Santas. The Doctor is able to use the music sound system to disrupt the attack and trace the control signal to a ship in orbit around Earth, but he quickly loses track of it.

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The Doctor learns that Donna's workplace is owned by the Torchwood Institute, which the Doctor believed to be defunct. The Doctor asks Lance to take him to the company headquarters and they are accompanied by Donna. The Doctor discovers a secret basement leading to a long tunnel under the Thames Barrier. There they find machinery creating huon particles, and a pit that seems to lead straight to the core of the Earth. They are surprised by the sudden appearance of the Empress of the Racnoss, a spider-like species wiped out eons ago by the Time Lords. She shows them that she has taken control of the company and used the Torchwood technology to create the pit. Lance reveals that he has been working with the Empress, and was responsible for dosing Donna's coffee with huon particles to convert Donna into a key that would free the Empress' children. The Doctor and a heartbroken Donna escape, and the Empress decides to use Lance as the key and orders him force fed large quantities of the huon particles.

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The Doctor retrieves the TARDIS and takes Donna back to the formation of planet Earth. They observe that a Racnoss ship formed the core of the developing planet, and the Doctor deduces that the Empress is attempting to revive her species by using the huon particles to awaken the ancient Racnoss. Back in the present, the Doctor and Donna return to the pit to face the Empress. Donna is captured and put in webbing, and the Doctor is held at gunpoint by the Santas. As the Racnoss are awakened and begin ascending from the pit, the Empress brings her ship closer to Earth and begins firing upon the populace. The Doctor offers to take the Empress and her kind to a planet where they will not harm anyone but she refuses. The Doctor then reveals himself to her as a Time Lord, and tells her he cannot let the Racnoss survive. Using explosives, the Doctor destroys one of the walls of the room, flooding it and the pit with water from the River Thames and killing the Empress's offspring by drowning them. The Empress teleports back to her ship, but due to having used up all her power it is destroyed by human forces said to be acting upon "Mr. Saxon's" orders.

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The Doctor returns Donna home where she declines an offer to travel with him. Donna tells the Doctor not to travel alone, and suggests he needs someone with him to help keep his temperament in check. The episode ends with the TARDIS taking off up into the atmosphere.


The Robotic Santa Clauses and Christmas Trees from "The Christmas Invasion" return in this story. The Doctor refers to the "spaceship hovering over London" as 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. 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".

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 series of Doctor Who.

Henrik's, the department store Rose Tyler worked in, 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.

In the series 4 episode "Turn Left", a world where the Doctor did not meet Donna Noble but still fought the Racnoss is shown. In that episode, it is shown that without Donna there to stop him, the Doctor would have permanently died fighting the Racnoss, leading to a terrible world where Earth is devastated by repeated alien invasions.


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".

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 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.

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". 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. 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.

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.

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.

Cast notes

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.

Catherine Tate returned in series 4, reprising her role as Donna Noble 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. King had previously appeared in the Doctor Who Unbound audio drama Deadline.


"Merry Xmas Everybody" by Slade appears again, as in the previous year's "The Christmas Invasion".

Also as with "The Christmas Invasion" (which contained the tune "Song for Ten"), composer Murray Gold wrote an original song for this special, called "Love Don't Roam". The song was performed by Neil Hannon, frontman of the Divine Comedy (who had, coincidentally, appeared in a sketch of The Catherine Tate Show earlier in the year). The song was previewed at the Doctor Who: A Celebration concert on 19 November 2006 at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, where it was sung by Gary Williams; the studio version featuring Hannon is on the soundtrack album released on 11 December 2006.

Broadcast and reception

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 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 episode "Music and Monsters", on 2 April 2007 as a basic DVD with no additional special features.

Steve O'Brien of SFX gave "The Runaway Bride" four out of five stars, noting that it was different from anything Doctor Who had done, but the "sillier" tone worked for Christmas Day. He also praised Tennant and Tate. IGN's Travis Fickett gave the episode a score of 7.2 out of 10, feeling that Donna had improved from her short appearance at the end of "Doomsday". Fickett was also positive about the way Rose was not ignored. Dek Hogan of Digital Spy wrote that the episode "lacked the energy and excitement of last year's effort", particularly criticising the Empress. In 2012, SFX listed "The Runaway Bride" as a bad example of a sci-fi Christmas episode, noting that it was "a decent episode in many respects" but had the disadvantage of being filmed in the summer.

DVD release

The ten Christmas specials between "The Christmas Invasion" and "Last Christmas" inclusive were released in a boxset titled Doctor Who – The 10 Christmas Specials on 19 October 2015.


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