The Runaway Bride (Doctor Who)

The Runaway Bride (Doctor Who)
178 – "The Runaway Bride"
Doctor Who episode
Runaway Bride (Doctor Who).jpg
The Doctor tries to persuade Donna to jump into the TARDIS.
Writer Russell T Davies
Director Euros Lyn
Script editor Simon Winstone
Producer Phil Collinson
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Production code 3.X
Series Series 3
Length 60 minutes
Originally broadcast 25 December 2006
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Doomsday" "Smith and Jones"

"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 (Christmas Day), 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 as Donna, who appeared in the TARDIS at the end of the previous episode, "Doomsday".




The Doctor, still desolate after saying his last goodbyes to Rose Tyler, is surprised to find Donna Noble suddenly materialise on the TARDIS. Donna angrily accuses him of abducting her from her wedding ceremony and demands to be returned to the church in Chiswick. The Doctor does so, but they find themselves near Oxford Street instead. Donna takes off to find a taxi to return her to the church, while the Doctor spots the robotic scavengers disguised as Santas from the previous year's Christmas. He avoids their attack and looks for Donna, finding her in a taxi manned by another Santa. The Doctor uses the TARDIS to fly alongside the taxi and rescue Donna, but the activities have put a strain on the time machine, and the Doctor is forced to let it recover. The Doctor, curious as to the scavengers' interest in Donna, gives her a ring to mask herself from them, and escorts her back to her wedding's reception.

The Doctor meets Donna's groom, Lance, whom she had met and fallen in love with while working with him at the firm of H.C. Clements. He reviews the video footage of Donna's disappearance and recognizes that she had managed to absorb a great deal of Huon particles which would have been drawn towards the TARDIS in conjunction with the stress Donna was under due to her wedding. Too late, the Doctor realises the ring he gave Donna cannot mask the Huon particle signature, and soon the reception hall is attacked by more scavengers. The Doctor is able to use the music sound system to disrupt the attack and trace the control signal to a star-shaped ship in orbit around Earth, but quickly loses track of it.

On learning that H.C. Clements is owned by the Torchwood Institute, which was believed to be dissolved after the Battle of Canary Wharf, the Doctor asks Lance to take him to their headquarters; Donna insists on joining them. The Doctor discovers a secret basement leading to a long tunnel under the Thames Barrier. At a room at the end of a tunnel, 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 the Doctor believed had been 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, and now plans to throw her into the pit. The Doctor and a heartbroken Donna escape; the Empress decides to use Lance for these purposes and starts force-feeding him the Huon particles.

Curious as to the Empress's goal, the Doctor takes Donna back to the restored TARDIS and travels back to the creation of the Earth. They find that a Racnoss ship formed the core of the developing planet, and the Doctor surmises that the Empress is attempting to revive her species by using the Huon particles to awaken the ancient Racnoss, with Lance's body becoming a food source for them. Returning to the present, the Doctor and Donna return to the pit to face the Empress, but Donna becomes trapped in her web while the Doctor is held at gunpoint by one of the scavengers. As the Racnoss are awakened and begin ascending the pit, the Empress brings her ship closer to Earth and begins firing upon the populace. The Doctor offers the Empress to take her and her kind to a planet where they will not harm anyone but she refuses. The Doctor then reveals himself as a Time Lord, and asserts he cannot let the Racnoss thrive, and destroys one of the walls of the room, flooding it and the pit with water from the River Thames. Though the Doctor has freed Donna, he stays to watch the Empress suffer, but Donna convinces him that they must leave. As they escape in the TARDIS, the Empress teleports back to her ship; however, this move proves futile, as the ship is destroyed soon afterwards by human forces under Harold Saxon's orders.

The Doctor returns Donna home: however, she is desolate, having lost her job and her fiancé the same evening. She declines an invitation to join him in the TARDIS, but suggests he find someone else to calm him down, as she did earlier in battle. The Doctor tells her briefly about Rose, and then disappears back into the 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 One 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".
  • 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,[1][2] 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.[3]
  • In "Turn Left", this story is revisited with the Doctor and Donna never meeting. It is revealed 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 drowning.

References to other stories

  • 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.
  • 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.[4]
  • 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.[5]


  • 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".[6]
  • 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.[7]
  • 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".[8][9] 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."[8][10] All notes and the cash machine were labelled "London Credit Bank". The notes have become collector's items, regularly selling for £50 or more.[11]
  • 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.[12] 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,[13] 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".[14]
  • 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.[14]
  • 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.

Cast notes

  • 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.[15]
  • 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 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.



  • 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.[16]
  • 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 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.[17]
  • "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.
  • Although The Runway Bride was not filmed in HD the BBC aired it on BBC One HD Tuesday 28 December 2010. They up-scaled the program to HD and it also included Dolby Surround sound. This is the first Doctor Who episode that has been up-scaled in the United Kingdom.[18]


  1. ^ "Doctor Who Reference Guide - Tenth Doctor - Companions". Retrieved 2007-03-02. 
  2. ^ "BBC - Doctor Who - Characters". Retrieved 2007-03-02. 
  3. ^ "Donna says "I do!"". BBC. 2007-07-04. Retrieved 2007-07-04. 
  4. ^ "Walesarts, St Mary Street, Cardiff". BBC. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  5. ^ "BBC - Doctor Who - Gallery - The Runaway Bride". Retrieved 2006-12-22. 
  6. ^ "Wedding Plans: Russell reveals Runaway Bride origins in DWM special", Doctor Who Magazine Series Two Companion via, 2006-08-07
  7. ^ "New logo". Outpost Gallifrey (registration required). 2006-12-26. Retrieved 2006-12-28. [dead link]
  8. ^ a b Carey, Paul (2006-07-26). "Fake notes are Doctor Who's cash conversion". Western Mail. Retrieved 2006-07-27. 
  9. ^ "Image of "David Tennant" £10 note". Outpost Gallifrey. 2006-07-26. Archived from the original on 2006-10-21. Retrieved 2006-08-01. 
  10. ^ "Image of "Phil Collinson" £20 note". Outpost Gallifrey. 2006-07-26. Archived from the original on 2006-10-21. Retrieved 2006-08-01. 
  11. ^ "Doctor's fans cash in on notes". The Sun. 2006-12-26.,,2001320029-2006590612,00.html. Retrieved 2006-12-29. 
  12. ^ Cox, Emma (2006-08-01). "Tanks for waking us, Doc". The Sun.,,2-2006350217,00.html. Retrieved 2006-08-01. 
  13. ^ a b David Tennant; Julie Gardner. "The Runaway Bride commentary" (MP3). Retrieved 2007-01-02. 
  14. ^ Series 3 trailer BBC Doctor Who website
  15. ^ "Programme Information - BBC One Transmission Details - Weeks 52/1" (Press release). BBC Press Office. 2006-12-07. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  16. ^ "Runaway Bride — Official Ratings". Outpost Gallifrey. 2007-01-11. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  17. ^ "Runaway Bride", BBC,, retrieved 2011-02-04 

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