TV Show Review: Doctor Who Episode 3.00 “The Runaway Bride”

Series: Doctor Who (TVTropes Recap)
Season.Episode: 3.00 “The Runaway Bride” (Christmas special between Series 2 and 3)
Original Air Date: Christmas Day 2006
Length: 45 minutes
Writer: Russell T. Davies
Lead Actors: David Tennant (The Tenth Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Sarah Parish (Empress of the Racnoss)
Synopsis: “A bride suddenly materialises in the Tardis. The Doctor must get her to the church on time, but the Empress of Racnoss, an alien spider, has other ideas… “ (from Wikipedia)
Reason for Watching: This category on the rubric is no longer relevant for Doctor Who.
Episode Re-watchability: I’ve already rewatched it once, and it was nearly as fun as the first time.
Final Verdict: A tremendously fun episode and a good move forward from the emotional weight of the Series 2 finale.

Key Thoughts

“The Runaway Bride” hearkens back to the previous Christmas episode, “The Christmas Invasion,” but fortunately avoids treading exactly the same ground. The robot Santa-musicians with their killer Christmas trees are back, but now they are being remotely controlled by a giant alien spider queen (The Empress of the Racnoss, played incredibly over-the-top by Sarah Parish) who is trying to awake her thousands (or more?) of “children” who  are hibernating at the center of the earth.

That last sentence was exceedingly fun to write.

The plot’s back story feels too bold and illogical to be the subject of only a single episode, and if you think too hard about it (or much at all), it begins to fall apart. For instance, why are these ancient Huon particles supposedly so rare if they can be extracted from the hydrogen in water? But nevermind; the story is immaterial here. This episode is really about preventing the Doctor from wallowing in his grief over Rose and forcing him to move forward with his extraordinary life.

She often needs the obvious pointed out to her.

And he really has to move, too. Mere seconds after the portal to Rose’s dimension closes, wedding-dress-clad Donna Noble is standing bewildered on the TARDIS and screeching at him to take her back RIGHT NOW. This character is really an amazing balancing act. On paper she should be the most annoying thing ever, and yet somehow Catherine Tate gives her just enough intelligence (beneath her ditzy, oblivious surface), just enough kindness (despite her temper tantrums), and a reasonable amount of unlikely bravery that—in addition to being funny—she is actually a likeable character.

And regarding the strange man who is the Doctor, Donna can be remarkably perceptive. The real thrust of the episode comes after the adventure is over. The Racnoss, despite their horrible threat, have been defeated pretty easily by the Doctor, yet the victory was rendered unpleasant by the anguished screams of the Empress and her drowning children, and also by the unemotional grimness with which the Doctor listened to their pain far longer than he needed to. So it is that, at the end, when the Doctor offers Donna the position of full Companion—as I knew he would—she turns him down, citing the crazy danger of his life and how uncomfortable she is with how he deals with it (or the lack thereof).

I doubt many people have ever turned down such an offer in the Doctor’s history! Yet I think it’s good for him to experience rejection every now and again. Not everyone can, or should, be like Rose, dropping their loved ones and responsibilities in an instant to run off with him. For all her silliness and problems, Donna is an older and more mature woman than Rose, and her life experience causes her to see something about the Doctor that Rose never quite did. The Doctor needs Companions. If for no other reason than to stop him when he begins to forget mercy and justice, and instead indulges his anger at his enemies. The Doctor is not a god; he is limited, flawed, troubled, and often enough wrong. Donna realizes that being a Companion is more than just being a helper on a series of wild adventures—it means being the Doctor’s moral leash. At this time, that is too much a responsibility for her, she says, but the Doctor needs to seek out those who can do it. It is this piece of information we must keep in mind when examining Martha Jones’ role in the rest of Series 3.

As an ending note, this episode is not very Christmassy. It looks as if it was filmed in the summer (and it probably was) and has even fewer Christmas trappings than “The Christmas Invasion.” Not much of a holiday theme, either. I don’t think Russell T. Davies likes Christmas very much, the way he treats it.

The Doctor: You’ve seen it out there. It’s beautiful.
Donna: And it’s terrible. That place was flooding and burning and they were dying and you stood there like… I don’t know, a stranger. And then you made it snow. I mean, you scare me to death!

And we get to see the TARDIS actually fly! As in move through space instead of time! It's a pretty fun chase scene.
Don't we have big telescopes and satellites that would see this massive spider-web-comet-space-station-thing flying towards us?

Screencaps from…


  1. emilykazakh says:

    Ah, Donna Noble. I want to be just like her when I grow up: smart and sassy, yet oblivious to everything. Actually, I think I’ve already got that down.

    Good review. I agree, I don’t think Davies likes Christmas at all. Shame since DW is technically supposed to appeal to kids as well as adults, and kids love Christmas. I think Davies tends to forget who his audience is.

    1. David says:

      Haha, good for you! I’m really excited to see how she is as a full Companion in Series 4.

      His overall take on the series seems to have been the right one, and he probably deserves credit for the new series’ success. The episodes he writes tend to be fast-paced, energetic, and highly entertaining, even the weaker ones. However, he’s also probably responsible for a number of the elements that really bug me: the moral laxity, the bits of innuendo (which thankfully aren’t overwhelming, except when Captain Jack is around), the…uh…inter-species romances of the future, not to mention the less-than-rational pacifism and oft-liberal slant. Too often he sees the show as a platform for his political ideas, and that’s especially not good for a kids’ show.

  2. mjschneider says:

    It seems that you liked “The Runaway Bride” as much as I did. It’s one of my favorites from the new series, even though I know a lot of people who absolutely hated it. I love Donna, and I love that this is mostly just a screwball adventure. The plot has enough of an emotional punch to it for it to be satisfying, but it’s not big on Big Ideas. The fact that the Doctor flat-out destroys his enemy in this one was a satisfying contrast to his wishy-washiness in later episodes, but it only worked because Donna reminds him how terrifying he can be, and that it is so easy for him to go too far. The cherry on top of that car chase was the little kid that’s watching the whole thing, and when you see him go “Yeah!” behind the window, it totally makes the episode.

    I think you’ll love Donna in series four. I dunno if you’ll love what RTD does with her, but she’s a pretty awesome companion.

    1. David says:

      The kid was a perfect touch, agreed. I’ve been trying to think of the best episode with which to introduce someone to Doctor Who–someone who isn’t guaranteed to like it, and if Ep. 1.01 “Rose” isn’t on hand–and this one looks pretty good in that regard.

  3. I was really annoyed by Donna in this episode, and afraid when I heard she was going to be a companion in season 4 – but once I got to know her in season 4, I ended up loving her, and after watching this episode again, I’m not annoyed at all. She’s good for him.
    I can’t wait for your season 3 review!

  4. The Beloved Husband has an interesting take on Doctor Who’s continued fun and success over the years.

    Doctor Who tells the story of a man who overcomes his trials with his brain – it’s the story of intelligence and romance (in the older sense of the word) triumphing over brute strength and ignorance. This adds its own bit of spice and interest to the episodes because this is one sci-fi show where not everything is solved by explosions. It’s always fun to see how the Doctor is going to deal with things, because it’s never quite what one expects.

    I agree that it can get a little political for a kid-friendly show (and I don’t dare watch the spin-off show, Torchwood, for fear of the politics and views that they’ll shove at me through Cap’n Jack), but I think Doctor Who will always be one of my favorite shows.

    1. David says:

      That certainly seems to be the intention of the writers. His main gadget is a sonic screwdriver, and he almost never touches an actual weapon (meaning that when he fires a rifle as John Smith in the Family of Blood twofer it’s a bit of a shock!). I appreciate that, because it means this is an actual adventure show, not an action show. There is action, but the story is solved in a manner true to itself rather than with a big fight at the end.

      Aye, I avoid Torchwood too. From what I can tell, that show takes all the unhealthy hints and asides within Doctor Who and makes them the very point of its existence. It’s really a pity–I’d like Captain Jack just fine if he wasn’t a poster boy for sexual immorality.

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