Recap: Doctor Who 2006 CS "The Runaway Bride"

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!

Just as the Doctor says a last goodbye to Rose, some random broad pops up in the TARDIS. (Again.) Neither of them was expecting this. And she's wearing a wedding dress.

The plucky and rather rude bride — one Donna Noble, of Chiswick — demands to be put back on Earth right now, damn it. She's getting married! Unfortunately, our old friends the pilot fish have come back to help the Monster of the Week by kidnapping Donna. Fortunately, the Doctor convinces her to jump into his TARDIS out of a speeding car. Which is quite an accomplishment, seeing as the Doctor just told Donna that his last companion girl is now "gone" and she found Rose's jacket in the TARDIS, meaning she's pretty convinced that the Doctor is a deranged serial killer (from Mars). The (still Christmas-themed) pilot fish also crash the wedding reception, which is being held without Donna, who is rather indignant upon discovering this.

She and her fiancé, Lance, go along with the Doctor to help find out what's going on. They avoid the "pilot fish" and find a Racnoss nest inside a Thames Flood Barrier, in the basement of the company where Donna temps. Which, unbeknownst to Donna, turns out to be part of Torchwood.

Turns out Donna's fiancé was actually the consort of the Racnoss Empress, who truly makes Evil Is Hammy into an art form. Lance had been feeding Donna huon particles in order to make her a catalyst and trigger a ship. That ship will carry a whole nest of Racnoss babies in the Earth's core up to the surface of the Earth. And, in the Empress' words, "Racnoss are born starving!" That's right: they would eat everything on Earth.

The Doctor uses huon particle trickery to save his and Donna's lives, and they rush off to work on defeating this new menace. He also shows Donna the beginning of the formation of Earth, which turns out to have formed around the gravitational field of an ancient Racnoss nest. The Empress decides that she'll need a new "key" — and lucky her, she has Lance right there! One of the pilot fish grabs Donna and drags her away.

The Doctor realizes a bit too late that Donna's awfully quiet, and next thing we know, she and Lance are tied up in a web over the tunnel to the ship. The Empress messes with them for a bit, before she decides that she doesn't approve of Lance's treatment of Donna. So, like any sane, rational alien lady, she cuts him down — dropping him into the pit for her children. She monologues a bit, before turning and revealing one of the pilot fish as a masked Doctor, who gets Donna down from the web. Guess what? The Doctor has pockets! The Doctor gives the Empress one last chance, but turns out to be very firm on his new "one chance only" rule he instated earlier this series. He kills the entire nest of Racnoss by flooding it and setting everything on fire at the same time, completely horrifying Donna. Oh, and draining the Thames. She tells him to stop and get out, and (as we learn much later) does the universe a huge favour in the process.

Donna tries to come to terms with the fact that her fiancé was just using her for her huon-particle-catalysing body. She goes home, turning down the Doctor's offer of travelling with him and leaving him alone (at least for now). But not before telling him he should find someone, because occasionally, he needs somebody to stop him.


Tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: "The Doctor-man amuses us!"
  • All Webbed Up: Donna and Lance are stuck to the ceiling with spider threads.
  • Arc Words: Torchwood and orders from "Mr Saxon".
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    The Doctor: Hold on, wait a minute — what are you dressed like that for?
    Donna: I'm going ten-pin bowling. WHY DO YOU THINK, DUMBO?! I was halfway up the aisle!
  • Astronomic Zoom: The very intro is carried over from "Rose" and "The Christmas Invasion" except here, it zooms in on a church instead of on the Powell Estate.
  • Badass Boast:
    The Doctor: Oh, but I'm not from Mars. My home is far away and long since lost. But its name lives on. Gallifrey.
  • Bad Santa: The "pilot fish", again.
  • Big Damn Heroes: At first, it seems like the primarily hesitant and cowardly Lance is going to pull a stealthy one, involving a fire axe and an evil monologing Empress... and then it turns out he was just adding insult to injury in his Evil All Along reveal.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Besides the TARDIS, you've got the Doctor's pockets. Really, it explains an awful lot.
  • Big "NO!": The Racnoss Empress. "MYYYYY CHIIIIIIILDREEEEEEEEENNNNN!"
  • Bridezilla: Donna is understandably pissed that her wedding day was interrupted by a "Martian" and his strange blue box.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Donna calls the Doctor a Martian, which seems like a throwaway gag but leads to the Empress of the Racnoss underestimating him.
    • The Doctor also utilises the Extrapolator from "Boom Town".
  • Christmas Episode / An Ass-Kicking Christmas: The pilot fish pretend to be Santa so the Big Bad can eat humanity. The Doctor kicks their ass down the drain.
  • Death Glare: The Doctor gives a pretty scathing one to Donna after she asks about Rose's jacket in the TARDIS. It shuts her up.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: A Tenth Doctor trademark — he generally gives the baddies a chance to walk away. In this case, he tells her he could give her and her children a chance on another planet.
  • Epic Fail: The Doctor frees Donna from her webby imprisonment, and readies to catch her... only for Donna to smack about 5 feet below him. Even the Empress is a little stunned.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Empress feeds Lance to her children because she isn't impressed with him readily abandoning his "wife".
  • Evil Is Hammy: The Empress of the Racnoss, bringing Chewing the Scenery to epic levels. One wonders if the Racnoss actually subsisted on scenery that they chewed up, instead of meat, as they insist.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • The Racnoss Empress. "AK-akakakakakakaka!"
    • Lance has a more subdued one than the empress.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The Racnoss ate whole planets.
  • Failing a Taxi: The Doctor and Donna attempt to hail a taxi, but the cabbies who drive by variously mistake her as going to a fancy dress party, a drunk and a drag queen.
  • Foreshadowing: A simple rewatch and some critical thinking (or someone who's just paying real close attention on their first watch) will reveal that, for a man who's apparently never been down to the hidden depths of the abandoned Torchwood facility beneath the Thames, Lance sure knows the quickest way to leave the lab, circle around and up, and make his way to the Empress in record time. This is a big clue, but relatively easy-to-miss in the heat of the moment and quick run of the sequence of shots, that he knows more than he lets on about the facility and its general layout.
  • Gilligan Cut: When Donna and the Doctor realize they have no money for the cab.
  • Hammerspace: The Doctor confirms to Donna that his pockets are, indeed, Bigger on the Inside. Just like the TARDIS.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: The Racnoss larva will rise up and eat every human on the surface.
  • Human Resources: It's in the job title! Because this time, it's personnel!
  • Ignored Vital News Reports: Donna was hungover and out of town for the Sycorax and scuba-diving in Spain for the Cybermen. The Doctor is confused as to why she could end up like this.
  • Internal Homage: Donna ends up in the TARDIS in the same way companion Lucie Miller does in Big Finish Doctor Who. Just like Lucie, she's not the least bit impressed by the Doctor. (Lucie assumed he was a "hippie ponce", while Donna sees Rose's jacket on a railing and assumes he's a deranged serial killer.)
  • It's Always Spring: It's supposed to be Christmas, but the episode was filmed in warm weather as evidenced by the green trees seen during the car chase on the highway.
  • Just Between You and Me: Thoroughly averted. The Doctor attempts to mask his pokes and prods at the Empress' plan as curiosity. Lance, of all people, is the first to spot this and call him out on it, with the Empress agreeing with Lance immediately after. To which Lance says "Tough, all we need is Donna." The Empress then gives the order to kill the Doctor. It's really the one and only moment she avoids falling prey to the Big Bad stereotype of old.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: "This time, it's personnel!" Cue laughter from the villains and absolutely no-one else.
  • Landmarking the Hidden Base: The Racnoss has set up shop in an abandoned Torchwood base under the Thames flood barrier. Donna is incredulous; the Doctor (who's used to it), less so.
    Donna: What, there's like a secret base hidden underneath a major London landmark?
    The Doctor: I know, unheard of...
  • Love Interest Traitor: Lance only made Donna coffee in order to drug her with Huon particles. Accepting the marriage proposal was simply to keep her around.
  • Missing Floor: The curious thing that the Doctor notes about the H.C. Clements offices is that the lift control panel shows an entire floor not on the official floor plan.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Doctor drains the River Thames. Granted, it was to save the world, and may have been for laughs, but that's a whole ecosystem literally gone down the drain. Let's not talk about all the fish he probably killed.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: The Empress, possibly due to her sheer age, is one of the few aliens who doesn't seem to know that "the Doctor" refers to a rogue Time Lord and assumes he's a physician.
  • Oh, Crap:
    • The Racnoss Queen, after the Doctor finally corrects Donna's mistake. Namely, his planet of origin.
    • The Doctor reacting upon noticing that the driver of the taxi Donna has climbed into is a Robot Santa.
  • Or So I Heard: After officially missing the wedding, Donna wishes the Doctor had a time machine so they could go back and get it right. The Doctor mumbles that even if he did, he couldn't go back on her personal timeline — "apparently."
  • Phlebotinum Analogy: "I'm a pencil inside a mug?"
  • Pungeon Master: The Racnoss. Notable in that she deliberately keeps sitting up puns, and Lance and Donna don't play along.
    Racnoss: DO YOU WANT TO BE RELEASED?!
    Lance & Donna: Yes!
    Racnoss: (annoyed) YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO SAY "I DO!"!!!!!!!!!
  • Reality Subtext: Catherine Tate and David Tennant became close friends during the filming of this special. This is easily seen on Tennant's face during pretty much every scene he shares with her, and on Tate's during Donna's softer moments.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Lance gives a heartbreaking one to Donna after his Face-Heel Turn. It's about how she's only a key to his ambitions and he couldn't stand being married to her.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Lance is fed to the young Racnoss because the Empress doesn't approve of males who mistreat their mates.
  • Running Gag: The Racnoss Empress is the first person to call the Doctor and Donna a couple. She will not be the last.
  • Say My Name: The Doctor shouts "Donna!" at least 5 times.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: It is revealed that the centre of the Earth contains hundreds — possibly thousands — of omnivorous intelligent alien spiders. Indeed, the vessel that holds them is the original core of the planet, nearly five billion years old.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Racnoss Webstar bears a striking resemblance to the Cylon Basestar of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. Both ships are made with Y shapes stacked on each other. The names are also quite similar.
    • The Racnoss herself is a Drider.
  • Shut Up and Save Me!: The Doctor's listening at a door and talking at Donna and completely fails to notice the fact that she's been kidnapped for about half a minute, and only notices because she's not insulting him for once.
    The Doctor: There was a Racnoss web at the centre of the Earth, but my people unravelled their power source. Because Huon particles ceased to exist and the Racnoss were stuck, so they just stayed in hibernation for billions of years, frozen, dead, kaput! So you're the new key, brand new particles, living particles, and they need you to open it... and you have never been so quiet!
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: The Doctor decides to run with Donna's accusation of him being Martian when he uses the Sonic Screwdriver on a cash machine, since it simplifies matters.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: At the reception. (Murray Gold's "Love Don't Roam".)
  • Tranquil Fury: The Doctor, and it really freaks Donna out. "Turn Left" reveals that he would've died along with the Racnoss if she hadn't snapped him out of it.
  • Tsundere: Donna is mostly tsun, but gets a couple of softer moments — after the Robot Santas attack the reception, she tries to get the Doctor to help the injured while he's focused on the "bigger picture".
  • Unreliable Voiceover: Donna's description of how she and Lance got engaged. She was the one who proposed after six months of acquaintance and nagged until it was accepted, not the other way around as she tells it.
  • Villainous Breakdown: When the Doctor reveals his true home, the Racnoss Queen goes from gloating to horrified shrieking:
    Racnoss Queen: They MURDERED the Racnoss!
  • Weirdness Censor: Donna's relatives watch as she spontaneously disappears in a flash of light (while screaming piteously all the while). They conclude that it must be some sort of magic trick she cooked up for attention.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: A relatively gentle one when Donna says she can't travel with the Doctor and that he needs someone who can stop him doing the kinds of things he does.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Donna's reaction to the TARDIS chasing her taxi down the motorway, though you would think she wouldn't be afraid of it coming to rescue her when she's just discovered a killer Robot Santa is the driver.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Poor Lance. He's only needed for a key, and once used, he's spider food.
  • Your Mom: "And that goes double for your mother!"