The Church on Ruby Road promo
Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road promo.

Directed by: Mark Tonderai
Written by: Russell T. Davies
Starring: Ncuti Gatwa, Millie Gibson, Davina McCall, Michelle Greenidge, Angela Wynter, and Anita Dobson

[This review contains SPOILERS for the episode.]

Christmas specials have been a staple of nuWho ever since Russel T. Davies (RTD) revived though show nearly 20 years ago, and now he’s back to treat us with another wonderful story filled with festive cheer, family bonding, and goblins eating babies…wait, what?

The Church on Ruby Road

The chief thing I love about Doctor Who is wondering what interestingly insane thing are the writer’s going to cook up with each new adventure. They don’t always hit but when they do I always leave the credits grinning from ear-to-ear; or completely horrified, but in like a good way. The Church on Ruby Road was the kind that left me simply swooning by the end as I came down from the high that was this absolute blast of an episode.

After finally making his big debut in the previous episode, The Giggle, Ncuti Gatwa finally gets to show off exactly what he’s bringing to the role of the Doctor in his first full-fledged adventure. He’s far more fashionable, he likes to get down at nightclubs, he’s got a beautiful singing voice, but he’s still kept that arrogance the Doctor is well-known for. He speaks, you listen, and you just know the Doctor is in. I’m already smitten.

The Doctor is drawn to mystery
The Doctor is drawn to mystery and nightclubs.

We also get the debut of Millie Gibson who plays Ruby Sunday, the newest companion on the show. Abandoned by a mysterious woman as a newborn baby, now as a young adult Ruby is searching for her birth family. However, she still has an incredible adoptive mother and grandmother in Michelle Greenidge as Carla and Angela Wynter as Cherry. They’re absolutely delightful and Wynter in particular steals every single moment she’s in the frame.

Davina McCall plays herself, in reality she hosts an actual show called Long Lost Family that’s been running since 2011. It functions exactly as her show in this episode does: McCall attempts to reunite long lost family members. She’s also pretty funny in her scenes, I hope she had fun filming this.

The Mystery of Ruby

Another big player is Anita Dobson who plays Mrs. Flood, an older woman who lives next door to Ruby. She’s perhaps the most inconsistent of the characters here as she only gets a few scenes and in the first one she’s curmudgeonly and by the end with seemingly little reason she’s pretty cheery. But it’s the final moment of the episode that has created a real torrent of mystery around her.

Mrs. Flood knows what a TARDIS is. I’m very, very interested to see what her secret is. I do have a theory that’s tied to a recent Doctor Who short that came out, but chances are I’m very wrong. So I will leave that thought at that.

Ruby and the Doctor hangin' out
Ruby and the Doctor hangin’ out.

Throughout the episode the Doctor stumbles into Ruby pretty purposely, weaving himself into her story whether he means to or not until their lives begin to irreversibly intertwine on Christmas Eve. Carla, Ruby’s mom, fosters kids quite regularly and she’s receiving a newborn on the day named Lulubelle.

This creates a tether of coincidence around Ruby and the baby catching the interest of Goblins who ride the waves of time looking for – or creating – coincidences that bind people together making them more delicious to eat. And now they have an astronomically high series of coincidence that have marked themselves on Lulubelle making her an incredibly tasty treat.

Doctor Who’s charting Goblin Band

After the Goblins steal Lulubelle the Doctor and Ruby must save her. Here we get the Doctor discussing all sorts of wonderful techno-babble about the science of coincidences and the language of ropes. I love it and I’m so happy to have the Doctor back. They’re just a big, energetic ball of curiosity it’s infectious.

The two heroes encounter the Goblin King and a wonderful performance by a goblin band, their song, aptly titled “The Goblin Song,” placed #12 on the UK Sales Charts when it was released digitally.

The Goblin band
The Goblin Band.

Once Lulubelle has been saved the Goblins go back in time and try to steal Ruby as a baby tearing reality and we get a sobering look into Carla and Cherry’s lives without Ruby in it where she makes their lives brighter and without her everything is depressingly dulled. It’s a truly wonderful scene acted out brilliantly by Greenidge, Wynter, and Gatwa.

The Doctor of course saves the day and is able to destroy the Goblins. True to his nature the Doctor attempts to leave before Ruby gets sucked into his life, believing his presence to be the root cause of her misfortune. However, Ruby catches up with him in time and from there their adventures begin.

Doctor Who

It’s a completely mad and wonderful episode and I loved it. I love Gatwa, I love Gibson, and I think they’re going to make an incredible longform pair. Potentially a modern classic. Gatwa for his part is definitely going to go down as one of the best modern Doctors in the role, I can just feel it.

And though it’s only getting a small mention here, let me not forget Murray Gold‘s incredible new composition for the show’s theme song and how well his score played throughout the episode. Genius.

The Doctor breakin' it down
The Doctor breakin’ it down.

I’m so excited for what’s to come and The Church on Ruby Road is an adventure I will be able to revisit again and again.

Doctor Who (2023-) is now streaming on Disney+ in the US and globally. You can watch Classic Doctor Who in the U.S. on Britbox as well as Tubi TV. Revival-era Doctor Who (2005-2022) and its spinoffs, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood, are available on MAX. Other modern spinoffs such as CLASS can be bought on Prime Video, and K9 can be streamed on Tubi TV. All of the above, minus K9, are streaming in one place on BBC iPlayer in the UK.

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