The Church on Ruby Road

The Church on Ruby Road Is a Joyous Welcome for Ncuti Gatwa

Dept. of Gobblin' Goblins


Six years ago, one of my favourite Christmas traditions was unceremoniously taken away. Ever since the Doctor Who revival of 2005, “The Christmas Specials” were always a fan favourite. They were these joyous capsules of yuletide delight that felt both quintessentially English and quintessentially Doctor Who at the same time. But when Chris Chibnall took over as showrunner in 2018, he decided (rather bizarrely) to replace the Christmas Specials with New Years Specials. A decision that seemed to serve no real purpose other than to mark one’s territory by making a massive change. It is also a decision that would have gone down a lot better had the specials actually been any good.

The return of Russell T. Davies has meant a return to what works, and besides bringing back everyone’s favourite Doctor for one last trip in the TARDIS, he’s also restored the yearly tradition of the Christmas special.

With The Doctor on a mission to stop some hungry goblins from kidnapping and eating babies, The Church on Ruby Road serves as both an introduction and a reminder to we loved about Christmas with The Doctor. It’s got all the spectacle, fun, and drama that has made the Doctor Who Christmas Specials so magical and exciting.  

Watching the first full outing of our brand new Fifteenth Doctor, I couldn’t help but get a little tug at my heart. Sure, family, friends, and food are very important during this time, but it never felt complete without our time travelling Time Lord trying to save England and the world. As much as Chibnall tried to make it work with those New Years Specials, Christmas just didn’t feel the same without something catastrophic threatening to end England.

All Singing, All Dancing Goblins

The Church on Ruby Road

The Church on Ruby Road begins with some lighthearted hijinks. Some very bad luck falls upon our characters, there’s an all singing, all dancing musical number, and some Gremlins-esque silliness that punctuates the first two acts. But then, the episode takes a dark turn, bringing a wonderful tension to the whole affair. It is the perfect delivery of everything that makes Doctor Who, Doctor Who. You’re laughing. You’re smiling. You’re raising an eyebrow. And then, before you know it, you’re sitting on the edge of your seat and dealing with some very real anxiety.

What’s more, given that this season has a new home on Disney Plus – and with it a whole bunch of new viewers – it feels like Davies has done well to highlight all of the elements that make this show unique. This episode feels like the best way to reintroduce an age-old character to a brand new audience.

Always Two There Are

The Church on Ruby Road

So how was Ncuti Gatwa? He is an unmitigated delight. He lands in the Whoniverse fully formed. Now unburdened by the baggage and guilt of his predecessors (see: The Giggle), the Fifteenth Doctor truly looks like he is having the most fun he’s had in his life.

Gatwa has a natural charm and charisma that perfectly matches this role. With glimpses of qualities of past Doctors (especially Tennant and McCoy), Gatwa’s Doctor is not only an engaging watch, but you can’t help but have fun right along with him. He’s intelligent, witty, and most of all, extremely camp and sassy, which makes for the perfect incarnation of the Doctor for our age.

And then there’s Millie Gibson, who brings a youthful and spunky spirit to Ruby Sunday. It makes for a great complement to Gatwa’s performance. And the both of them have the kind of instant chemistry that defines the Doctor/Companion relationship.

The Doctor and Ruby’s first encounter feels a lot like Billie Piper’s first episode as Rose Tyler. Ruby too is a girl with a heart of gold and an adventurous spirit that is never going to back down from a fight. My only nitpick with this episode is that it didn’t do enough to tap into those deeper issues regarding Ruby’s mother. For now, her character was all surface. So much so that she felt a little bit manic pixie dream girl. But given that her orphaned existence looks like it’s going to play into a much larger story arc, I’m going to withhold judgement until all of that plays out.

A Whole New World

The Church on Ruby Road

So what does it mean that the upcoming new season will be labelled as Season 1 instead of Season 14? Is it a new chapter? Is it a soft reboot? Is it going to be completely different from what came before? After watching The Church on Ruby Road, it’s easy to draw some initial conclusions. While this does cater to die hard Whovians, it is also a great way for a new audience to enter the world of Who. It is a great entry point that helps bring people into the series, explaining just enough to make you want to come along for the ride. So much so that it has officially taken the number two spot on my list of episodes that I would reccomend newbies to watch in order to get into Doctor Who. (That first place spot will always and forever be “Blink.”)

As we look forward to Ncuti Gatwa’s first full series as The Doctor in 2024, Davies does what he does best and leaves behind just enough questions to keep us guessing. Who is Ruby’s mother? Who on Earth is Mrs. Flood? Who are The Doctor’s real parents? Where is he actually from? How will The Master escape that gold tooth? This is what makes Doctor Who great. Mysteries. I for one have missed the days where the end of every episode leaves us biting our nails and wondering how long it will be until we get some answers. It’s anxiety inducing, it’s nerve-racking, and it feels good.

The Church on Ruby Road is now streaming on Disney Plus and Disney Plus Hotstar

Nick Dorian spent most of his childhood dreaming of being a plumber, mainly because he loved watching Super Mario go on adventures. When he heartbreakingly discovered actual plumbers don't go on great adventures in real life, he went on to sit in front of a TV or movie screen, watching more people go on adventures, and then talk to anybody around him about what he's seen, whether they liked it or not. Fast forward to today, he somehow managed to make watching movies and TV shows, and discussing them, an actual living. Which goes to show, dreams do come true. Except when you dream of being an Italian plumber who fights mushrooms and toads.

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