Doctor Who – The Church on Ruby Road

The Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) in The Church on Ruby Road (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)
The Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) in The Church on Ruby Road (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)

“The Church on Ruby Road” is the 2023 “Doctor Who” Christmas special episode. It’s available in the UK and Ireland on BBC channels and in many other countries on the Disney+ platform.

Note. This article contains some spoilers about “The Church on Ruby Road”.

Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) is a foundling who is searching for her origins but to no avail. A period full of accidents and various problems is caused by the intervention of goblins and when her adoptive mother Carla (Michelle Greenidge) starts fostering a new baby girl, the goblins kidnap her. The only hope for Ruby and her family is the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa), who recognized those creatures’ intervention.

The Giggle” introduced the Fifteenth Doctor but his presence was limited and he wasn’t the episode’s absolute protagonist. “The Church on Ruby Road” represents the real test in which the actor must show that he can carry the show. In my opinion, the outcome was positive with Gatwa showing that he’s full of energy in living his new life. He has a sonic screwdriver that has a decidedly different shape from the previous ones and smart gloves capable of influencing mass, density, mavity, and more. Despite this news, he doesn’t forget his past.

Russell T Davies had already explicitly mentioned the Thirteenth Doctor’s era and the revelations about their past in the previous special episodes. In this Christmas special, that past becomes a point of contact between him and Ruby because they’re both foundlings.

At least for now, the Doctor has given up on exploring the past that was somehow stolen from him while Ruby searches for her origins. This search leads her to participate in the real-life program “Long Lost Family” with Davina McCall playing herself in the role she actually has in the program, but to no avail.

An important point of the episode is the positive influence that Ruby has on her adoptive mother Carla, who without her would have only occasionally fostered some children, to receive some financial contribution. Adopting Ruby led Carla to discover a true vocation for helping children in need.

Apart from this serious element, the plot of “The Church on Ruby Road” is light-hearted and decidedly thin, as is typical of a Christmas special written by Russell T Davies. There’s some echo of the movie “Labyrinth” adapted into a “Doctor Who” story with the inclusion of time travel.

I would have been surprised to see a stronger plot and for that reason, I didn’t have high expectations. I was interested in seeing the Fifteenth Doctor carry an entire episode and Ruby Sunday’s debut. In my opinion, the episode does this job very well, so from this point of view, I’m satisfied. I sincerely hope not to see romantic elements in the development of the relationship between the two protagonists but from this point of view, Davies’ track record is really bad for my tastes.

The ending of “The Church on Ruby Road” leaves us wondering whether Mrs Flood’s (Anita Dobson) remark about the Tardis is a simple breaking of the fourth wall or there’s something more behind it. And what about Ruby’s birth parents? Does the lack of results in their search mean anything? The start of the new season is announced in May, so we have to wait a few months before we start to get some answers.

Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) in The Church on Ruby Road (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)
Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) in The Church on Ruby Road (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)

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