This review of The Church on Ruby Road is a little late, but after finally rewatching the Doctor Who Christmas special, I can confidently say that it was a blast!
Is this the best episode of Doctor Who you will ever watch? Probably not, no, and it’s not even close, however there is a lot to love about The Church on Ruby Road, plus maybe a few things to take issue with.
Firstly, let me say that Ncuti Gatwa is THE Doctor and I adored his debut full performance in the role. Here we have a Doctor fresh from a mini retirement, ready for his next adventures. He is fun, light-hearted, and a fierce protector of the innocent, with some hints of recognition that there are still some darker sides to his personality that have not suddenly disappeared just because he took a break.
Ruby Sunday is the new companion, and her introduction to the show was fantastic! I love her foster family and the care Russell T Davies went to creating such a close-knit family unit. Ruby’s foster mum reminds me of my own foster carer, with over 30 children having been cared for under her roof.
The plot of the episode of itself was Christmassy and fun, if a little silly, but for a Christmas special, I think that is okay. We want something light-hearted and silly at Christmas.
Introducing fantasy elements so heavily in Doctor Who is a great move for the show, I think. As I said in my ranking of Doctor Who Christmas specials, the show has always been sci-fantasy, so why not go all the way? Moffatt focused heavily on Doctor Who’s fairy tale themes and that was a triumph; I look forward to seeing how these fantasy elements work within the show over the next few seasons.
Spoiler-Filled Review of The Church on Ruby Road
This section is filled with spoilers, so if for some reason you have not watched The Church on Ruby Road yet, stop reading now!
As expected, we were teased a reveal of a potentially villainous character at the end of the Christmas special, with the previously friendly neighbour turning to camera, saying “Have you never seen a TARDIS before?”
These endless mysteries can get a bit tiring so I won’t be speculation as to who that individual is, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care! I’m looking forward to the eventual reveal, but in the meantime I am going to focus on the show episode by episode. Reading and coming up with theories can be fun, and I suppose the point is to get viewers to discuss and hype up the show between episode releases, but personally I’m not that interested in guessing.
Let’s move on to goblins. So, when David Tennant’s 14th Doctor drew a line of salt on the floor at the edge of the universe, he invited superstition and supernatural beings into reality. This is such a simple but great way of changing the show, and if it doesn’t work, the writers can always find a way for the Doctor to fix his mistake and make things how they were before, so no harm done.
I’m excited to see the impact of these fantasy elements on future episodes and on the show as a whole. I love it when Doctor Who tries new things, and I trust Davies to come through on whatever big ideas he has!
The casting of Ncuti Gatwa as the 15th Doctor is fantastic! He’s suave and sexy, but still a nerd at heart, much like several of the previous incarnations. Watching him blend in at a club on the dance floor, kilt spinning, was wonderful, but maybe a bit odd if you consider how much older he is than everyone else there…! It was a shame we did not see more of the incredible TARDIS in The Church on Ruby Road, but for a debut episode for a new Doctor, this makes sense. If the plan is to captivate new viewers, showing Ruby Sunday going in, then going back out again to run around the blue box, right at the end of the episode is an iconic and fitting end of the special, and starting point for the new series coming in 2024.
Overall, I had a lot of fun watching The Church on Ruby Road and can’t wait to see the 15th Doctor and Ruby set out on their adventures later this year. Let me know what you thought of Gatwa’s debut full episode in the comments section below.