A great simple adventure that was near perfect to start for a new Doctor and as a Christmas Special.


“The Church of Ruby Road” is the first Doctor Who Christmas Special since 2017 and offers a new Doctor/Companion pairing.

Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) was abandoned at a church when she was a baby. 19 years later, she sets out to find her birth parents, but she ends up being the target for alien goblins who constantly play tricks on the young woman. She also meets a man who warns Ruby that her recent bad luck has a more sinister undercurrent.

On Christmas Eve, Ruby’s adoptive mother Carla (Michelle Greenidge) is asked to foster a newborn baby which is abducted by the Goblins. Ruby and The Doctor are forced to work together to rescue the baby.

The 2023 specials aimed to be a celebration of Doctor Who’s history, since they brought back two popular characters and made a lot of reference to previous events. “The Church of Ruby Road” was a fresh start for the show. There’s a new Doctor and companion, and they had the best chance to make an impression since the Christmas Special can reach a wider audience. They’re often made to be broader so new viewers can be hooked in.  As a light adventure, “The Church of Ruby Road” was a fun romp.

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“The Church of Ruby Road” introduced a load of new characters and they were a solid bunch. Ncuti Gatwa is already at ease in the role and conveying a personality that pulls viewers in. He was funny, quick-witted, and caring, all the attributes that fans would want from The Doctor. He was a sharp dresser and brought a bit of youthful vigor to the show. Gatwa is only 31 and he’s most famous for playing Eric in Sex Education, a teenage character. He wasn’t an old man trapped in a young body like Matt Smith’s version of the Doctor.

Gibson made an impression as Ruby, the teenager who’s roped into the Doctor’s world. She’s the youngest actress to play the companion in the modern era. Ruby was shown to be a caring teenager who was close to her adoptive mother and grandmother and helped look after foster children. Yet Ruby was willing to throw herself into danger when Lulu was taken, and she was able to deduce The Doctor was a time traveler. Russell T. Davies seemed like he took some writing tips from Steven Moffat due to the scene of Ruby being left at the church had a fairy tale feel and set up a mystery about her parentage. It was like Amy Pond, The Girl Who Waited, and Clara Oswald, The Impossible Girl.

“The Church of Ruby Road” also introduced Ruby’s family, Carla, and her grandmother, Cherry (Angela Wynter). At first, it seemed like Davies was repeating what he did with Rose Tyler since she was a 19-year-old girl who traveled with The Doctor whilst her brassy mother was a supporting character in the show. This was just a surface similarity since Carla had a different personality from Jackie Tyler since she was calmer, and she devoted herself to looking after children. Carla took a photograph of every child she had ever fostered. “The Church of Ruby Road” briefly showed an alternative reality where Carla’s life could have gone in a sadder direction. Cherry was someone who had a spark to her even though she was ill and being looked after by her family. The reactionary crowd on YouTube and Twitter will complain that Doctor Who has gone ‘woke’ but the real aim was to show families can come in all shapes and sizes.

“The Church of Ruby Road” set itself to be a light-hearted episode and there was a breezy, casual tone to the episode. The Goblins were initially shown to be a mischievous nuisance who did small things to ruin Ruby’s Day and when The Doctor and Ruby went on the Goblins’ ship there was a swashbuckling nature to it. “The Church of Ruby Road” was the best pirate episode in Doctor Who’s modern era, but that wasn’t hard considering the previous pirate episodes were “The Curse of the Black Spot” and “Legend of the Sea Devils.”

Whilst “The Church of Ruby Road” was a light episode, there was a dark undercurrent. The episode started with a baby being abandoned, and the Goblins were planning on eating a baby. This juxtaposition was shown when the Goblins sing an upbeat song about them feeding a baby to their king. It was annoyingly catchy and felt like the modernized version of “Goblin Town” from the first Hobbit movie. The Doctor did see a dark timeline that added a bit of pathos to the episode and showed how much of an impact Ruby had on The Doctor and Carla.

“The Church of Ruby Road” references a controversial event from the Chris Chibnall/Jodie Whittaker era. The Doctor mentioned he found out he was an orphan, which was a reference to the Timeless Child reveal. It meant any hopes that Davies would retcon that even have been dashed. The oddest moment in the episode came right at the end when there was a fourth wall break, which was a bit too much.

“The Church of Ruby Road” was a great start for the Gatwa/Gibson era. They show they are a likable pairing and have an entertaining, straightforward adventure. Hopefully, this is the start of more exciting adventures for the pair.

Kieran Freemantle
Kieran Freemantle
I am a film critic/writer based in the UK, writing for Entertainment Fuse, Rock n Reel Reviews, UK Film Review and Meniscus Sunrise. I have worked on film shoots. I support West Ham and Bath Rugby. Follow me on Twitter @FreemantleUK.
A great simple adventure that was near perfect to start for a new Doctor and as a Christmas Special.Review: DOCTOR WHO - THE CHURCH ON RUBY ROAD