The Church on Ruby Road

Posted in Website by - December 25, 2023
The Church on Ruby Road

Aired 25 December 2023


After three anniversary specials with David Tennant back in the lead role to introduce and reintroduce viewers to Doctor Who while also tying up loose narrative ends and boldly setting forth a potential new trajectory for the series beginning with the re-emergence of the Toymaker and the more fantastical elements he represents, Ncuti Gatwa fully steps into the role of the Fifteenth Doctor in ‘The Church on Ruby Road’ by Russell T Davies.

Following a brief introduction to Ruby as a newborn being left at the church from which she would gain her name, Davies flashes forward to the present with Ruby sitting alongside television presenter Davina McCall and discussing her past while hoping to learn anything about either of her birth parents. It’s also here that strange figures are introduced that seem intent on causing both harmless and harmful incidents, a series of near-misses and bad luck bringing Ruby into contact with the Doctor who makes an instant impression. Yet these sequences are vital in helping to develop Ruby as a dynamic character with friends and interests, and the fact that both Ruby and the Doctor were abandoned with no knowledge of where they came from in an explicit reference to the Timeless Child revelation proves integral to the plot and the interweaving of coincidence and bad luck into the villainous tapestry forming the backdrop of this story.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the need to introduce a new Doctor and companion, the goblins themselves are somewhat underdeveloped. Their ability to traverse time and feed off of bad luck is a unique aspect that is new even to the Doctor, and while their desire to feed upon babies while chanting and singing about it- complete with the Doctor and his companion joining in to put their own plan into motion- is notable, there is no actual dialogue between the Doctor and these foes to flesh them out as anything more than beings present simply to advance the plot as they initially steal Ruby’s adopted mother’s newborn foster but then to travel back in time to take Ruby as an infant instead regardless of the altered timeline left in their wake. This is perhaps more glaring given the fact that the Doctor’s ultimate course of action is to kill the goblin king with no offer of reconciliation or peace, a marked departure from the Doctor’s typical methods and perhaps signifying a more decisive and darker nature to this incarnation who initially seems so relatively unburdened and open compared to his predecessors, ostensibly due to the rest and reflection of the Fourteenth Doctor following bigeneration.

Gatwa jumps into the role of the Doctor with grace and ease, his enthusiasm proving infectious and easily guiding the plot through to its conclusion. He is keen to show off his knowledge and proves incisive when taking the time to converse with normal humans, and while his superpowered gloves that allow him to climb rope ladders with ease and to also turn gravity/mavity against the goblin ship do hint at the possibility of this Doctor having novel devices at the ready to help with whatever situation is before him, his sheer charisma and energy are undeniable and suggest an incredibly bright future for this latest version. Likewise, Millie Gibson presents Ruby as a caring and optimistic individual who perfectly meshes with this alien figure who so bombastically burst into her life, her ability to shake off her constant bad luck and her enthusiasm about her adopted mother taking in a thirty-third foster child endearing her to those around her while her ability to think quickly and to smartly react to the increasingly bizarre and dangerous circumstances around her providing a strong first impression for the Doctor to then invite her to travel with him.

There are still a few lingering questions such as why the Doctor was willing to go back in time to save McCall from death when he has proven unwilling to do so before and just why he was able to go into the past to save Ruby from the goblins when he was already part of events in the present that in itself showed a harrowing version of her adopted mother and grandmother who were shown to have been so positively affected by the adoption of Ruby, but ‘The Church on Ruby Road’ ultimately balances the demands of a holiday episode well by providing an episode that can appeal to the masses casually tuning in while still appealing to longtime fans and setting up further mysteries regarding Ruby’s mother and just why her neighbour is so familiar with what a TARDIS is. Anticipation is always high for a new era, and this episode certainly retains that excitement as the coming proper season approaches.

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