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Doctor Who: The Church On Ruby Road, a review

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Doctor Who is the oldest science fiction show still airing, starting in 1963. Even Star Trek only aired its first episode in 1966. The titular Doctor is an alien with a time machine that doubles as a spaceship, going on wacky adventures across time and space.

They travel with friends, referred to as companions (usually humans) and get into and out of all sorts of trouble. The Doctor’s species have a biological failsafe called regeneration, where after a fatal injury, the Doctor’s body and personality change, but their memories remain alive.

This failsafe also allows the Doctor to be recast every few years. Recently, the Doctor has branched out from exclusively white males to Jodie Whittaker as an unprecedented female incarnation of the Doctor and Ncuti Gatwa, the first Black Doctor. This change has been marketed as a reboot of the series.

Since the 2005 reboot, the Doctor has been traumatized and grieving. Their companions keep dying in awful ways, and they haven’t had time to process the war or grieve. Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor is a breath of fresh air. Fresh off a break to focus on self-care and their mental health, the Doctor has lighter shoulders, which clearly shows in “The Church On Ruby Road,” the show’s 2023 Christmas special. Within the first 10 minutes of the episode, the audience sees the Doctor dancing in a club, lost in the music and movement. 

The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) in the new TARDIS. (Photo courtesy of Disney+)

The episode calls back to the 2005 episode “Rose,” allowing viewers to see a new Doctor from an outside perspective while focusing less on the expected science fiction elements and more on the magic and fantasy of Christmas.

The perspective we follow for about half the episode is that of Ruby Sunday, a 19-year-old being followed by a terrible case of bad luck caused by goblins, who gain power from esoteric concepts like luck and coincidence. Ruby coincidentally has the same birthday as her new foster sister, a baby with the unfortunate name of Lulubelle. When the goblins kidnap Lulubelle to be their next meal, Ruby follows them to their flying pirate ship, where she meets the Doctor for the first time.

The Doctor and Ruby have great chemistry, escaping from being tied together amidst entertaining banter and the odd joke. When they find Lulubelle, the goblins are singing. Yes, you read that right; the goblins sing like they’re from 1986’s Labyrinth (if only Doctor Who’s Goblin King was played by David Bowie).

As it is, the Goblin King looks out of place compared to its lesser goblin minions and is relatively unthreatening, not moving from its spot throughout the entire episode. The lyrics of the goblin song are catchy, if not somewhat dark, and the Doctor sings back as a distraction, a first for Doctor Who. 

The special focuses more on introducing the audience to Ruby than keeping a coherent plot. A couple of problems have hand-wavey solutions, but overall, it is an entertaining introduction to the newest incarnation of the Doctor. 

“Doctor Who: The Church On Ruby Road” can be found on Disney+. 

Rating: 4/5 Spinnaker sails

4 spinnaker sails







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