TV Review: Doctor Who – The Church on Ruby Road

Ncuti Gatwa makes his full-length debut as Doctor Who in sprightly festive episode The Church on Ruby Road, plus Anita bloody Dobson!

“This is a brand-new science for me and I love it”

I’m a simple soul and Russell T Davies knows it. Put a grande dame d’un certain âge and a musical sequence into an episode of Doctor Who and I’m sold. The Giggle had Bonnie Langford and the Spice Girls, 2023’s Christmas episode The Church on Ruby Road has Anita Dobson and Janis Goblin – bliss! Not only that, there’s the promise of more to come from Dobson’s mysterious Mrs Flood as suggested by the mid-credit sting delivered straight to camera.

Doctor Who’s Christmas episodes have always been a bit of a mixed bag, catering more overtly to a family market and thus coming off as a little frothier than usual. The Church on Ruby Road doesn’t quite go that far, there’s nothing inherently Christmassy about goblins – the main antagonists – for instance, and the late twist is impressively dark. And even if the overall sense of peril is never quite full-on, that works within the overall structure of the episode.

Which, lest we forget, has to properly introduce Ncuti Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor now that David Tennant has been once again ushered off-screen and to also give us our first look at Millie Gibson’s Ruby Sunday, the new companion. Gatwa is charisma itself as an enthusiastic ball of energy, whether clubbing in a kilt or discerning the science of ropes, and Gibson makes an impressive start as the inquisitive Ruby, whose origin story as a Christmas Eve foundling looks set to reverberate through the upcoming season.

Dobson’s Mrs Flood is a seemingly harmless neighbour but as mentioned, her knowledge of TARDISes suggests another slow-burn reveal to come, and I hope we get to see more of Michelle Greenidge and Angela Wynter as her foster mother and grandmother. I could have done without Davina McCall playing a version of herself but hey ho, you can’t win ’em all. Altogether an intriguing start for this new era – bring on the new series in May.

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