TV Review: “Doctor Who” Christmas Special – “The Church on Ruby Road”

Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson blast onto the screen in “The Church on Ruby Road,” the first Doctor Who Christmas special since 2017. I was lucky enough to see an advanced screening of the new special, and below are some of my spoiler-free thoughts.

We already knew that new companion Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) was an adopted child, and the special plays heavily around the themes of adoption. Ruby is seeking the answers to her past, while trying to deal with the troubles of the present. Gibson immediately shines as Ruby, in what may be one of my favorite companion introductions of all time. Her personality is radiant, and her chemistry with Ncuti Gatwa is sublime. She’s able to put the Doctor in his place and immediately feels like a perfect foil, or companion, if you will.

In addition to Ruby, we also meet her adopted mother (Michelle Greenidge) and grandmother (Angela Wynter), and the adoptive family dynamic is something truly unique and special. Writer Russell T Davies excels at family drama, and he clearly has flexed those creative muscles to a new extent here. Another fun character is the mysterious Mrs. Flood (Anita Dobson), who gets a truly jaw-dropping line right at the end of the episode.

I of course have to talk about the Doctor himself, Ncuti Gatwa, in his first full story. There’s no post-regeneration hijinks here… Ncuti is immediately a Doctor that is both familiar and something new. He brings a life to the proceedings, exemplified by many of his lines and new-found love of partying, something that does play into the storyline of Ruby. He looks out for her in a very protective manner, and the two on screen together is just a joy to behold. I really can’t wait to see more of them!

The villains of the piece are the Goblins, who you can already see in a preview of the delightful “The Goblin Song.” These are all together a very different kind of “villain” for the Doctor to take on. There’s not much individual personality, and they seem to be there mostly as a way to tie together Ruby’s storyline. But I think that works quite well for this story.

Composer Murray Gold, who has returned to the show after a 6 year absence, creates some truly wonderful themes here. The Fifteenth Doctor and Ruby both get their own themes, which are beautifully woven throughout the special. The score gives off a wonderful mix of the grandeur of Doctor Who with the true joy of the Christmas season, which is something the show has been lacking over the last few years.

Following on from the nostalgia of the 60th anniversary specials, Doctor Who once again feels reinvigorated, but with the iconic charm that Russell T Davies always brought to the series. Ncuti is already turning in a great, unique interpretation of the Doctor, and Ruby is already on track to be one of my personal favorite companions.

“The Church on Ruby Road” will premiere on Christmas Day, December 25th on Disney+ (available at 9:55 a.m. PT / 12:55 p.m. PT).

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Luke Manning
Luke is a fan of all things theme parks and self-proclaimed #1 fan of Joffrey’s Coffee, who lives in Kissimmee, FL