Doctor Who Christmas Special: The Church on Ruby Road Review

The Fifteenth Doctor takes centre stage in a festive adventure with more than a whiff of fantasy… Spoilers ahead in our review.

Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson in The Church on Ruby Road
Photo: James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios 2023

Warning: this Doctor Who review contains spoilers.

It’s the beginning, but the moment has been prepared for. The three recent Anniversary specials have eased us into another new era of Doctor Who more gently than we’re used to – yes, this is Nucti Gatwa’s first time taking centre stage as the Fifteenth Doctor, but we’re at least a little familiar with him thanks to his bi-generational appearance in “The Giggle”. We’ve also already done the TARDIS tour, gotten used to the new title sequence, peeked at the latest sonic…

This is a Christmas present we’ve been well and truly allowed to shake ahead of time, in other words. This is most likely deliberate on Russell T. Davies’ part; in The Writer’s Tale, he discusses the different approach to making festive TV – when the entire family are likely to be in the room, stuffed and sleepy, with vastly reduced attention spans. There’s not much in this episode that’s likely to astonish or confuse, and that’s no accident.

Unless, that is, you find Davina McCall particularly startling. After a short cold open where we witness baby Ruby being left at the titular church, the omnipresent TV host makes her second appearance since Doctor Who’s revival, and this time she’s not even a droid. She’s here because Ruby Sunday’s taking part in what can only be an episode of Long Lost Family, though she nearly gets clobbered when an unseen mischief-maker arranges an on-set accident.


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