The Church on Ruby Road (TV story)

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The Church on Ruby Road was the 2023 Christmas Special[1] and opening episode of season one of Doctor Who[2] broadcast on 25 December 2023.

It was the first full episode to feature the Fifteenth Doctor, as played by Ncuti Gatwa, and introduced audiences to the new companion, Ruby Sunday, as played by Millie Gibson, concluding the sixtieth anniversary year with the start of a brand new era, officialising the reboot of the series number.[2]

The Church on Ruby Road was the second time since the 2005 relaunch of Doctor Who that a Doctor's first full story was a Christmas Special, following the Tenth Doctor in The Christmas Invasion [+]Loading...["The Christmas Invasion (TV story)"].

The Church on Ruby Road also marked the return of the Christmas Specials to televised Doctor Who, having been absent since 2017's Twice Upon a Time [+]Loading...["Twice Upon a Time (TV story)"].

Synopsis[[edit]]

Long ago on Christmas Eve, a baby was abandoned in the snow. Today, Ruby Sunday meets the Doctor, stolen babies, goblins and perhaps the secret of her birth...

Plot[[edit]]

On Christmas Eve 2004, a baby girl was dropped off at a church on Ruby Road. Leaving as quickly as she arrived, the mother departed - nobody seeing who she was. This is witnessed by the Fifteenth Doctor, with tears streaming down his face.

On 1 December 2023, a series of accidents caused by unseen Goblins plagues the set of that girl, Ruby Sunday's, interview with Davina McCall for a television show. Davina is offering to help her find her birth parents, or someone else in her family if possible, by attempting to match a DNA sample from Ruby against various databases. As Davina tells Ruby that she does need to be realistic about the situation, a chain of falling, heavy studio lights nearly crash into Ruby, ending the interview early.

Three weeks later, on 22 December, as Ruby plays a small gig with her band, a small electrical mishap interrupts their performance as the Doctor watches on from the outskirts of the pub. The next day, Ruby encounters him at a club, dancing one floor below her, before turning around and seeing him catch a glass of gin and tonic that she knocks over when it's not quite where she left it. He asks Ruby if she normally has bad luck, and she says that it's been happening for a while now. He departs, but follows her as she gets into a taxi with her friends. A Christmas snowman decoration hanging from a nearby building is poised to fall on the taxi. Using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor changes the light at the intersection, prompting the taxi to drive on, just as the decoration collapses onto him. A policeman stops him as he leaves to take a statement, but the Doctor instead tells the man his girlfriend will accept his marriage proposal and leaves.

On Christmas Eve, Ruby returns to her home, a flat in 3 Minto Road, to see that her adopted mother, Carla Sunday, is fostering another new-born, a little baby named Lulubelle. Carla leaves "Lulu" in Ruby's care as she leaves to the store. As she walks out, Davina calls Ruby, and sadly informs her that they were unable to find any trace of anyone related to her. Ruby is saddened by the news, but accepts it. Davina then changes the subject, asking if Ruby been having any bad luck recently, as she's been having the worst rash of it, including falling off a boat on dry land, and remembers it started when she talked to Ruby. Davina, who is stuck in a wheelchair due to her numerous injuries, talks about how terrified she is as a nearby Christmas tree topples over on her, with the star heading directly for her head, and her phone cuts out.

Ruby hears noises over the baby monitor and heads into the other room, where she finds the crib empty and a photograph of a goblin resting underneath. She chases after the culprits out the skylight and finds goblins nestling Lulubelle in a basket dropped down from above a long ladder reaching up into the sky. The goblins scamper up as the basket is pulled up and the ladder begins to retract, prompting Ruby to jump on as it drifts away from her flat. The Doctor suddenly appears and yells after her as he bounds along the rooftop and jumps onto the ladder as well. As the ladder retracts further, the pair have difficulty holding on, so the Doctor pulls out a set of intelligent gloves, gloves that takes care of all of the friction and mavitational force that normally exist when climbing and transfer them all into the glove itself, away from the body. The pair are effortlessly pulled up with the rest of the ladder into a flying ship, where they promptly encounter a small horde of goblins that capture them and tie them up.

The Doctor begins to decipher the goings on of the goblins, chance, luck, and coincidence. He's not altogether clear on everything, but he's deducing that they are using luck to stitch Ruby into time ever so slightly more, make her more real, and then use the similarities between her and Lulubelle as seasoning for when they eat the latter. He manages to untie them both, but is unable at first to escape the room - everything is built with wood and rope, which his sonic screwdriver isn't effective on. But, after spending a small amount of time with the rigging, he likens it to wires and circuitry, untying knots as one would flip switches, triggering the right one to get them out of the room they were in and into a crawlspace above.

Lulubelle moves along a conveyor belt as the goblins sing about how the Goblin King is going to devour her, with the Doctor and Ruby crawling above and watching in horrified fascination as they frantically try to untie the right ropes. The Doctor makes a mistake, however, and causes himself and Ruby to fall on the conveyor themselves. The two grab the baby as the ropes above them continue to unravel, don their intelligent gloves and set them to reverse, taking a line of rigging and using it to descend back to the ground.

Escaping from the goblin horde, the Doctor and Ruby return Lulubelle to the flat. Thinking about accidents and bad luck, they dash around the flat to goblin-proof it. Carla returns, and, as the Doctor introduces himself, she acts concerned, not sure why they need a doctor. Frustrated, and trying to change the subject, Ruby tells Carla how the show called and they were unable to locate any of her family. The group mentions orphans and foundlings, and how the Doctor is one as well, which Carla notes as a coincidence, and, as discussion turns back to coincidences, the house shakes until the roof cracks in two, the Goblins having left.

The Doctor then looks around, and sees that Ruby has vanished. He dashes around the flat and outside looking for her, asking Carla and others, none of them having heard of her. He takes a deeper look around the flat and it is a far drearier place with no Christmas decorations, no pictures of Ruby or any other foster children. Carla is also far different; unhappy with her lot in life, resentful of having to take in Lulubelle on Christmas Eve and having fostered far fewer children and having only done so for the money. The Doctor, brought to tears at witnessing these changes, dashes outside and into his TARDIS, dematerializing in front of Mrs Flood as he travels back to the night when Ruby was abandoned at the church.

In the snowy night, the Doctor sees the figure of Ruby's mother walking away, but he ignores her as he rushes towards the building. He chases after the goblin scaling the church with little Ruby, grabbing onto the ladder at the last second. The Doctor uses his intelligent gloves in reverse mode to pull the ship downwards, bit by bit, but finds it too slow to make a difference. In a last ditch effort, he jumps off the roof, pulling the ship down with him and impaling the Goblin King's stomach with the steeple, killing it. The ship and all in it vanish as the timeline is restored, and the Doctor catches baby Ruby as she falls from the ship and places her once again on the church's doorstep. Back at the TARDIS, the Doctor sees Ruby's mother in the distance, but does not go after her.

The Doctor returns to 2023 and rushes up to Ruby's flat to find her safe and sound, babbling about how they went back to take her so he had to go back. He then mentions that he forgot something else and dashes off again, running into his TARDIS as Mrs Flood watches from her front yard. The Doctor travels back to when Davina was about to have a Christmas tree fall on her and catches it, saving her life.

The Doctor returns once more to the present day to see Ruby, but thinks better of it, feeling that he might be the one who brought bad luck to her and her family. Ruby and Carla talk about the Doctor, Carla just finding him crazy, and Ruby trying to contextualize the day she's just had. It dawns on her that the Doctor is a time traveller, and she kisses her adopted mother and dashes out of the door. Looking around on the street, she asks Mrs Flood if she's seen the Doctor, and Mrs Flood points to the TARDIS over the road. Ruby enters it, after a wish of luck from Mrs Flood, to find the Doctor leaning on the railing in the console room, ready to welcome her aboard.

As the TARDIS dematerializes, another one of Ruby's neighbours comes up to Mrs Flood and panics about how a box has just vanished in front of them. She tells him to stop making such a fuss and then, as he walks away, asks the audience, "Never seen a TARDIS before?"

Cast[[edit]]

Uncredited cast[[edit]]

Crew[[edit]]

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics

Movement

Casting

General post-production staff

Special and visual effects

Sound



Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.


Worldbuilding[[edit]]

Ruby Sunday[[edit]]

The Doctor[[edit]]

  • At the nightclub, the Doctor is wearing a kilt and very briefly dances with a man.
  • The Doctor has invented "intelligent gloves" because he spends a lot of time hanging off things. These need to be recharged after usage.
  • The Doctor jokes he wishes he was called Lulubelle because it is a brilliant name.
  • The Doctor quickly learns the language of the Goblins, and he already knows how to "speak" the rope language.
  • The Doctor has once spend a "long, hot summer" with Harry Houdini, who taught the Doctor how to untie himself.
  • The Doctor demonstrates his singing abilities.

London[[edit]]

  • VOSS is an estate agency, with available properties around London.
  • The snowman is attached to a department store.

Minto Road[[edit]]

Notes[[edit]]

"Season's Streamings" promo image providing the story's title.[1]
  • The title of the story was officially announced by the official Disney+ Twitter account in a "Season's Streamings" promotional image on 6 November 2023,[1] ahead of any BBC announcements.
    • This marks the return of the Christmas Specials; in the instalment of Russell T Davies's column Letter from the Showrunner printed in DWM 585, Davies had stated that a "Christmas Special" would be returning as the format of the first full episode of the Fifteenth Doctor's tenure, although clarifying that he considered the term to be synonymous with the Festive Specials. The Disney+ announcement clarified that The Church on Ruby Road will be a traditional Christmas Special.
    • The first BBC acknowledgement of the title came in a press release on doctorwho.tv on 30 November 2023, revealing minor plot and casting details.[5]
  • The preview of The Church on Ruby Road released in DWM 598 revealed a teaser of the plot and a snippet of dialogue between the Doctor and Ruby.[6]
  • The non-fiction feature The Next Doctor [+]Loading...["The Next Doctor (feature)"], published in Doctor Who The Official Annual 2024 on 7 September 2023, teased the casting of Dobson and Greenidge; the feature also hinted that the doors in the promotional images may have significance.
  • The Church on Ruby Road is the first time in the revived series that a Doctor's first Christmas special does not include "Christmas" in the title, following The Christmas Invasion [+]Loading...["The Christmas Invasion (TV story)"], A Christmas Carol [+]Loading...["A Christmas Carol (TV story)"], and Last Christmas [+]Loading...["Last Christmas (TV story)"].
  • At sixteen days, The Church on Ruby Road marks the third shortest gap between a regeneration story and its follow-up, behind The Power of the Daleks [+]Loading...["The Power of the Daleks (TV story)"] at seven days and The Twin Dilemma [+]Loading...["The Twin Dilemma (TV story)"] at six days.
  • "The Goblin Song" was an original song for The Church on Ruby Road. It was released ahead of the episode on 11 December 2023 with proceeds going to Children in Need.[8]
  • Davies felt inspired by the door opened by the inclusion of the Toymaker in the preceding episode The Giggle [+]Loading...["The Giggle (TV story)"] — as he deemed the Toymaker to be a fantasy character — so decided to include goblins, a traditional element of fantasy stories, in The Church on Ruby Road. He also sent the script to former showrunner Steven Moffat, who had a surprised realisation about the unused potential of the species within Doctor Who.[6]
  • The Church on Ruby Road is the first episode that does not credit a white male performer as a regular cast member. Although William Hartnell was absent from Mission to the Unknown, he still received credit for contractual reasons.
  • The Church on Ruby Road is the first episode since Village of the Angels [+]Loading...["Village of the Angels (TV story)"] to include a mid-credits scene, and the first Christmas special since Last Christmas [+]Loading...["Last Christmas (TV story)"] to include one too.
  • Although unremarked upon in the episode, the television series Davina McCall hosts is seemingly Long Lost Family, a television series McCall hosts in real life.
  • While scripted to be Henrik's,[10] the department store in the final cut bears the branding of the real business, likely a budgetary constraint. This error is fixed in the episode's novelisation [+]Loading...{"noital":"1","1":"The Church on Ruby Road (novelisation)","2":"the episode's novelisation"}.
  • The scene where the Doctor interacts with a policeman was the result of a suggestion by Disney, who felt that the Doctor needed more screen time early on in the episode.

Comparison between BBC and Disney+ versions[[edit]]

There are slight differences between the version broadcast on BBC One and the one shown on Disney+:

  • The Whoniverse ident was shown at the beginning of the episode on the BBC version. However, on the Disney+ version, the BBC ident was shown.
  • The Disney ident was shown at the end of the episode on the Disney+ version.
  • Following the TARDIS reveal scene, in the BBC version the Cast credits appears, followed by the mid-credits scene and then the rest of the end credits roll. In the Disney+ version a short teaser is shown after the TARDIS reveal scene which is then followed by the mid-credits scene and then the full end credits roll.

Myths[[edit]]

to be added

Filming locations[[edit]]

Ratings[[edit]]

  • 4.73 million viewers. (UK overnight)[16]
  • 7.59 million (UK final).[17]

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The letters of the names in the title sequence for both Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson do not render behind the TARDIS as it spins past, and instead appear to pop up after the TARDIS has passed. In the case of Gibson's credit, this issue only affects her last name.
  • At the end, when Ruby turns and sees the TARDIS after talking to Mrs Flood, the stone street sign next to her head reads Frederick Place, the real world street where the outdoor scenes were filmed, rather than Minto Road like other signage, which was the street in-universe.
  • When Ruby enters the TARDIS for the second time and turns around to see the Doctor, the set clearly changed to the TARDIS interior set.

Continuity[[edit]]

  • Ruby was first mentioned in the short story First Day of the Doctor [+]Loading...["First Day of the Doctor (short story)"], a story which contained a snippet of the Fifteenth Doctor's diary.
  • This is not the first story to depict a companion written by Russell T Davies being part of a band; Mickey Smith was part of the band No Hot Ashes, as revealed in his novelisation [+]Loading...{"noital":"1","1":"Rose (novelisation)","2":"novelisation"} of Rose [+]Loading...["Rose (TV story)"], although this connection was not present in the original episode.
  • The First Doctor had previously been seen visited a nightclub during the events of TV: The War Machines [+]Loading...["The War Machines (TV story)"], albeit only to meet up with Dodo Chaplet and not solely to enjoy himself.
  • The Doctor is shown using psychic paper, which debuted in TV: The End of the World [+]Loading...["The End of the World (TV story)"] and a new sonic screwdriver, which debuted in AUDIO: The World Tree [+]Loading...["The World Tree (audio story)"].
  • Minto Road isn't original to The Church on Ruby Road, as it was first mentioned by Mickey Smith in 2005's The Parting of the Ways [+]Loading...["The Parting of the Ways (TV story)"]. The pizza place mentioned by Mickey in that episode is even indirectly seen, as Cherry has a flyer for it on her fridge, which names it Minto Pizza Alla Pala.
  • On the same fridge, there is a business card for Crossgate Cabs, a fictional taxi service that was first seen in The Sound of Drums [+]Loading...["The Sound of Drums (TV story)"].
  • The Fifteenth Doctor states that he created intelligent gloves to transfer his mass into the glove to prevent friction on his hands that was caused by mavitational pull when dangling in the air. Rose Tyler was a prime example of this occurring, with her hands suffering severe friction burns when suspended above World War II London during the Blitz in TV: The Empty Child [+]Loading...["The Empty Child (TV story)"].
  • The Church on Ruby Road continues the usage of "mavity", the new name for gravity after time was inadvertently altered by Donna Noble making a gravity pun at Isaac Newton during Wild Blue Yonder [+]Loading...["Wild Blue Yonder (TV story)"].
  • The Doctor recalls how he is still learning the "new science" that Ruby claims is magic, recalling how the Fourteenth Doctor accidentally made previously mythical occurrences and creatures, like the goblin's existence and ability to time travel, possible when he cast a superstition at the edge of the universe during the events of TV: Wild Blue Yonder [+]Loading...["Wild Blue Yonder (TV story)"].
  • The Doctor once again mentions meeting Harry Houdini, having claimed to have met and learned escapology from him before in TV: The Highlanders [+]Loading...["The Highlanders (TV story)"], Planet of the Spiders [+]Loading...["Planet of the Spiders (TV story)"], Revenge of the Cybermen [+]Loading...["Revenge of the Cybermen (TV story)"], Planet of the Ood [+]Loading...["Planet of the Ood (TV story)"] and The Witchfinders [+]Loading...["The Witchfinders (TV story)"].
  • Upon Ruby revealing she was abandoned as a baby, therefore not knowing her biological parents, the Doctor mentions "recently" learning he was adopted as being abandoned too, which the Thirteenth Doctor found out from the Spy Master in TV: The Timeless Children [+]Loading...["The Timeless Children (TV story)"] when he showed her the Matrix's recordings of the Timeless Child.
  • Ruby is erased from reality shortly after cracks form along the Sunday family's apartment. Cracks have previously been a sign of an individual's erasure from history, as seen in TV: The Eleventh Hour [+]Loading...["The Eleventh Hour (TV story)"], Flesh and Stone [+]Loading...["Flesh and Stone (TV story)"] and The Big Bang [+]Loading...["The Big Bang (TV story)"].
  • After Ruby is erased from reality, the Doctor displays an ability to remember her despite others forgetting. The Eleventh Doctor displayed this ability when Rory Williams was erased from existence in TV: Cold Blood [+]Loading...["Cold Blood (TV story)"]. He remarked in TV: Flesh and Stone [+]Loading...["Flesh and Stone (TV story)"] that this was because he was a complicated space time event that granted him unique immunity to such effects so long as it did not affect his own timeline.
  • Carla cries when the Doctor tries to make her remember Ruby. Amy Pond, after forgotting Rory, also had a residual awareness of him that caused her to cry, as displayed in TV: The Pandorica Opens [+]Loading...["The Pandorica Opens (TV story)"].
  • Ruby walks around the exterior of the TARDIS after seeing it is bigger on the inside, in a similar reaction seen by Rose Tyler in TV: Rose [+]Loading...["Rose (TV story)"], Donna Noble in TV: The Runaway Bride [+]Loading...["The Runaway Bride (TV story)"] and Clara Oswin Oswald in TV: The Snowmen [+]Loading...["The Snowmen (TV story)"].
  • The Doctor again argues that what another character perceives as magic is in fact science, as previously seen in TV: The Dæmons [+]Loading...["The Dæmons (TV story)","''The Dæmons''"], TV: Horror of Fang Rock [+]Loading...["Horror of Fang Rock (TV story)","''Horror of Fang Rock''"] and PROSE: The Knight, The Fool and The Dead [+]Loading...["The Knight, The Fool and The Dead (novel)","''The Knight, The Fool and The Dead''"].
  • The Doctor decyphers the rope language of the Goblins. The Seventh Doctor similarly decyphered the scent language of Vrill in AUDIO: Survival of the Fittest [+]Loading...["Survival of the Fittest (audio story)"].
  • The events of this story were referenced in PROSE: TARDIS Data File: Ruby Sunday [+]Loading...["TARDIS Data File: Ruby Sunday (feature)"].
  • A Goblin from this story appears in GAME: Wonder Chase [+]Loading...["Wonder Chase (video game)"].

Home media releases[[edit]]

to be added

Gallery[[edit]]

Main article: The Church on Ruby Road (TV story)/Gallery

External links[[edit]]

Footnotes[[edit]]