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Browse New Who reviews

Inter-temporal infanticide and a divisive song-and-dance number? We spend more than twice its runtime dissecting The Fifteenth Doctor’s first big adventure.

A mysterious cloaked figure enigmatically leaves a newborn baby behind on the collection doorstep of St. Building Atmosphere’s Church one snowy Christmas Eve, departing without so much as a “Goodbye, Ruby Sunday”. Who could hang that name on her?

Flash forward 18 years and the foundling has grown up to become another wide-eyed portion of grist for Davina McCall’s sentimentality mill. But just when Ruby hopes to find out about her family, her foster mum Carla gets a new baby with the same birthday to care for over Christmas.

Enter the Fifteenth Doctor, catching Ruby’s gin and tonic here, sprinting down roof ridges there. Turns out her accidents were no accident, this series of coincidences indeed no coincidence, as every adopted character ever fostered in the show has become fair game for the gobblin’.

Here's what we think of N179 The Church on Ruby Road — The 2023 Christmas Special

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Drew | @drewbackwhen


Marie | @hammashandjelly


Here's what we think of N179 The Church on Ruby Road — The 2023 Christmas Special

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Drew | @drewbackwhen


Marie | @hammashandjelly


Here's what you think 10 Responses to “N179 The Church on Ruby Road — The 2023 Christmas Special”
  1. Archie Loud

    Hello Who Back Whenizens!

    The first full episode of a new Doctor, the first episode of a new companion, and my first-ever mini—here we go!

    Right off the bat, can we all say how great it is to have Ncuti Gatwa on board? I’m so optimistic about their tenure as the Doctor—charismatic and full of smiles. Unfortunately, the verdict is still out on Millie Gibson as Ruby. Promising, yes, lively, yes, but it seemed to me like she was trying a little too hard. I think Ruby has good chemistry with the Doctor, so she deserves a chance, but I’m not sold yet. Also, did anyone get Clara vibes? I wonder if Millie used Clara as inspiration. We didn’t see much of Ruby’s family, but I wouldn’t complain if we did—Cherry is a hoot.

    Plotwise, I found the idea of odd goblin creatures feeding off coincidences to be fun and clever—kudos for that idea. As a story in general, I quite liked it. Unfortunately, we have to address the elephant-sized Jabba-the-Goblin-King in the room. Is this show a musical now? What the heck was that? There is no way that voice came out of that oddly famine, and oddly blonde, singing goblin. Gone are the days of the Ood songs; hopefully, this was a one-time thing.

    Overall, there are lots of things to like but a couple of large dislikes (beefs). Based mostly on vibe, I give this a 2.9 out of 5.

  2. Jeff Richardson ak El Jefe Tacoma

    Wowzers! I love fantasy and I love Gatwa’s utter glee and discovering its rules have invaded the earth! Ruby is lovely and charming and so full of life and excitement it made my whole year! I absolutely broke at the loss of her foster siblings and its effect on her mum. The goblin king was a bit pants but overall I loved it. I for one enjoy the dumb songs and can’t wait for more! This episode completely redeems the failures of the Giggle and makes me hazzed to the extreme for what’s next!

    Beefs: I can’t think of any? Maybe could have used a few more jokes but honestly it may be just enough. It hung together well, it was pacey, the money was on the screen, and Gatwa sings in the role. Other than having to wait for more this was just about perfect!
    Onay here’s one: the goblin king was nowhere near sexy enough. Are there no modern Bowies to tap for the role? Maybe three super hot people in one episode would breal the time-space continuum?

    Rating: 4.5 plaid skirts and long jackets

    Prediction: the Doctor dropped off Ruby and her parents were killed in the time war

    Keep up the good work!

  3. hi gang, hope it’s all going well :)
    i’m so glad you guys are back and doing reviews! i am loving phase two, the three 60th reviews you put out have honestly been some of the most entertaining ones to listen to. i’ve been meaning to send in reviews for those, but there’s so much going on in each episode that it feels impossible to condense my thoughts at all – luckily, this one is a little easier.

    some likes:
    – ncuti is AMAZING! he brings magic and charm to the show that immediately cements him in the role of the doctor, and every time he’s on the screen he’s effortlessly the centre of attention (and i love the cowboy hat)
    – ruby and her whole family were a blend of RTD1 down-to-earth sensibilities and moffat’s fairytale style, and immediately likeable
    – apparently the intro at the nightclub was an implicit reference to RTD seeing his own husband for the first time across a nightclub, which is very sweet
    – i’m glad russell held off from very blatantly and clunkily setting up the season villain like he did in all three of the tennant specials
    – yes i know it’s probably because they’ll do it in the finale, but i loved that 15 respectfully held off from confronting ‘ruby’s mum’ in the episode – it wasn’t his place to get involved in ruby’s history

    some not-so-likes:
    – honestly just the goblins – the whole thing with knots was great but the fact that they were pretty much not characters at all leaves the episode feeling really empty at points
    – new sonic is definitely one i need to get used to, and the breathing sounds in the opening theme give me the heebie-jeebies (to put it lightly)
    – ncuti wasn’t allowed to do any of the regen episode things, like discovering himself over the course of the episode, and it was kind of to the detriment of his character – that bigeneration really screwed him over and he deserved a better beginning
    – season ‘one’…

    overall, fourth best new-who doctor-intro, but tough competition, 11’s, 12’s and 13’s are some of my favourite episodes of the whole show – 4/5!

  4. Derek Moore

    Dearest Whovians,

    Hello! This is the first time I’ve written in for New Who episodes. Why? Because Ncuti Gatwa is freakin’ awesome. I loved this episode. Well, at least the first 40 minutes. The last 20 were ok, but that doesn’t matter. Why? Because I could listen to Ncuti read a phonebook for 30 minutes and still be entranced. Final verdict? Dare it say it….I want MORE please? Rating 4 out of 5 orgy-tastic goblins.

    Derek Moore (the Moore means “More”)

  5. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    So our first proper look at Ncuti and first look at Millie and yes things are looking good. Ncuti looks settled almost immediately in the role. Great.

    I will say the plot was a bit thin for this one. Yeah, actually fairly…And we have RTD dangling his story threads again with Mrs Flood and Ruby’s mum. I’m kinda done with mystery box story telling. I was kinda expecting the Doctor to go after Ruby’s mum at the end of the episode. Maybe he will in a future episode. I suppose that’s kinda my fear.
    So what to give an episode that I thought was fundamentally…fine and nothing more? 3.0/5 Coincidences needed to attract some goblins


  6. GP Haynes | @FindingGspots (Insta & YouTube)

    Well, one word comes to mind after viewing this: Disappointed! Sorry!

    After 3 pretty good specials with Tennant, I liked the brief introduction of Ncuti and I was expecting a little more from his first full performance.

    I didn’t really care for the story here, and I feel already like Dr Who has been Disneyfiyed.

    Why do we have yet another stupid childish musical number? Uuurgh… no thanks. If this is the future of Dr Who, get me off this train!

    That’s not to say it was all bad. In fact, quite a lot was entertaining, production as always is top notch. The direction and story however….

    Ruby was also fine, and the cast did a pretty good job.

    But, this just doesn’t feel enough Dr Who for my liking, and it left me wondering what to rate it.

    Lets hope it’s a glitch….PLEASE!
    In the end it’s right down the middle:

    2.5 I need to go off and watch some Pertwee and Baker to make me forget that singing….

    Cheers big ears

    GP Haynes
    Australia, home of big hearts….usually

  7. Tanz Sixfingers | @tanzsixfingers

    Greetings Who Back When fam!!
    Your recording schedule and my work schedule don’t mesh well, especially when you are 8 hours ahead of me (I live in Louisiana). I am still bummed about missing the deadline to contribute to the 14th Doctor’s retrospective; I will still submit one for the website, but it’s not the same.

    As you have probably covered the salient points for the Church on Ruby Road, I will get right to the point of the meta review. As this was intended as an entry point for a viewer new to Doctor Who, some allowances were made. Mrs. Flood provided exposition for the Police Box (she hadn’t see one in 50 years), so that newbies could Google it. The Doctor explained the Sonic Screwdriver. He also explained himself and his relationship to the TARDIS.

    As for the theories of who Mrs. Flood is, she can’t be the Rani or a past companion, because she didn’t recognize the TARDIS was the Police Box, and even once she saw that it was a TARDIS, didn’t know who the Doctor was (changing his appearance would only confuse a few of his past companions) and they would all associate the Doctor with the Police Box. But she knew what a TARDIS was once she saw the inside and knew it dematerialized. I say SHE is the One Who Waits.

    Although leon doesn’t like musical episodes in standard shows, I do. (Buffy tVS and 3rd Rock from the Sun are two great examples). I didn’t care for the song so much, but this is probably the Disney influence. Three of the four specials had a musical part, and Disney is known for its musicals. Expect more of the same.

    I was expecting the Goblin King to look more like David Bowie than Jabba the Hutt.

    I like Ncuti (facial hair and all) and I like Millie Gibson.

    Ruby’s mom was wearing the same kind of shoes as the Thirteenth Doctor, so if she was, then that explains why Fifteen didn’t confront her when she dropped off the baby as he remembered doing it, and only then realized Ruby was his daughter.

    I liked it better on the rewatch, but still thought it was only middling for a Christmas special. I give it 3.5 out of 5.

    PS. The use of Mavity in the show indicates we are in a different universe, the one where fantasy and magic rule, and once this arc is over, that will end.

    see me as Tanz Sixfingers on Instagram or Tanz Polydactyl on YouTube.

  8. Oli Raven | @FoggyDrWho

    Well, this is more like it!

    Yes, not perfect, but gave me hope for the following couple of series at least. Plus like many, I’m probably more generously disposed to the episode having consumed it upon first airing while full of Christmas dinner.

    Not sure why they shot their load on the song by uploading it to social media days before transmission. Suggests a lack of confidence in the tonal shift, but might’ve also driven more eyeballs towards the piece who wouldn’t otherwise have watched.

    Sadly Gatwa found a pair of trousers to put on in some unseen adventure after the kilt-in-a-nightclub scene. He’s the first actor to play the Doc who’s younger than me, you know. *whistles*

    We get a happy-go-lucky take on the lead role for the first time since (arguably) Season 17… which makes the contrast of Ncuti being moved to tears when a girl he’s only just met is briefly removed from her own timeline all the starker.

    So the events of The Timeless Children aren’t being ignored? I perhaps shouldn’t be happy about that, but I thought it was handled quite well here.

    So the Isaac Newton gag from the Tennant redux isn’t being ignored? Oh well, still don’t like it, but there’s still a chance we get an explanation and/or reversal of the ‘mavity’ stuff by the end of the series proper.

    Angie Watts (no stranger to festive drama herself) went from not having seen a police box for 50 years to looking straight into the camera and wondering how someone could possibly fail to recognise a TARDIS. Is Claudia Winkleman Ruby’s Mum? Why doesn’t the Doc run after her?

    Will there be consequences for going back to an earlier point in the Davina-droid’s timeline – after all Eccleston, an earlier incarnation, met (well, heard) an older version of Ms McCall on Satellite Five – or am I overthinking that?

    What’s up with all of the above? Setting things up nicely for a full series, I suppose. The podcast is all caught up – again – so May can’t come soon enough. Bring it on!

    Overall: 3.9 magic gloves out of 5

    Oli Raven
    (IG: @FoggyDrWho)

    P.S. Yeah don’t think I can chop that down any further, sorry. Let’s separate rebuttals to some points raised in the last ‘era’ retrospective and pick them up here instead:
    So Tennant’s second run made him a ‘Transitional Doctor’, eh? Meaning it was like Mike Mizanin as WWE champ in early 2021 then? There’s a reason that way to get the belt from A to B is never fondly remembered.
    ‘Rest and Ricklaxation’ is one of my top 3 Rick & Morty episodes. The bi-generation didn’t give me those vibes but since you mentioned it, it does seem a reasonable comparison.
    “69% of the Matrix is wank”? Retrospectively that makes The Trial of a Time Lord sound a lot nicer.
    Fair points about SFX and the nature of Eternals in the show, even if the Black & White Guardians were also only played by one actor apiece.

  9. I love you guys, but if you’re going to complain about knowing Ruby is leaving before we’ve even gotten to know her, at least look into *why* that was the case. As with many seems-too-early casting announcements, it was because there was a leak, the news was coming out anyway, so BBC jumped out in front of the leak. Granted they haven’t handled it well, keeping silent as rumors circulate that Gibson was difficult to work with, but don’t blame Davies or the BBC for confirming her departure when it would have been, at most, another day or two before the story got out anyway.

  10. Benjamin O'Neill

    You mentioned the time in “The End of the World” when the Ninth Doctor slows time to get through the blades, and said that was the only time he ever did that. But wasn’t that very similar to what the Third Doctor did in the end of “Invasion of the Dinosaurs?” That time the Doctor didn’t slow time as much as be not affected by it and was able to reverse it.

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