Doctor Who: Ruby Red – Recap & Review

    Doctor Who books are in full swing! More tales of The 15th Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday’s (Millie Gibson) adventures have landed with the new original novel, Doctor Who: Ruby Red! This is writer Georgia Cook’s debut novel, which has also been written for several sets of Big Finishes audiobook range.

    Set in 1242, the story follows The Doctor and Ruby answering a distress signal on Earth and discovering a hivemind that aims to take control of the planet. Teaming up with a couple Rentaran warriors, the group attempts to take down the terrifying Genetrix. However, the team are up against the clock as Genetrix’s attack threatens to disrupt the flow of history. Can The Doctor stop the assimilation of the planet before it is too late?

    Find out in our review and recap of the latest Doctor Who novel, Ruby Red. WARNING – Spoilers for the book are outlined in the rest of the article below.

    The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) start their adventures (Via BBC Pictures)

    Classic Ruby and Doctor Antics

    ‘Ruby Red’ opens on The Doctor and Ruby Sunday, landing on Earth in 1242. Answering a distress signal from Ranavere Rentara. Parking on a frozen lake, the pair meet Ranavere, who is chased by her sisters Cellisamere and Helgadane. Unfortunately, the TARDIS locks The Doctor out for mysterious reasons, forcing them to run and hide.

    During the first half of the book, we get a lot of Ruby and The Doctor banter, which was very enjoyable. Fans wanted more of this in the recent season of Doctor Who, primarily due to several ‘Doctor Light’ episodes. Cook has done an excellent job of capturing the chemistry that Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson had on screen.

    The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) start their adventures (Via BBC Pictures)

    A Coming-of-Age Battle to the Death?

    Ranavere, Ran for short, explains to the pair that she is a member of the Rentarans. She tells them that she has been sent to earth to partake in the historic battle between the Novogrodians and the Estonians. Ran however did not want to partake in this battle and has run away. She assumes that her sisters had been sent after her to capture her.

    This coming-of-age battle dictates that Ranavere would be sent to a random planet to take part in a battle and aim to return as a victor. However, Ran is not a fighter like the others in her colony and she prefers inventing things. When she meets the Doctor he sees this and encourages her to follow her dream and become who she wants to be.

    One very interesting plot point throughout the book is the Doctor continuously mentioning that the TARDIS has been acting strange recently. Whilst the plot does have its reasoning for why it can’t be used, it seems like these issues have been going on long before. Could this potentially link the novel back to the new season of Doctor Who?

    Our three main characters settle down in a Novgorodian encampment overseen by Prince Alexander. However, while they try to rest, the camp is attacked by soldiers with ruby-red eyes. The Doctor notices something very strange about the soldiers. They appear to act almost like puppets being controlled by something.

    The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) start their adventures (Via BBC Pictures)

    A Hive Mind in 1242?

    After the attack, the trio decided to pair up with Ran’s sisters to get some answers about what is going on. Helgadane explains that the soldiers and wildlife in the area appear to be controlled by the Genetrix. This hivemind has been hunted by the Rentaran’s almost to extinction all across the galaxy. It travels to planets and infects the population using small squid-like parasites that attach to the host’s necks.

    After the Rentaran’s give The Doctor a summary of the Genetrix and her methods, he decides to attempt communication. He does this by using an assimilated soldier named Onfim, allowing her to slightly enter his own mind. These scenes are definitely one of the stronger aspects of the novel. We also see this communication later on through Ruby and Ranavere. These scenes are excellently handled and were able to deliver suspenseful and page-turning moments. It also very successfully builds on the backstory and motives of the Genetrix, making them feel more misunderstood.

    The gang soon realises that the Genetrix is aiming to assimilate the population of the Novgorodian encampment. Most importantly, she is trying to control Prince Alexander so that she can command his soldiers towards the icy lake. After shutting down Ran’s remaining distress beacons they head back to the camp.

    A Touching Tale of Sisterhood

    On the way back to the camp the Doctor attempts to warn the prince of what is happening. However, they are unable to do so as the Genetrix attacks the camp. During this Cellisamere becomes infected and turns against the team. She captures Ruby and takes her towards the frozen lake. The Doctor uses this to figure out that the Genetrix has been hiding under the ice this entire time.

    Ranavere and her sister’s relationship is the strongest aspect of this story. Ran starts the book out thinking that her sisters disapprove of her running away from the Rentaran coming-of-age ritual. As we progress through the story she soon learns that this is not the case. The two have defied the ideals of their society and decided to help her on her path. This is one of the core themes of the truly heartfelt story. Ran learns from the Doctor that she does not have to be a fighter to succeed in life. He encourages her to forge her destiny and not listen to what the other Rentarans think she should be. Cook handles this theme very well and was one of the most enjoyable parts of the story.

    It turns out that it was the Doctor who brought the Genetrix to the planet. She had been in hibernation in the frozen lake and woke up when the T.A.R.D.I.S landed on top of her. Draining the energy from the T.A.R.D.I.S then allowed for her to start infecting the planet and taking over. Luckily the Doctor realises this and can cut her off from the source and weaken her hold on the parasites.

    Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) In Doctor Who (Via BBC Pictures)

    The Battle on the Ice

    During the final battle on the ice, the Doctor drops the T.A.R.D.I.S into the lake and severs the Genetrix’s connection to her puppets. After this the lake freezes over again, the Genetrix goes back into hibernation and the Novgorodians are freed. The Rentaran’s decided to stay on Earth and plan to kill the Genetrix when it wakes again. However, the Doctor does not want the Genetrix to be murdered so he uses the T.A.R.D.I.S to transport her. He leaves her on a desolate and lonely planet where she will never be bothered or hunted by anyone again.

    One of the core issues I encountered with this book is that it often felt like the characters were just going back and forth between three locations. It made the chapters feel pointless as the actual core plotline was not very engaging. Most of the book is made up of The Doctor and Ruby going from the T.A.R.D.I.S to the camp then to the forest then back to the T.A.R.D.I.S. Overall it gave the entire read a very repetitive and boring feel. However, this was greatly helped by the entertaining dialogue between the characters.

    For the final showdown with the Genetrix, I was also expecting a lot more of a battle. For the majority of the book, the characters are searching her out and building to this confrontation and it feels like it falls flat at the end. The Doctor ‘defeats’ the Genetrix by severing her connection to the T.A.R.D.I.S, weakening her control over the Novgorodians. I was hoping for more of a big battle versus this threatening character especially due to the epic portrayal of the Rentaran’s. Whilst the ending does feed into the core values of the story it leaves more to be desired.

    Closing Thoughts

    Overall Doctor Who: Ruby Red was an enjoyable read and we look forward to what Cook writes next for the series. She did an excellent job of bringing the personality of Gatwa and Gibson’s characters to the book. If you’re looking for more adventures from the 15th Doctor’s time, this is a definite fix. The Rentarans were a very enjoyable addition to the Whoniverse and to the Doctor and Ruby’s team. Ranavere and her sister’s relationship was explored heartfelt and interestingly, even if the plot left some more to be desired.

    We may see the Genetrix and the Rentarans in the Doctor Who TV series soon. It would be very cool to see these characters appear in live-action.

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