Doctor Who is almost in full swing. We’ve had the 60th Anniversary Specials; now is the time for the new era. We had our introduction to the 15th Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) with the 2023 Christmas Special episode. A month after the episode release, The Church on Ruby Road Novelisation is now hitting shelves! The first of many starring the Fifteenth Doctor and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson).
The weekend before release, I was fortunate enough to queue up at Forbidden Planet for a book signing of the recent Target novels of the 60th. I only expected to get the three 60th novels, but then – Suprise! At the end of the long table of paperbacks, I see the hardback cover of Church on Ruby Road by Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson. Of course, I had to! I got my autograph, squeezed quickly out of the queue, and hurried back home, cradling all the books. Now, having read the novel of one of my favourite Christmas episodes, here are some of my thoughts.
WARNING – Spoilers below for Doctor Who: Church on Ruby Road novelisation!
A Doctor Who Fairy Tale
The novel goes hard on the fairy tale aspect of the story so well, with that trademark mix of fantasy and sci-fi we expect to see in Doctor Who. I’m only now leaning on more supernatural elements. Introducing the church and Ruby as a baby is just as ominous and magical. The Goblins feel like a force of nature, a legacy to The Toymaker (Neil Patrick Harris), as the Doctor says, popping up here and there to cause all manner of mischief and misfortune. I’d even argue the novel has the upper hand in portraying the goblins as elemental beings, appearing out of nowhere, unseen.
The story and dialogue are almost identical to the live-action episode, with a few pleasant extras between the Doctor and Ruby. The references to The Giggle confirming the Goblins are part of his legion are nice confirmations. As well as the psychic paper and Cherry (Angela Wynter) listening in on both of them frantically avoiding accidents. Apart from that, though, the story is very much the same, which is a little disappointing. I’d like to see some liberty taken with the story or even entirely new scenes; canon be damned. That said, don’t let this dissuade you.
“His form seemed to reflect and absorb the blue and purple lights of the club, like a galaxy lived on his skin. Like he was a galaxy.”Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road Novel
As the first episode of the Fifteenth Doctor, technically, and Ruby Sunday and months of waiting to see them again, details about these characters are much more appreciated. And do they shine! The way the novel describes the doctor dancing at the nightclub is sublime. As well as how vulnerable he becomes near the end, which we get to experience through his perspective. The novel confirms that this Doctor still holds some baggage, perhaps just a little lighter.
The Sundays are fantastic! We already knew that having watched the episode, but the novel goes into much greater detail. The love between three generations of a family, their connection, is centre stage in Ruby’s POV. Snippets of the family, the holidays and lie-ins, Cherry Sunday still waiting for tea. Their love for each other is so heartwarming that it’s all the more emotional during the alternate timeline.
All Eyes on Them!
Okay, let’s be honest. If you saw The Church on Ruby Road episode, the first thing you may be asking is… Does it reveal any more details? And the answer is, quite possibly. Before anyone gets their hopes up, there are no groundbreaking reveals. But there are a few bits and pieces, reading between the lines. For example, the Doctor sees the mysterious woman who we believe to be Ruby’s Mother.
Not much is said of her, even questioning whether she saw the showdown between the Doctor and the Goblins. But we learn why the Doctor doesn’t run up to her and that he is just as in the dark as we are.
And as for Mrs Flood (Anita Dobson), who is she?! Again, there are no groundbreaking revelations but small details. When watching the episode, you get a mixed sense from her. One minute, she is nice; the next, she argues with Abdul (Hemi Yeroham). But in the novel, we get a more positive sense of her. She is still arguing with Abdul, and he can’t catch a break. But as she watches the Doctor and Ruby go off on their grand adventures, you get a more positive sense about her. So, is she one of the good guys? Is it all a red herring?
While The Church on Ruby Road Novelisation may not have extra scenes or alternate takes to the story, it gives greater insight into the new heroes. It is an enjoyable read with beautifully written moments reflecting the beautiful episode. If you’ve been keeping up with the Target novels, you should pick this one up! It stands out in the collection, towering against the small paper novels. Likewise, if you have read The Church on Ruby Road Novelisation, check out all the other Target books or Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson’s other January sci-fi, The Principle of Moments.
Doctor Who kickstarted the new era on Christmas Day 2023. “The Church on Ruby Road” saw the debut of both Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson as The Doctor and Ruby Sunday. However, fans will need to wait until May 2024 for Ncuti’s first season as The Doctor. Disney+ will be the exclusive home for new Doctor Who seasons outside the UK and Ireland.