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Doctor Who Woke Up and Chose Violence this Christmas with Baby-Eating Goblins and a Mysterious Old Lady!

hello world!
Ben Hazell
| January 11, 2024
hello world!

It’s Christmas! And Doctor Who has brought us one of the most polarizing Christmas episodes I’ve seen in a long time. There’s tons of British humor, the introduction of a new companion, pirate goblins from the sky who kidnap babies for Christmas dinner, and a really confusing old woman who somehow knows key plot points of the show? So grab your CGI Goblin horde as we dive into “The Church on Ruby Road.”

Spoilers as usual!

First, I let my guard down, I really did. After Steven Moffat’s heartfelt Christmas stories with the Doctor as Scrooge, superhero stories, and the wedding of River Song, I thought Doctor Who was wholesome and loved Christmas, But then one day, Chris Chibnal came and declared “No more Christmas” like a grinchy Scarlet Witch. And Doctor Who was gone from Christmas for about five years. I was so sad.

I hoped the Doctor would one day return to grace our screens at Yuletide. And finally, it did, except I forgot. Christmas is a thing to be feared, and all Christmas traditions are actually here to kill us. At this time of year, Russel T Davies: Evil Showrunner, used to come down from on high, manically laughing “Ho ho ho” as he unleashed killer Christmas trees, evil nutcrackers, The Star of Bethlehem firing death lasers, and that time the entire world became clones of John Simm. This is Christmas to him, a time of destruction, invasion, and blood, and this episode is no different. 

I don’t think that moose attacks are in the Christmas manual.

Imagine sitting down with your family, ready to enjoy the Doctor Who Christmas special. You’re enjoying the new funny man and his adorable new companion, then BAM, An injured woman is murdered by a Christmas tree falling on her. Oops, what about the giant falling Snowman that crushes pedestrians? 

Snow problem, man.

Not enough? How about a 3 minute musical dedicated to Goblins eating an orphaned baby? The King Goblin is a nightmarish Jabba the Hut-looking thing, complete with a huge slobbering tongue and a jaw as large as a hippo, literally salivating as Ruby and the Doctor scramble to intervene as the baby rolls down a conveyor belt towards certain doom in its mouth. Strangely, it reminds me of the climax of Toy Story 3, but way darker.

For better or worse, people are definitely going to remember this one for years.

Davies, having too much fun rattling his bone-encrusted holly branch, then adds in an emotionally heartbreaking scenario where the evil Goblins sneak back in time and eat the sweet new companion, freshly stolen from her mother abandoning her on a church doorstep. We saw how much everyone in her life is now full of pain and suffering as she has suddenly disappeared from the present in an It’s a Wonderful Life inversion. The camera work and colour palettes paint everything as miserable grey and lifeless, while the Doctor laments her disappearance and swears to save her, being the only one left to remember that she even existed. Merry Christmas!

Did I mention this Doctor cries? I don’t think he’s ever been this ready to cry. If Gatwa has to keep this up his whole run i’m both gonna feel sorry for the guy and be in awe!

Thankfully, the Doctor is more powerful than any bunch of magical gremlins and uses his sci-fi gloves to literally pull their ship out of the sky and kill them all with a church steeple. Very metal. But Davies is not done. He has one more evil trick up his sleeve; knowing that the rest of the season won’t air for six more months, he unleashes a random old woman. Who creepily games into the camera and laughs about knowing what a Tardis is. Creating a tidal wave of theories and questions that will stay with us for the next 6 months.

No, no, no you know what you’re doing show, stop it, i’m not spending the next 6 months on wikipedia trying to work out who this is.

Now, here’s the deal: I will tell you exactly who this woman is and how she knows what a Tardis is. The show calls her Mrs Flood, but I prefer to call her Anita Dobson from Eastenders, a British Soap opera with more episodes than One Piece. And it’s probably something that only the most devout Whovians would know: Doctor Who once had a major crossover event with their show. It was the most cringe and British thing to happen in the 1980s, and it was all for charity, making it somewhat understandable how it existed in the first place.

But the terrible thing is, I can’t prove this definitively, and if this old lady turns out to actually be a plot-relevant character and not a reference to a terrible charity special, I may just faint from exasperation.

Let’s talk about Ncuti Gatwa‘s first starring performance. Gatwa is captivating, first being seen at a nightclub dancing, wearing a jumbled outfit of a kilt with a tank top, and oh boy. Pour out a brew for Matt Smith’s goofy dancing because this Doctor has some real moves. You can pretty much feel the show manifesting Squidward going, “Oh no, he’s hot” in the corner. The camera just loves the guy.

This man is too charismatic, I don’t think he even needs psychic paper at this point.

Through the episode, he exhibits manic energy, as is the trend of the show, but also a really athletic talent? At one point, he sprints on all fours, and if I was wearing 3d glasses, I would be terrified; he’s so damn fast!

Oh, but wait, what the heck is that Sonic screwdriver… is that Adam Sandler’s remote from Click? How is that a screwdriver? Did he just repurpose his TV remote because Tennat’s 14th Doctor took the normal one? I gotta say, the design is weird. And anything that makes me think of Adam Sandler is not good for me. My only thought is that they needed it to be round so kids couldn’t hit their siblings with the pointy end anymore. Do not like it.

“Screwdriver”. However, I love the Gallifreyan alphabet in the middle.

The Doctor saves everyone the Goblins tried to kill with bad luck. No humans were harmed in the making of this episode. However, Gatwa is pretty much solidified as Capaldi’s successor to the “*F*** around and find out” club. He will slam you into a church if you do bad stuff. And I am one hundred percent into it. It’s the pinnacle of science versus fantasy in that the Doctor uses gravity (Now renamed to mavity as a running joke in the show) to destroy a magical pirate ship.

Insanely cool moment in my opinion.

Now let’s talk about “The Outfit,” you know, how every Doctor has their own personal defining wardrobe.  Gatwa’s appears to be a Russel T Davies special, combining the cool action hero style of Tenth’s brown trench coat with the grounded serious tones of Eccleston’s leather. Or is it? Gatwa also dons a cowboy cat checkered outfit with an orange shirt ensemble, with tones of the fourth and second Doctor’s outfits boasting the eleventh’s cowboy hat. It’s unclear which of these looks is the definitive Doctor suit, but Gatwa’s defining trait as the Doctor must be his new ring bling. Which I find stylish but maybe a little flashy. Either way, there doesn’t seem to be a wardrobe failure on either end, like the terrible collage they had poor Colin Baker running around in.

I actually forgot about the fingernail symbols, I don’t know what they mean but they’re cool too.

Finally, Ruby Sunday is played by Millie Gibson; she’s the new companion and all-around sweetheart. She’s one of those characters who will grab onto a ladder hanging from the sky to save a child; she’s the type of person who makes her aging family feel amazing. She’s also the type of person pining for her past with an arc of a mother who abandoned her, which leaves the door open for more intrigue later on down the line.

Ruby seems to embody the best parts of Rose Tyler while also maintaining a very grounded personality. While willing to accept the supernatural and scientifically improbable, she’s also very much focused on the task at hand, not letting herself feel out of depth. Immediately twigging onto the fact they have to join the crazy baby-eating musical number to throw the goblins’ focus in the middle of the episode. She’s inquisitive and provides a great audience stand-in but also feels like an Oliver Twist type. We’ll only see more of her as the show goes on, but I feel that her best trait will be her ability to adapt to otherworldly scenarios, making me feel as though Ruby might be a fusion of the personalities of Rose Tyler and Sarah Jane Smith, two of the best companions of the show.

A really good first impression of Millie Gibson for me.

So to recap: Strange Sonic Screwdriver, Ruby is a great companion, Russel T Davies will return next Christmas to terrify us with evil tinsel, and Gatwa is a charisma nuke that’s probably going to annihilate every male-attracted person in a 20-mile radius if he is allowed to keep getting away with it.

Finally, I want to mention a pattern I’ve seen in the last four Who episodes, Davies continues to try to mess with the audience. They change the name of gravity, throw in wild story points, and seemingly use politics not as a platform but as a way to “Troll” people, including a musical about such a dark subject matter in this episode and The Giggle episode poking fun at Twitter.

I can see that the story is getting the love and care it deserves, but I feel this strange attitude towards messing with the viewer. Antia Dobson’s inclusion and focus are what I would call a “Red flag” in this episode. Davies’ writing is starting to feel like an outlaw doing whatever they want, and hopefully, this doesn’t infringe too much on the entertainment value. It’s certainly enough to give me slight anxiety anyway. Great episode, though, very memorable!

That’s it. What did you think of the episode? Comment below what you think of it, and I’ll come have a chat. Have a great 2024!

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