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Written By:

Paul Mount
church ruby

Published with almost indecent haste just a few weeks after the airing of the TV episode, Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson’s novelisation of Ncuti Gatwa’s Christmas Day debut full Doctor Who episode The Church on Ruby Road breaks with recent BBC Books tradition, swerving the Target Books paperback format of more recent releases (don’t worry, Who fans, a more standard paperback is due in the summer), arriving as a big, photo-cover hardback, albeit a slim one that runs to a tight 150-odd pages.

Whilst never reaching the inventive heights of James Goss’ recent fabulously entertaining novelisation of The Giggle, the third (and best) of last year’s David Tennant/Catherine Tate 60th anniversary specials, Ruby Road is a highly readable warm hug of a book that deftly captures the fantasy-lite style of the episode itself, a featherweight story that served to introduce Gatwa’s fifteenth Doctor and his new (if temporary) companion Ruby, played on-screen by Millie Gibson. Like the best of this new generation of Who novelisations, Ruby Road takes time to delve deeper into the psyche of its lead characters, especially Ruby the foundling, and Jikiemi-Pearson adds a useful backstory to her character as she navigates her way into the weird world of this strange and lively new man who leads her into a bizarre encounter with baby-eating goblins in the sky. Gatwa’s Doctor is perhaps harder to pin down at this early stage, and he occasionally reads as a little generic, but that’s often the problem writing for a character who is so often defined by the performance of the actor playing him on screen.

What’s most interesting about the book is the fact that it leans clearly and heavily into the new direction we can expect from the series going forward with references to the events to the events of both The Giggle and Wild Blue Yonder, where the Doctor evoked an old superstition to keep the so-called Not-Things at bay and, in doing so, opened up a doorway into our Universe through which any number of supernatural/fantasy creatures are likely to crawl. Angry hardcore fans might baulk at this new look for the show but Doctor Who has always been built on change, subtly telling different types of story whilst rarely deviating from the core concept of the show established way back in 1963. Jikiemi-Pearson, working from Russell T Davies’ script, has picked up on the clues and hints laid throughout the story and set the scene for what’s to come in the next couple of years.

The Church on Ruby Road is a well-written, affectionate book, and if it isn’t as memorable a story as previous Davies-era Doctor debuts like Rose and The Christmas Invasion (both already novelised), the book at least guarantees a very pleasant afternoon with a cup of tea and a plate of jammy dodgers as it takes us off into the next stage of Doctor Who’s infamous trip of a lifetime.


THE CHURCH ON RUBY ROAD is available now from BBC Books.

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