By Roy Mathur, on 2023-12-27, at 23:33:03--00:28:22 GMT, for Captain Roy's Rusty Rocket Radio Show
Yuletide greetings from Fygor and I at Castle Royenstein and welcome to another single topic episode.
I hoped you enjoyed the streamlined opening. Expect and even shorter goodbye at the end. Minor changes are afoot, blame the coming New Year spirit.
Ah, Christmas. I said I wouldn't do a show on any of the special days, so this one is the closest we'll get to a Christmas show this year.
I hope yours was great. Mine went fairly well. I was still tired and sickly from the aftermath of weeks of goo coughing and fever, but what little dinner I ate was good, though we're not sure why one big, stubborn parsnip didn't cook. My presents: Peanuts socks and an XHDATA D-808 all band radio receiver to compliment a small Tecsun PL-310ET I bought years ago. I thought of a DIY SDR using the RTL USB dongle kit, but that's more expensive and not as portable. Boxing Day was even better, thanks to food, rest, and chocolate truffles, and here I am.
Story 304, written by Russell T. Davies, is Ncuti Gatwa's first solo episode as the Fifteenth Doctor. It also stars new companion, Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson).
The 2023 Christmas Special was broadcast on Christmas Day at 17:55 on BBC 1 and is available on iPlayer.
I watched this mostly live on Christmas Day, though I had to hit pause once of twice because, sod's law, the moment you sit down at Castle Royenstein...
On a snowy Christmas Eve, a baby is left outside the church on Ruby Road. Named by her adopted mother Ruby Sunday, she is interviewed by Davina McCall for an unnamed TV show that puts adoptees back in touch with their biological parents (very obviously based on ITV's Long Lost Family hosted by Davina McCall).
Afterwards, she experiences bad luck and her mother's new foster baby is kidnapped by goblins who want to feed her to their king. Ruby and the Doctor board their flying ship and mount rescue.
On board, the Doctor tells her the goblins have used their unique physics that uses knots to cause bad luck and draw power from the coincidence of Ruby and the baby sharing a birthday (or something like that, I'm honestly a bit confused at this point). They rescue the baby.
The goblin ship goes back in time to the church and attempts to take Ruby as an infant. The Doctor destroys the ship and catches the falling baby.
The Doctor returns to the present, where Ruby realises he's a time traveller and rushes off to join him. As the TARDIS dematerialises, a creepy old lady says to a fellow neighbour, "...Never seen a TARDIS before?"
Ncuti's Rwandan tinged Scots voice is a mellifluous delight. I'm guessing he'll branch out into voice acting in future.
Why does new companion Ruby Sunday have a Mancunian accent if she was brought up in Notting Hill? The answer is actress Millie Gibson said she couldn't pull it off.
Gibson also didn't look at ease, but many companions have been awkward at first. Give her time.
Her name, Ruby Sunday, is a very British spin on, of course, The Rolling Stones' song Ruby Tuesday, making it possibly the most iconic name for a companion ever. That isn't a criticism, as the character names in my own fiction are frequently contrived because it's fun.
Ncuti's look and behaviour was like a bolder version of Christopher Eccleston's Nine. He has a brighter and longer retro leather coat, open chest rather than v-neck shirts, more colourful trainers, and he's more sparkly and younger (so young), but otherwise very similar. He's got the same physical dynamism and joie de vivre of Matt Smith's Eleven. No surprise, as Smith was almost a professional footballer and his football is showcased in Doctor Who: The Lodger, and Gatwa is an ex-dancer, and indeed bopped in a nightclub in this story.
The goblin story seemed a knotted mess (see that?), but this is Who and either I missed any problems or there weren't any logical flaws in the looping timeline.
I didn't like the goblin's musical number. It wasn't offensive, it just did nothing for me. At least it wasn't the choral singing of Gridlock or The Rings of Akhaten.
The goblins magic knot-tech and sharpened teeth reminded me of the wild fairies with their memory knot belts from Fairyland (1995) by Paul J. McAuley. The "mavity" gloves weren't even Blue Peter build quality props and when are they going to drop that gag? I caught glances of the fascinating new TV remote shape sonic screwdriver. I'm intrigued by that possibly primitive Gallifreyan runic-type script on Ncuti's fingernails. We didn't nearly enough of the overly-teased TARDIS.
I found the goblins creature design and their vessel were visually arresting, but the story was a conventional monster of the week. The tone was tiring, veering happy, sad, happy, sad; the relationship between the Doctor and Ruby was ecstatic (perhaps not the appropriate choice of word... joyful?), but the alternate future, when Ruby's mother never adopted her, was deeply and uncomfortably depressing and nihilistic.
Who was the mysterious and grumpy old lady? I suspect no one important, but definitely alien. Her inside knowledge wrapped in mundaneity reminded me of Harry Potter's, Arabella Figg, a Squib, but far less kindly.
Verdict? The story did not engage me and I found some of the explanatory dialogue confusing, but I wish the cast and crew well as I return to my Old Who revisit. I will watch and enjoy New Who, but only as an ordinary viewer, not a reviewer. To those New Who reviewers who will dissect each episode with a laser scalpel, please be merciful and allow the production time to find its feet.
Davina McCall's near braining with a Christmas tree star? Ah, so near and yet...
The setting of London's Notting Hill was actually Bristol.
Notting Hill is a posh, highly gentrified, and ferociously expensive area of West London. However, in the 19th century, it was once known for pig farming.
That is the end of my coverage of New Who's 2023 Specials and Ncuti's first episode. I hope you enjoyed the ride. If you missed any, they are available forever on my feed.
Henceforth, I'll be going back to the main multiple topic shows and the continuing single topic revisit of classic Doctor Who and Hammer House of Horror.
While I'm on the mend, I hope your holiday celebrations were enjoyable or, at the very least, tranquil.
If it wasn't all you thought it would be, there's still time. There's no reason not to have fun at any time of the year, for any reason, or for no reason at all. If you've listened to me over the years, you know that I've had debauched revelry with many, or parties for a party of one. The numbers don't matter, the fun does.
Peace to all and see you next year.