One of the Doctor Who Christmas Special’s Best Scenes Was a Disney Suggestion


When the BBC announced that it was partnering with Disney to bring Doctor Who to its international streaming audience under the show’s latest era, there was some bristling that the House of Mouse would have an element of creative control, rather than simply financial involvement. But speaking on Disney’s influence on the show so far, returning showrunner Russell T. Davies revealed they were responsible for the addition of one key scene in “The Church on Ruby Road.

“The Church on Ruby Road” largely focuses on Millie Gibson’s new companion, Ruby Sunday, for the bulk of it its opening act, establishing her life, family, and the mysterious spate of goblin-generated bad luck she’s suffering from, all while the Doctor flits about in the background, observing her. After all, we’d already met Ncuti Gatwa’s new Doctor for a little bit, thanks to his surprise early debut in “The Giggle,” so it makes sense to focus on an entirely new main character like Ruby—but according to Davies, some early feedback for the Christmas episode suggested that the Doctor needed to make his presence known much sooner.

“This was the very last scene to be added,” Davies said during a new audio commentary for the Christmas episode released this week, teeing up a scene where the Doctor, tailing Ruby after a night on the town, saves her from having a giant snowman decoration fall on her and her friends. “Disney always tests a first episode, and they tested this and people wanted to see the Doctor earlier, simple as that. They came back with that note, and I was like, ‘Well, actually, OK, who doesn’t want to see Ncuti?’”

It’s a perfectly reasonable note, which is why presumably Davies was willing to add something. But what we got actually served as a wonderful little moment for Gatwa’s new Doctor—not in the moment of actually saving Ruby, but a brief one afterwards when a passing police officer runs up to the Doctor to see if he’s alright. Making a quick excuse to avoid lingering, the Doctor makes his way past the officer to the nearby TARDIS, but not before quickly pivoting and, changing his attitude on a dime, offers a little bit of advice: she’ll gonna say yes tomorrow.

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Casually analyzing—with a little ping from his Sonic Screwdriver—that the officer has a ring hidden in his uniform for a Christmas Day proposal, it’s a perfect little scene to establish what Gatwa’s Doctor is like. There’s the contrast of not wanting to hang around (which gets mirrored when he reflects later on in the episode if he’s the source of bad luck in people like Ruby’s lives) clashing with his desire to investigate and explore. There’s a casual warmth to it, an eagerness to comfort someone just because he can. And there’s still a little bit of that magic “Church on Ruby Road” is suffused with—a time traveller isn’t meant to reveal future details to people, let alone random passers-by, but the Doctor figures, go on, it’s Christmas Eve: this guy’s about to watch an ancient phone box whirr away into nothingness, why not be nice? Why not offer this little moment of comfort, even as he pushes someone away from his orbit as best he can?

It’s about as strong a “debut” moment as you can have for a new Doctor—not day-saving heroics, not great drama, just a little human moment of magic that only they can deliver. That it came so late into the making of the episode is kind of wild, no matter where the note to add something came from. But we should be glad, at least, that it got in there in the end.

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