Doctor Who at Christmas. Cosying up in front of a warm fire after a long day of scarfing down turkey, stuffing, and whatnot to see the latest adventure in the TARDIS. It just feels right – and it's been sorely missed for six long years.
Finally, though, that barren streak will end with the 15th Doctor's debut in 2023 Christmas special 'The Church on Ruby Road' this holiday season. With Doctor Who's 60th anniversary specials officially ending with 'The Giggle' on December 9 – a three-part narrative that seems to be bid farewell (albeit a temporary one, in our view) to David Tennant's Time Lord and Catherine Tate's Donna Noble once more – it's time to look ahead to the iconic sci-fi show's future.
Indeed, the new TARDIS team – Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson – make their official debuts as the Doctor and new companion Ruby Rose later this month, with the TV special set to air on the BBC in the UK and Disney Plus internationally. Ahead of its arrival, we've rounded up everything worth knowing about 'The Church on Ruby Road', including its release date and time, cast list, plot specifics, and more. Materializing that important information in three, two, one...
Doctor Who Christmas special 2023 release date
The 2023 Doctor Who Christmas special will premiere on Christmas Day (December 25). As mentioned, it'll air on BBC One and BBC iPlayer in the UK, as well as Disney Plus, aka one of the world's best streaming services, in the US, Australia, and anywhere else in the world.
British viewers can settle in for more wibbly wobbly timey wimey goings-on at 5:55pm GMT. Thankfully, American and Australian viewers won't have to avoid spoilers for hours on end as it's getting a simultaneous release on Disney's primary streamer. So, for US audiences, you can stream it at 12:55 pm ET / 9:55 am PT. Australians can watch it at 3:55am AEST on December 26.
The special will run for 55 minutes, too, so the 15th Doctor's first outing will be done in less than an hour.
Doctor Who Christmas special 2023 cast
The BBC has confirmed the main cast for 'The Church on Ruby Road':
- Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor
- Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday
- Davina McCall as herself
- Mary Malone as Trudy
- Antia Dobson as Mrs Flood
- Hemi Yeroham as Abdul
- Michelle Greenidge as Carla, Ruby's mom
- Angela Wynter as Cherry, Ruby's grandmother
Doctor Who Christmas special 2023 plot synopsis
The 2023 Doctor Who Christmas special will be the first proper adventure for Gatwa's 15th Doctor – you know, after his surprise cameo in 'The Giggle' – as well as mark the debut of his new companion Ruby Sunday (Gibson).
Taking over from Tennant's 14th iteration of the Time Lord, it'll see Gatwa encounter mythical goblins as his life collides with Ruby's, with showrunner Russell T. Davies telling the BBC: "From day one in this job, I wanted Doctor Who back on Christmas Day! And with Ncuti, Millie, Davina and the Goblin King, I hope it’s a feast for all the family!"
Little else is known about the special's plot – to be fair, we don't want spoilers pre-release – but the BBC has teased how Ruby comes to meet the Doctor as part of proceedings: "Ruby Sunday... was abandoned on Christmas Eve as a baby. Now living with her mum Carla and grandmother Cherry, her world is about to be turned upside when she encounters the Doctor and the two set off on their first adventure together."
Upon her casting announcement in the Christmas special, Davina McCall –who's set to play herself in the Who-niverse, stated: "It is beyond an honour to be asked to appear in not only Doctor Who, but also Ncuti’s first episode as the new Doctor. It was such an extraordinary experience and Russell has written you all a Christmas delight! Now I just can’t wait for everyone to see it!"
Curiously, the presenter/actor previously voiced the Davinadroid in 2005's 'Bad Wolf' episode, which saw Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor trapped in a futuristic version of reality series Big Brother. That was also Davies's first season in charge of the show so, clearly, McCall and Davies get on well.
Doctor Who Christmas special 2023 trailer
With Tennant's second run as the Doctor seemingly coming to an end – we don't think this is the last we've seen of him – in 'The Giggle', the BBC released a short teaser for 'The Church of Ruby Road', which albeit briefly lifts the lid on what to expect from the 2023 holiday caper.
In it, we see the Doctor running into Ruby in a nightclub (of all places!) before the duo find themselves making their way aboard the goblins' sky-faring ship and getting into all sorts of trouble. Watch the brief teaser above for more on the wild and frenetic adventure they'll become enveloped in in just two and a half weeks.
Doctor Who Christmas special 2023: what's next?
Following the conclusion of the 2023 Christmas special, Doctor Who will return for the rebooted show's 14th season (strangely, it's also being called Doctor Who season 1) next year. No official launch date has been announced, but there are rumors of a early 2024 release. It'll consist of eight episodes, too, with the mystery surrounding Ruby's birth expected to play an integral role in its wider plot.
Special guest stars in the form of Jonathan Groff (Frozen, The Matrix Resurrections), Lenny Rush (Enola Holmes 2), Aneurin Barnard (Dunkirk), Jinkx Monsoon (Ru Paul's Drag Race), and Indira Varma (Game of Thrones) have already been announced. Monsoon is expected to play a big role in season 14, while Barnard will play a mysterious character called Roger ap Gwilliam (per the BBC) and Varma is portraying a character known as The Duchess.
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There'll be some familiar faces appearing in the show's next installment, too. The BBC confirmed Jemma Redgrave is back as UNIT director Kate Stewart, while Bonnie Langford will make her return as Mel Bush (per the BBC), a companion of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors between 1986 and 1987. She also made a brief cameo in the final episode of Jodie Whittaker's stint as the 13th Doctor in 2022, and another in the final 60th anniversary special 'The Giggle'.
For more Doctor Who coverage, read our guide on every Doctor Who Christmas special ranked. Additionally, see if you agree with our selection of the 20 best Doctor Who episodes ever made, or why the entire Doctor Who collection isn't available to stream on Disney Plus.
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Matt is a full-time freelance journalist who specializes in arts, culture and tech – be that movies, TV, video games, or otherwise. He's also turned his hand to everything from mattresses to motorbikes as a journalist. Prior to this, Matt headed up the games and entertainment section at T3.com, alongside being published across TechRadar, IGN, Tom's Guide, Fandom, NME, and more. In his spare time, Matt is an avid cinema-goer, keen runner and average golfer (at best). You can follow him @MattPoskitt64.
- Tom PowerSenior Entertainment Reporter