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Doctor Who Christmas Special: The Church on Ruby Road ending explained

Confused by the Christmas special? We've got you covered

Doctor Who
Image credit: BBC/Disney+

It's the most wonderful time of year - Doctor Who Christmas Special time, that is. There's nothing better than sitting down on the couch (or maybe hiding behind it) and seeing what the Doctor has in store for the holiday season. (In fact, we love the Christmas specials so much, that we've ranked them all.)

This year, now that we've got a new Doctor in the charming Ncuti Gatwa, it's even more exciting. But maybe you want to take a peek at the special's ending before starting your watch (on BBC in the UK or Disney+ elsewhere), or maybe there was a detail you missed that you need to catch up on. That's where this guide comes in handy. Read on, and check out The Church on Ruby Road's ending explained.

Major spoilers for Doctor Who The Church on Ruby Road below

What happens at the ending of of The Church on Ruby Road?

Doctor and Ruby Sunday
Image credit: BBC

Ruby and the Doctor save baby Lulubelle from being eaten by the Goblin King with the help of song, dance, and some mavity gloves. It seems like the day is saved, but once they're back in Ruby's apartment with her mom and grandma, coincidences begin to happen and Ruby disappears from reality, completely altering the lives of her family.

The Doctor needs to go back in time to save baby Ruby from being nabbed by the goblins, and he ends up doing so by using his gloves to pull the entire goblin ship down from the sky, spearing it with the spires of the church and subsequently killing the goblin king. The entire goblin ship then disappears, and baby Ruby hurtles out of the sky to be caught in the arms of the Doctor, who leaves her at the church steps. He catches sight of Ruby's mother, but leaves her to walk away unknown.

The Doctor returns to Ruby's apartment in the now-future and finds that everything has been put back to the way it was originally. He leaves though, and hesistates about Ruby, wondering if he's the bad luck, instead of the goblins. So when Ruby puts it together that he's a time traveller and runs down to find him, we think for a moment, that he's already gone. But as Ruby asks her neighbor whether she's seen the Doctor, her neighbor points her to the TARDIS. Ruby steps inside, and then back outside, and then inside again. In awe of the TARDIS, she asks the Doctor again who he is, and he replies, "I'm the Doctor."

There's one last interesting tag here about Ruby's neighbor Mrs. Flood who was previously shocked about seeing the TARDIS disappear in front of her eyes. As the Doctor and Ruby leave, Ruby's other neighbor Abdul sees the TARDIS go, and exclaims to Mrs. Flood in shock. Mrs. Flood responds, "Merry Christmas, Abdul. Stop making such a fuss." She then looks to the camera and says with a wink, "Never seen a TARDIS before?" (It's worth noting here that Anita Dobson, who plays Mrs. Flood also appeared in Doctor Who serial Blood of the Daleks, though playing a different character).

Who is the Goblin King?

Still of the Goblin King
Image credit: BBC

We don't learn too much about the Goblin King beyond the fact that he is the king of the goblins and likes to eat babies. In the Goblin Song, it is said that "He can eat five hundred puppies with golden fur, orphan boys with jet black hair, circus clown with a red balloon," though who knows if that's artistic license or the truth?

Who is Ruby Sunday?

Promotional image for Doctor Who
Image credit: BBC

Ruby Sunday is the new companion to the Doctor. She was born on Christmas Day and left at a church on Ruby Street, which is how she got her name. The Doctor and Ruby come across each other when Ruby is dealing with abnormally bad luck (which ends up being goblin related). Though the Doctor seems to waffle a bit about whether or not he's the bad luck, he decides to stick around in the TARDIS long enough for Ruby to put together that he's a time traveller and find the TARDIS.

Is there really a song about eating babies in Doctor Who?

Oh yes. It's an earworm too. Watch the lyric video below and see for yourself.

Cover image for YouTube videoThe Goblin Song - Official Lyric Video | The Church on Ruby Road | Doctor Who

Is "mavity" still a thing in Doctor Who?

Still image from Doctor Who featuring the Doctor
Image credit: BBC

Yes. Gravity's name, previously altered by the Doctor and Donna's bumping into Isaac Newton, has remained altered. "Mavity" is still a thing in this episode.

Does Davina McCall die in Doctor Who?

English television presenter Davina McCall does not die in this episode of Doctor Who, though it's a close thing. After meeting Ruby Sunday, she's hit with a ton of bad luck (caused by goblins) and is almost stabbed to death by the very pointy star on the top of a Christmas tree - but the Doctor travels back in time and catches the tree just in time.


If you want to start watching Doctor Who and don't know where to start, check out our handy Doctor Who watch guide. Or maybe you're already finished with the show - We've got the perfect Ten shows to watch when you're done watching Doctor Who guide for you too. If you're already heads over heels for the Fifteenth Doctor and want to learn more about the actor playing him, check out what he's been in before here. Or maybe you just need to figure out how the new series numbering is going to work (Are there really gonna be two series 1s? Yes.) - if so, this is the explainer you want.

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Tiffany Babb avatar

Tiffany Babb

Deputy Editor

Tiffany Babb is Popverse's deputy editor and resident Sondheim enthusiast. Tiffany likes stories that understand genre conventions (whether they play into them or against them), and she cries very easily at the movies— but rarely at the moments that are meant to be tearjerkers.

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