Doctor Who's Christmas Special Never Solved Its Biggest Mystery
Let's talk about one unexplained costume change.
When the world got their first image of Ncuti Gatwa’s 15th Doctor, he was dressed in a stunning checked suit paired with an orange shirt underneath. At the time, longtime fans noticed homages to the 2nd Doctor, the 4th Doctor, and more modern Doctors like the 10th, 11th, and 12th in this outfit. However, as revealed in Gatwa’s first full-length outing in Doctor Who —“The Church on Ruby Road” — this costume isn’t the one he debuts in. Or is it?
Wrapped up in the hijinks of time-skipping goblins and the enigma of Ruby Sunday’s (Millie Gibson’s) birth parents, is also a very subtle time-travel mystery introduced very, very early on in the episode. And it’s all connected to that slick checked suit that the Doctor rocks for one — and only one — moment in this episode.
Spoilers and speculation head.
Throughout the majority of the episode, the Doctor rocks a retro-ish, orange leather (maybe pleather?) trench coat, reminiscent of Donna Noble’s coat from Season 4. Paired with blue pants and excellent sneakers, this is the Doctor’s look for most of the episode. That is, in addition to the kilt and leather jacket he wears while dancing in the club early in the episode, right when he meets Ruby Sunday for the first time.
Historically, this is a lot of costume changes for a new Doctor in their first episode, but what’s so interesting is that the only costume change that doesn’t make sense is seeing the Doctor in that checked suit, with an orange shirt underneath, wearing a hat. Because of the nature of the series — lots of time travel — we’re forced to wonder... is this Doctor from a different time period in a future episode?
Doctor Who’s hidden 2024 mystery
The primary thrust of “The Church on Ruby Road” represents a kind of closed-loop paradox. The Doctor repairs the broken timeline by stopping the goblins from getting baby Ruby in the past, and thus ensures that she exists in the present. The opening scenes of the episode, in which we see the Doctor emerging from the TARDIS in the snow, at the church, become the resolution for the episode.
This is classic timey wimey Doctor Who stuff, but, in terms of the Doctor’s time traveling in this episode, everything seems to be accounted for. Except his early appearance wearing the checked suit. Even at the end of the episode, the Doctor is wearing the leather jacket with a different shirt underneath, indicating some time has passed for him, or at least enough time for him to change. But the checked suit Doctor is utterly unaccounted for.
Essentially, it feels possible that the mystery of Ruby Sunday’s origins could be connected to this unexplained Doctor costume change. Showrunner Russell T. Davies has said that the church where baby Ruby was left will be revisited later in the new 2024 season. “That story then continues into the series: we come back to that church,” Davies said ahead of the launch of the new episodes. “There’s all sorts of bits. There were people in those scenes you don’t know were there. There’s a lot more to come.”
As of now, all fan theories about the smallest details in “The Church on Ruby Road” might be valid. That is, until the wibbly-wobbly explanations unfold in the spring.