Home Doctor Who REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road Novelisation

REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road Novelisation

Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road audiobook. Cover by Lee Binding (c) BBC Books

Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson’s The Church on Ruby Road puts the author’s emotional intelligence and skill at turning a phrase at the heart of a handsome new novelisation

What a remarkable time to be a Doctor Who fan. Especially ones who love the smell of freshly printed pages. Sure, the show’s biggest ever budget is giving us its biggest ever TARDIS, skyscraping UNIT HQs, and episodes walking with dinosaurs. And, yes, we have a whole new energy and off the chart charisma thanks to our new Doctor and his megawatt smile. But there’s something particularly magical about being able to relive his latest adventures in book form. Their printing just days or weeks after they were on television is almost as ambitious as it is exciting. The most recent, of course, is The Church on Ruby Road, with its stylish new hardback cover containing a novelisation of Russel T Davies’ script by the award winning Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson.

The speed with which Ruby Road has been written and released isn’t without its compromises, though. In the old days of the 20th century Target Books range, the likes of Terrance Dicks would have years, sometimes decades, to muse over ways to correct plot holes in the original storyline, or how to add depth and context to guest characters. That’s not a luxury granted Jikiemi-Pearson. More significantly compared to the trilogy of novelisations for the Fourteeenth Doctor’s brief run, Ruby and her family are ongoing characters with more to reveal about themselves over the next couple of series. It limits the scope to explore their backstories here. So readers looking for some of the familiar Target Books’ expansions may be disappointed.

 

Ruby's adventure begins in The Church on Ruby Road BBC Studios 2023,James Pardon Doctor Who
Ruby’s adventure begins in The Church on Ruby Road BBC Studios 2023,James Pardon

Apparently drawing on earlier drafts of the script, the novelisation provides extra insight into Ruby’s world and ongoing arcs

That’s not to say there aren’t new insights to be found. Indeed, in some ways Ruby Road is reminiscent of the work of Alan Dean Foster. Like Foster’s 1970s and 1980s novelisations of films like Star Wars, Alien, and The Thing, Jikiemi-Pearson’s Ruby Road appears to work from an earlier version of the script. So we get several snippets that ultimately wouldn’t make the final cut. For instance, in one such moment Ruby’s mum Carla gives her thoughts on UNIT and a sense of how aliens now being public knowledge is treated. In another we get a more definitive answer on what connection exists, if any, between the goblins and the Toymaker.

But there’s much more here to ensure the prose never falls into the trap of merely repeating the action with ‘he said’ added to each line of dialogue. Jikiemi-Pearson has a gift for spinning the perfect turn of phrase. These work beautifully to deepen the emotion or meaning of a moment beyond what mere video can provide. Following Ruby’s disappearance, the Doctor takes in the changes to Cherry’s face with one, long, sad look. It’s a heartbreaking sketch of the fragility of human happiness, as he traces the erased laughter lines, and the deep canyons etched into her brow by two decades of frowns. Every few pages seems to bring some neat choice of words, whether sad, funny, or sinister.

 

The Church on Ruby Road is just the first for a whole series of new novelisations of the Fifteenth Doctor’s adventures

You can choose between a hardback wrapped in a dynamic new cover by Lee Binding, and in audiobook form read by Cherry Sunday herself, Angela Wynter, lending authenticity to the old matriarch’s patois grumblings about tea. A paperback edition follows this July. And with Russell T Davies reporting that they’re already working on Target Books of several of the Fifteenth Doctor’s adventures, it seems this bold new era of novelisations is here to stay. Hopefully it will continue to serve up voices as fresh and new to the Whoniverse as Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson.

 

Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road. Cover by Lee Binding (c) BBC Books

Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road

 

 

 

 

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