Q&A with Doctor Who novelist Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson

The author of The Church on Ruby Road novelisation discusses joining the Whoniverse, her favourite Doctors, and what the future holds in Season 1...

2023's Christmas special The Church on Ruby Road has joined Doctor Who adventures that have been immortalised in novel format. Written by Esmie Jimieki-Pearson and published by BBC Books, this adaptation of the Fifteenth Doctor and Ruby Sunday's first adventure is available in hardback from 25th January 2024.

To celebrate the release, we spoke to the novel's author Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson about all things Doctor Who...

Get your copy of the novelisation of The Church on Ruby Road here and on audio here


Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson
Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson, author of 'The Church on Ruby Road'.

How long have you been a fan of Doctor Who?

I have been a fan of Doctor Who for fourteen years now, ever since I was young! I first watched Doctor Who in 2010, after I had just moved to the UK from Australia, and was looking for something to watch on a Saturday morning with my sister. We only had BBC iPlayer on the TV, since this was before all the other streamers. I was finding the move to be a big change from what I was used to, though I was loving school, I didn’t have many friends yet. Doctor Who was such a bright spot for me, having never even heard of it before I saw it on BBC iPlayer, and then bingeing the whole thing up until David Tennant’s regeneration! I started with Christopher Eccleston, and have been a huge fan ever since.

What’s it like to be a part of the Whoniverse with this Target novelisation?

It’s been totally lovely. All the fans of the show – fellow fans I should say! -- are so kind and welcoming, I’ve had so many people messaging me to say ‘welcome to the Whoniverse!’ which means a lot to me. I have always been a bit of a solo fan, just watching it on my own, or with my sister, so it feels wonderful to find the Doctor Who community through this route of being involved in the novelisations. At a Q&A recently a reader asked how I felt to be a Black female writer to write a novelisation of a Doctor Who episode, and I responded that I was very grateful, and very pleased that the on-screen diversity was translating to other parts of the Doctor Who brand. I’d also love to point out that the episode was directed by a Black director, Mark Tonderai. Diversity behind the scenes is just as important as on screen, and makes for a richer experience for all, in my opinion. Doctor Who has always been about recognising the important and unique perspectives that our differences grant us, and me being hired to do this novelisation is true to that core ethos.

Other than Nucti and Millie, do you have a favourite Doctor and companion?

I love Eleven and Amy (and Rory!). I think their relationship really spoke to me, because the Doctor met Amy as a child first. And I am someone who is endlessly fascinated by the dreams, imagination, and whimsy of children. I firmly believed that fairies lived in my back garden, and mermaids were just out of sight every time I went to the beach, so for the Doctor to visit Amy and become a kind of imaginary friend, who then returns to her all those years later is a very powerful story to me. In many ways throughout the years, I have often felt like the Doctor is my imaginary friend too. I also love love, so to see Amy and Rory’s love story take shape over their seasons was incredible. Rory really did set the bar high for boyfriends everywhere when he guarded the Pandorica for two thousand years…

What are your favourite moments to novelise from The Church on Ruby Road?

My favourite moment from this episode was definitely the most tragic. The moment when the Doctor speaks to Carla, and realises that Ruby was taken by the Goblins from the steps of the church. The devastation on both their faces was heart-breaking, and translating that sense of deep doom and regret was such an interesting part of the process. Getting to be inside the Doctor’s head for a few chapters as he sets out to right this wrong was genuinely thrilling. I also loved the way Carla’s parts were written in the script. Her loss is so palpable, that you can really see how the lack of love has taken all the colour from her life. I’m a huge believer in the radically transformative power of love and I feel like this episode was a case study in that. Giving love and receiving it can change a person’s life, and you could feel the huge hole in Carla’s life created by Ruby’s absence. I found it a stunning moment to try and re-create on the page.

The Church on Ruby Road

What makes the Fifteenth Doctor stand out from other incarnations?

Well, apart from the beautifully obvious difference of the fact we have a lead Black Doctor on our screens now, I personally think he has the best smile. He has a totally infectious joy on screen that has me beaming on the sofa, barely able to wait for the adventure about to unfold. I love his relationship with Ruby too. So far, they feel like two school kids who find everything the other person says totally hilarious. It’s a great dynamic, and I can’t wait to watch it unfold this season!

What was it like writing Ruby’s introduction to the world of time and space?

This was another standout experience for me. I loved it. Ruby’s thing is that she feels stuck, and a little confused, just wondering when her life is going to really begin. This is something that so many young people relate to, and can be very hard, especially in this day and age with the Cost-of-Living crisis, and the Housing crisis, and Global Warming. There’s a lot to think about, all the time, just as there always has been for young people, and it can be overwhelming. I think if the Fifteenth Doctor showed up in a time-travelling police box, I’d probably jump in too, so she is set up to be a very relatable companion for a new generation of Doctor Who fans. I also loved writing her introduction to the TARDIS.

What are you most excited for the future adventures with the Doctor and Ruby?

I’ve also only seen the promo images, but as someone who is a huge fan of Regency Romance, and who wrote a book about a Black time-traveller in a queer relationship with a Regency prince, I cannot wait for the episode set in Regency times. I think that episode has a high likelihood of going down as an all-time favourite for me, but I suppose only time will tell!

Get your copy of the novelisation of The Church on Ruby Road here and on audio here

More on Products

more from the whoniverse

More From Read and Watch

from the store

More from the store