Doctor Who fans learned the identity of the latest actor to play the Doctor in the run-up to the BAFTA Television Awards in May 2022. As one of the highest-profile roles in British TV, the news made global headlines. While stars were walking the red carpet in London, one BAFTA attendee received his first taste of the attention the legendary role attracts.
Ncuti Gatwa arrived at the show as a nominee for Best Male Performance in a Comedy Programme, but everyone wanted to talk about his casting as the latest incarnation of the Doctor. Still, it took five months for the show to confirm exactly which incarnation of the Doctor Gatwa will play.
Gatwa is confirmed to replace Jodie Whittaker in 2023, taking over full-time as the lead of the world’s longest-running science-fiction show. But there’s a catch. As we know from the events of The Power of the Doctor, where Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor met her end thanks to yet another fiendish plan by arch-nemesis the Master, Gatwa isn’t taking over directly. For reasons we’ll discover during Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary year, David Tennant has returned to the show, taking the Time Lord’s fourteenth life (to go with his tenth) and pushing Gatwa’s much-anticipated incarnation back.
So, Gatwa will be playing the Fifteenth Doctor, taking the controls of the TARDIS in Fall 2023 alongside Mollie Gibson, who was announced as his companion in November 2022.
Here’s what we know about the exciting young actor we’ll soon know as the Doctor and why you might think he looks familiar.
Where have you seen Ncuti Gatwa before?
Gatwa studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland before taking roles in several theater productions, including Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.
On television, Gatwa has appeared in the series Stonemouth and Bob Servant. His movie roles have included Timidius in 2019’s Horrible Histories: The Movie and, due for release in 2022, Last Letter from Your Lover.
However, Gatwa will be most familiar to audiences for his role in Netflix’s Sex Education. He built a loyal fanbase as Eric Effiong, the gay, drag-loving best friend of Otis Milburn. He won praise for his portrayal of the character learning to be confident in his own skin. It was a revelatory performance that sent his star into the ascendancy. As the Doctor, he’s about to go stratospheric both on screen and off.
Where is Ncuti Gatwa from?
Ncuti Gatwa was born in Rwanda and arrived in the UK as a toddler. His family settled in Scotland, making him the fourth Scottish actor to take on the immortal role of the Doctor. You may not have noticed his Scottish accent, and Gatwa has said it only becomes pronounced when he’s in Scotland. We’ve seen a snippet of Gatwa as the Doctor in a trailer for 2023 episodes, but we know little else about his Doctor yet, including if he’ll lend his Time Lord a Scottish, English, or altogether different accent. While Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi made the most of his Scottish brogue, Tenth Doctor David Tennant opted for a southern English accent.
Regardless of the accent he opts for, Gatwa has admitted the challenge of his new role in an official statement.
“There aren’t quite the words to describe how I’m feeling. A mix of deeply honored, beyond excited, and of course a little bit scared.”
For Doctor Who, Gatwa is a massive signing and sign of intent. It’s been some time since the Time Lord was a bona fide rising star. Recently, the keys to the TARDIS have tended to land in the hands of accomplished and established actors.
At 29 years old, Gatwa will be one of the most youthful Time Lords but not the youngest. In 1981, Peter Davison was also 29 when he became the Fifth Doctor. The record remains with Matt Smith, however, who was only 26 when he became the Eleventh Doctor. Still, Gatwa’s casting had fans of the nearly 60-year-old show feeling their age: the actor was only 12 when the show was revived in its modern format in 2005. It got worse when Gibson was revealed as his new companion — she wasn’t even one.
Gatwa keeps his private life just that — little is known about his relationships. Much is being made of his previously most high-profile role, but the potential in Doctor Who is vast. The gender fluidity of Time Lords has been a vital component of the modern era, leading to Jodie Whitaker becoming the first female incarnation of the Doctor (we saw on TV).
While Gatwa is set to become the first black lead on the show, recent seasons have revealed a previously unknown female black incarnation of the character played by Jo Martin, who’s appeared in infrequent cameos.
When does Ncuti Gatwa become the Doctor?
Whittaker filmed her final scenes as the Doctor in late 2021, and we saw her regenerate — the in-show process by which Time Lords transform their appearances and personality — into Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor in November 2022.
That’s the Doctor who will guide us into the show’s 60th anniversary year. It’s disappointing for fans who are eager to see Gatwa and Gibson in the TARDIS as soon as possible. Still, the mystery of Tennant’s return promises a memorable birthday year and the start of an exciting era for the show.
Russell T Davies, the mastermind of the show’s hugely successful revival in 2005, has returned to guide Doctor Who through this new era, as the show is now co-produced by the BBC and Disney+.
Filming began on the 60th-anniversary specials in May 2022 at Bad Wolf Studios in Cardiff, including Tennant’s first scene — it’s rare in modern Doctor Who that both actors are present during a regeneration. Despite knowing the identity of the next two Doctors, we have little else to go on. That means Gatwa’s first full appearance as the Time Lord isn’t expected until a special due in late 2023.
We do know that the production team, headed by Davies, is planning a refreshed new era of the show. In February, he told the UK’s Radio Times that “there are things coming up that are brand new ways of telling the stories that have never been done before, so it just feels new … It’s a self-renewing show.”
On the BAFTA Red Carpet, Gatwa and Davies confirmed that the actor was cast in February after his late audition nabbed the role from another actor the production team thought had it in the bag.
The actor has clearly filmed some scenes, but fans are still reeling that they’ll have to wait another year to see him aboard the TARDIS. There’s some solace to be found in the unpredictability of a show that likes to keep its fans on their toes. In 2013, they were treated to an early reveal of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor during the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor. It’s not often that a close-up of some eyes and some sharp eyebrows can set the internet forms alight. Perhaps we’ll be meeting Gatwa’s version of the Time Lord sooner than we think.
The new era of Doctor Who promises many surprises, and fans should expect the unexpected when it comes to the ‘Time of the Fifteenth Doctor.’