The BBC has decided to carry on their revolutionary casting streak by announcing that Ncuti Gatwa will be the 14th Doctor on Doctor Who. He will become the first black actor to play the lead full time in the show’s history and be taking over from the show’s first permanent female Doctor, Jodie Whittaker. He will be appearing on our screens from 2023, which is also a significant year for the show as it celebrates 60 years on British television.
It was announced before the 2022 BAFTAs, where Gatwa was nominated for his other iconic role of Eric Effiong in Netflix’s Sex Education. He told BBC News in his first interview as the 14th Doctor:
“It feels really amazing. It’s a true honour. This role is an institution and it’s so iconic…I feel very grateful to have had the baton handed over and I’m going to try to do my best.”
Behind this casting is Russell T Davies, who was also nominated at the BAFTAs on Sunday for Channel 4’s It’s A Sin. He was the showrunner for Doctor Who from 2005 – 2010 and this year has decided to return as the show’s writer.
Davies said of Gatwa’s audition: “It was our last audition. It was our very last one, we thought we had someone, and then in he came and stole it.
“I’m properly, properly thrilled. It’s going to be a blazing future.”
This combination of writer and actor could be the start of the most inclusive and diverse series of this beloved show to date with both Davies and Gatwa being involved in some of the most LGBTQ+ inclusive shows in recent years. Since the show’s reboot, the Doctor became quite the romantic hero, with Tennant’s many, many kisses, Smith’s confusing marriage to River Song, and even Capaldi’s love/hate relationship with Missy. Do we dare imagine that Gatwa’s version of the Doctor will carry on the theme, but this time not have the same interest in the ladies as his predecessors? Will he create another LGBTQ+ icon? Who knows? But it is evident that the community and beyond are very excited for Gatwa to bring the charm and charisma that earned him three BAFTA nominations for his role in Sex Education to his incarnation of the Doctor.
While most Whovians are welcoming the news, people are preparing for the ‘Oncoming Storm’ of criticism that often comes with the recasting of this institutionalised character. When Whittaker took on the role and became the first female Doctor, they were comments about how the character could not possibly be a woman, even though, never in the show’s history has any reference been made to the rules of regeneration, except the fact they change, and everything becomes new. For those who call this the ‘woke’ age of Doctor Who as if it is a criticism, do not forget that when Matt Smith was announced as the 11th Doctor, there was outrage as people claimed he was a nobody and too young to play the character, being only 26 when he took the role. However, he soon became one of the most beloved Doctors of this generation as well as being the lead Doctor for its 50th anniversary show.
Then, when Peter Capaldi was announced as his replacement, people feared that he was too old after being used to Smith for so many years. The point is that nobody likes change, but it must be embraced, as it is the sole reason that this historic show is now entering its 60th year on our screens.
The Doctor walks among and saves the British population from constant alien threat, so if he has been cavorting in this country for so long, then it makes sense that he would see how our society has changed and wish to be a part of that movement. Obviously, I am fully aware that the Doctor is not a real person/alien but if this show is a piece of British history, then the character should best represent how our history has evolved and celebrate the diverse nation that the UK is. Choosing a black actor who is also LGBTQ+ is the perfect way of showing history’s development from the dark ages of hiding and fear of who they are and the people who oppress them. Let the people who have never had a platform shine.