Oxford WhoSoc welcomes Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor!

Ncuti Gatwa as he was announced as the Doctor

Image Credit: BBC Media Centre (Fair Use)

Image Description: Photograph of Ncuti Gatwa used to accompany the BBC Media Centre press release announcing him as the Doctor

Compiled by James Ashworth

It may not yet be the end, but the moment has been prepared for. As the filming of the 60th anniversary special gets underway, Russell T Davies kicked off a blitz of coverage for his return to Doctor Who, from the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate to Heartstopper star Yasmin Finney’s casting. Of course, ahead of all was the announcement of the Fifteenth Doctor, who will be played by Ncuti Gatwa.

Just like the announcement that RTD would be returning to the show, the initial news of Ncuti’s casting was met with disbelief. However, once the press release was made public on the BBC’s website, and society favourite Lizo Mzimba confirmed the news, reactions started coming in thick and fast.

Immediate reactions were positive – it was “completely out of left field, but fantastic news!” One WhoSoc member was “hyped”, another said it was an “incredible choice with great potential,” while another said “the future is truly here!” 

The announcement also revealed that the Venn diagram between Doctor Who and Sex Education, the series for which Ncuti is best known, is not a complete circle. “As with all the Doctors following Eccleston, I have no idea who Ncuti is. But I’m sure RTD will have chosen wisely!” one member said. “Utterly unexpected,” said another – “I had no idea who he was.” That said, it looks like it will be a mutually beneficial move for the BBC and Netflix alike, with fans of both series likely to dip their toe in the other. “I’m very excited,” said one member. “I haven’t seen Gatwa in anything before but I will start watching Sex Education today!”

Once the dust had settled, some members took the time to share their more considered thoughts on Ncuti’s casting.

An unexpected surprise

Sam Sheppard recalls his thwarted attempt to be productive, saying, “I thought I would have a quiet weekend, getting on with some small jobs that needed doing. In a few moments, all of that was shattered. 

“The announcement was a surprise of the best kind – while I was initially taken aback, as Gatwa’s name never came up in any of the fan speculation, I feel confident that this is a very positive sign regarding Russell T Davies’ vision for the next era of the show. Welcome to the club, Doctor number 15!”

Adam Kendrick, meanwhile, is hotly anticipating the next series. “I haven’t honestly been this excited about the future of Doctor Who since when Jodie Whittaker was first revealed as the Thirteenth Doctor, if not Jo Martin’s shock debut as the Fugitive Doctor

“This is exactly the kind of dynamic casting that this show needs to stay relevant and fresh in the increasingly-competitive media landscape of the 2020s. I’m very confident in Russell T Davies’ ability to create excellent telly, and I can’t wait to see what Ncuti Gatwa will bring to the role next series!”

Matthew Kilburn, former editor of this parish, reflects that RTD still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

“Russell T Davies might be nearly sixty, but he is orchestrating a generational change of the guard,” Matthew says. “Neither I nor many of my middle-aged contemporaries had any idea who Ncuti Gatwa was, and had to be enlightened by teenage and twentysomething relatives and friends who have been following Sex Education. Gatwa’s Doctor’s characteristics are, for me, impossible to anticipate. I wish him well – of course!”

Turn up the volume

The speed and initial profile of the announcement wasn’t met with universal acclaim. While there were no demands for Zoe Ball to return in a live broadcast, there was disappointment Ncuti couldn’t have had a higher profile launch as the Fifteenth Doctor.

“Ncuti Gatwa’s announcement is astonishingly low-key, which is a shame for him,” Mark Learey says. “That said, his initial press-release statement is considerably more appealing than his predecessor, and he comes across as sincere and respectful of fandom, which is a great starting point for any actor to this iconic role.”

Ian Bayley, meanwhile, is looking to find out more about Ncuti’s career.

“This just happened all of a sudden, following many joke suggestions on our chat, that I was taken completely by surprise,” he says. “We were expecting some kind of reveal event rumoured to be scheduled for a week from now, like the one we had for Capaldi and Whittaker, and I feel cheated of this. 

I also feel bereft of the certainty I had the last two times, due to Capaldi and Whittaker’s impressive back-catalogues, that the person chosen would inspire me in the emotional scenes I expect to see in good Doctor Who

“That said, my opinions on the casting of pop singer Billie Piper and guest actress Catherine Tate as regular companions would have given me the title of worst fan soothsayer ever had I put them in writing. All this convinces me when in doubt to fall back on an assumption that RTD knows what he’s doing. 

“In all probability, it really is a good decision and I just don’t know why yet. As is his earlier decision to go back to the show when he’s already shown us his vision of it, I’m still mystified by that too. Let’s all look forward to finding out what this is about eighteen months from now.”

Bringing people together

The society’s president, meanwhile, is caught up in the positivity surrounding Ncuti’s casting.

“It’s so exciting to see such a warm welcome to Ncuti Gatwa from a fandom who has been very split and divided in recent years,” Alice Hardaker says. “The positivity online, in our society group chat and even on RTD/Bad Wolf’s posts is very infectious. 

“I have so much hope going forward into the new series and so much intrigue. Gatwa has a limited filmography but the last time an actor with a similarly limited resume joined the TARDIS, it was Matt Smith. The future is here!”

Olviya Silvary, WhoSoc’s Operator of the Mind Probe, says, ‘I really enjoyed Ncuti in Sex Education and think he has wonderful presence. The fact he is also the first black man to play the Doctor is wonderful in itself and a testament to RTD. 

“I think this is really smart casting by RTD as in addition to Ncuti being a wonderful actor, he is very familiar to the younger demographic and enjoyed by many in his work on Sex Education, so the casting is bound to draw in a younger audience! I’m very excited, and a little saddened we have to wait until 2023 – but I have high expectations!”

Not to be outdone by the rest of the committee, Isobel Stuart-Smith, Lord Nimon, says, “I have a really good feeling about this. Based on his performance in Sex Education, he seems to have a very natural charisma and humour which could bind a series of Who together, while also being able to give serious moments appropriate sincerity. 

“I hope the direction and writing allows him the space to explore the role of the Doctor because I trust him to bring new energy, character and maturity.”

Rounding out the committee view of the Fifteenth Doctor, Hypercube regulating Thomas Barker says, “What an exciting time it is to be a fan. On Twitter I have already seen non-Whovians expressing an interest in, as one put it, the ‘blue box show’ and vowing to watch, given their experience of the show Sex Education

“That’s surely one of Who’s greatest strengths: the ability to draw new audiences, new faces, and deliver a fresh regenerative experience every few years or so. I am not familiar with Ncuti Gatwa’s work but I am beyond excited to see him get the keys to the TARDIS. Doctor Who can be anyone and quite right, too.”

Unlucky Thirteen?

Last, but not least, Connor Clarke muses on what the casting might mean for the possibility of future female Doctors.

“My view is that the Doctor can be anybody, as gender is not a factor in a person’s ability to present a Time Lord in an incredible fashion,” Connor says. “However, the Jodie Whittaker era has undoubtedly been controversial. 

“My fear is if a return to a male Doctor brings with it a return a jump in the ratings, people may falsely conclude that a female Doctor was a failed social experiment. It was not and I worry that it’ll reduce the frequency of female Doctors in the future.”

While there’s one more Thirteenth Doctor episode to enjoy in the meantime, WhoSoc awaits with bated breath to see Ncuti’s debut on screen in the near future!

All opinions stated in this article are solely those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Tides of Time or the Oxford Doctor Who Society.

This article has been updated to reflect subsequent clarification that Ncuti Gatwa will be portraying the Fifteenth Doctor, not the Fourteenth.

Tides 48 is, at time of publication, available to buy through this link

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