It’s an odd thing to say but, amidst the tidal wave of casting announcements, snapshots from location filming, and general social media excitement in the world of Doctor Who lately, it almost feels as though the casting of Ncuti Gatwa has very quickly become old news. But spare a thought for the man set to be the new Doctor, who had to keep his big news quiet from February until it was finally announced earlier this month.
Speaking to the BBC’s Lizo Mzimba, Gatwa said of his casting:
“I’ve know since about February. It’s been tricky trying to keep this under wraps because I’ve got a very big mouth!”
It will be intriguing to learn more about how Gatwa won the part; tales of how earlier Doctors were chosen have formed an important part of Doctor Who folklore over the years. The story of Tom Baker taking time off from his labouring job on a building site to attend the audition is a favourite of mine and, I suspect, many others.
But let’s look ahead to what this means for future episodes, and in particular the transition from Jodie Whittaker to her successor. Way back in November 2021, eagle-eyed fans on Instagram learned that the Thirteenth Doctor’s TARDIS had been broken up.
And we’ve known for some time that the Thirteenth Doctor’s regeneration scene won’t take place in the TARDIS. Speaking about the forthcoming story which will conclude Whittaker’s time in the role, director Jamie Magnus Stone told Radio Times in January:
“Everybody clapped her (Jodie) – and Mandip, actually. Everybody clapped them into the TARDIS for their last time, and then there were some tears. And we shot the last-ever scene in the TARDIS, and said goodbye to the TARDIS, and then there were some tears.
“And then we went out to film, basically, her regeneration. And the last shot that we did, I think, will be the last shot in the episode as well. So it was really nice to do things in sequence. And it was mostly Jodie and Mandip’s scenes on that last day. So it was just super-emotional.”
We can’t be definitive about what all this means, of course, beyond stating the obvious that it seems Ncuti Gatwa couldn’t have been on set to film the regeneration sequence on the day – though that’s not to say his debut scene couldn’t be filmed later.
Jump forward to May, and the fact that David Tennant has been shooting scenes before there’s been any confirmation that Gatwa has filmed anything for Doctor Who inevitably poses the question of just who the Thirteenth Doctor will regenerate into. Russell T Davies is, of course, more cunning than the Master when it comes to this kind of fiendish plan (‘what on earth is happening?’ he himself has asked), and is surely cackling over his keyboard at just what a stir he’s created with all this.
All we can say for sure is that this whole business has a long way to go yet. We may begin to get some answers when Doctor Who returns for Jodie Whittaker’s swansong later this year. But don’t bank on it. What do you think? Is the Tenth Doctor the Fourteenth? Just when will we get to see Gatwa stepping into the TARDIS? All together now: “I can’t stand the confusion in my mind!”