The Inverse Interview

Ncuti Gatwa Could Be the Coolest Doctor Ever

The 15th Doctor is in.

Man in stylish outfit with a wide-brimmed hat stands confidently indoors by a window with colorful n...
Doctor Who

Ncuti Gatwa can vividly remember the day he learned he was going to play the Doctor in the long-running sci-fi series Doctor Who.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” he tells Inverse with a smile.

Gatwa was walking to his barber shop for his weekly trim, and just as he was about to step inside, his agent called and asked if he could keep a secret. “I said, ‘Why?’” Gatwa recalls. “She said, ‘Because you’re a Time Lord.’ And then I went in and had my haircut.’”

What kind of person has their life changed and then just goes about their day? Someone as cool as Ncuti Gatwa. Speaking to Inverse ahead of the 2023 Christmas special “The Church on Ruby Road,” Gatwa carries the same kind of effortless charm in person as he does on Doctor Who. Making his debut as the 15th Doctor in the final 60th anniversary special, “The Giggle,” Gatwa was immediately confident and charismatic while taking the reins from David Tennant’s 14th Doctor, even though he was running around without his pants for his 15 minutes of screentime. It was a striking impression, but it was still just an impression.

Ncuti Gatwa made a strong impression with his (pantsless) debut in “The Giggle.”


In “The Church on Ruby Road,” Gatwa gets to make his proper debut in his first full-length adventure, which sees him crossing paths with Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), a young woman abandoned as a baby on Christmas Eve who seems to have attracted the attention of a group of mischievous goblins. Goblins who, among other things, have a tendency to burst into song.

The musical ditty — in which the goblins put on a full musical number about the joys of eating human babies — has already made waves among the fandom. But could it mean more musical outbursts in the future? Gatwa, who recently got to show off his song-and-dance chops in this year’s Barbie, would certainly be the ideal actor to lead the show into a new musical era. But Gatwa was tight-lipped about the prospect about a full-fledged musical episode in Doctor Who’s future, only teasing, “There is a chance.”

Inverse spoke with Gatwa about Doctor Who’s future, the biggest challenge of playing the Doctor, and what that mysterious bi-generation means for Time Lord lore.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson make their official debuts in “The Church on Ruby Road.”

Kate Green/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

You’re making your proper debut in the upcoming Christmas special, and the last time a Doctor’s first episode was a Christmas special was David Tennant back in 2005. Were you anxious about having your full debut be in a Christmas special?

Yes, definitely. Because I feel like Doctor Who and Christmas, they go together like bread and butter. They’re both institutions that revolve around family, and so I knew there would be a lot of bums on seats watching. There’s going to be a lot of families gathered around watching, so there’s maybe a little bit more eyes on it than usual. So, yeah, daunting. The prospect of playing Doctor Who is daunting anyway, but the fact that I’d be arriving on one of the most watched episodes just added that cherry onto the cake. But it was a mission I was happy to accept.

We got a peek at the episode’s Goblin Song. Is there a chance for a full-fledged musical episode in Doctor Who’s future?

There is a chance.

All right.

That’s all I have!

Making Doctor Who must be unlike anything you’ve ever done. What were you most excited to do as the Doctor? And what was the biggest challenge?

Oh my God, so many things. There’s so many iconic monsters that I want to face. I would love to face the Weeping Angels, would love to face the Daleks. I want to point my sonic screwdriver at a door, and it just magically opens. Lots of little intricate, silly moments that the Doctor has that just make it feel so “Doctory,” I couldn’t wait to do. But also because I knew that [showrunner Russell T Davies] is making a whole new element to the show, I didn’t quite know what to expect either.

But the biggest challenge... I guess the huge monologues that you have to learn, like that. The amount of line learning that you have to do. I was never allowed in my science classroom at school, the teachers just did not want me in that classroom for fear that the building might blow up. So talking about all these big science-y stuff, I’m always like, “What does this mean?” So I’d say probably getting my head around some of the vocabulary.

And working with the many props, prosthetics, stunts... you work with little goblin puppets in this one. What was that like?

It’s a new experience. Because I know the editing team and the SFX team can do magic things that will make everything look incredible. But quite often, I remember the goblins as just a chorus of tennis balls. Some of the monsters that I face are just like silly faces drawn on a piece of cardboard and held up by a stick. So that aspect is really quite fun. It makes the whole process quite fun because you’re like, “I’ve got to just lean into disbelief here and really act.” This is where the real acting takes place, whenever I face a monster because they’re not actually a monster, but then I know once the show comes out that it will be something terrifying. But at the moment, it’s a tennis ball.

The 15th Doctor and Ruby Sunday find themselves a little tied up.


Can we talk about bi-generation? You were introduced in a very unusual way, and bi-generation was introduced so suddenly in the final anniversary special. Will we learn more about it, and why 15 seems to know slightly more about the process than the 14th Doctor?

All very, very, very, very good questions that I don’t know whether I know the answers to, actually. I know that Russell wants to expand massively the universe as we know it, and is bringing in this lovely element of fantasy in, and a bit more Time Lord lore and mythology. So this, as you say, is a very new thing. I guess it’s a myth that has existed in Time Lord history gone by. I guess 14 also knows that it’s a myth, but 15 has been the one to prove it is real... is all I can tell you so far.

Last question: in a few sentences, how would you characterize your era as the Doctor?

I would say epic, emotional... a sci-fi, mythological, medley of wonder. Fun and scary and meta!

Doctor Who’s “The Church on Ruby Road” premieres on BBC and Disney+ on December 25.

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