Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies says Ncuti Gatwa’s upcoming episode is a "complete reinvention" of the show

Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road
(Image credit: BBC)

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies says Ncuti Gatwa's upcoming Christmas special is a complete reinvention of the show, and that we're heading into a brand new era.

"It’s completely a reinvention. Reinvention of the show, brand new, but not a reboot, it’s the same old show, everything starts again, everything’s seen through the eyes of Ruby Sunday and it’s that lovely feeling of here we go, a new era beginning," Davies tells SFX magazine in the new issue, which features Doctor Who on the cover. "Lovely. Kind of goes into territory we’ve never touched before. In many ways that’s more… fresher than special two. We’ve never done this before."

Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road, a special Christmas episode of the series, fully introduces Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor and Millie Gibson as his companion, Ruby. Gatwa is best known for playing Eric Effiong in Sex Education, and recently played a Ken in Greta Gerwig's Barbie. It was initially reported over two years ago that Gatwa would play the Fourteenth Doctor, taking over for Jodie Whittaker, and that Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor would regenerate into a new incarnation played by Gatwa. Reports later confirmed that fan-favorite Doctor David Tennant would be back as the Fourteenth Doctor, with Donna Noble, companion to the Tenth Doctor, back as well.

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"Let me tell you, I’m used to sitting in rooms acting with people – I was absolutely blasted away," Davies says of Gatwa's audition. "I was literally… – Phil [Collinson, producer] was in the room, Andy Pryor [casting director] was in the room, and I was just saying the lines thinking 'I hope they’re getting this. I hope that camera’s getting this. I hope they can realize what’s happening. I hope they can see what’s happening in his eyes and what’s blazing out of him, because this is magic.'"

Gatwa made his first official appearance as the Fifteenth Doctor in an edited version of the 2013 docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time, which aired on November 23. In the original cut of the film, William Hartnell (played by David Bradley), the first-ever incarnation of the Doctor, looks across the TARDIS console and sees a smiling Matt Smith – who played the Eleventh Doctor. In the 2023 edition, it's Gatwa who Hartnell sees.

Doctor Who: The Church On Ruby Road premieres on BBC One, BBC iPlayer, and Disney Plus on December 25, 2023. The above is just a snippet from our interview with Davies, available in the latest issue of SFX magazine, which features Doctor Who on the cover and is available on newsstands from Friday, December 1. For even more from SFX, sign up for the newsletter, sending all the latest exclusives straight to your inbox.

I'm the Editor of SFX, the world's number one sci-fi, fantasy and horror magazine – available digitally and in print every four weeks since 1995. I've been editing magazines, and writing for numerous publications since before the Time War. Obviously SFX is the best one. I knew being a geek would work out fine.