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Can Ncuti Gatwa Give Doctor Who The Regeneration it Needs?

He starred in Sex Education but can Ncuti Gatwa be the man to bring Doctor Who back to its best?

Ncuti Gatwa as the 15th Doctor. Credit: BBC

Nothing beat that Saturday night thrill, wrapped up in a blanket watching Doctor Who as a kid.

The fear factor.

The gripping stories.

But several years on and we’ve seemingly left Doctor Who behind. That urgent need to sit down and watch the show is gone.

Jodie Whittakers 13th Doctor was unpopular, with a weak supporting cast and poorly written stories. As a result, the BBC played their joker card. They introduced the return of the immensely popular David Tennant to be the 14th Doctor, with Catherine Tate also starring as Donna Noble. Alongside this iconic duo, was the comeback of 2005 – 2010 head writer Russel T Davies, who spearheaded the initial revival series.

This paid off, with viewing figures soaring and the show right back in the forefront of people’s minds.

Tennant was used for three 60th anniversary specials, before bi-generating into Ncuti Gatwa as the 15th Doctor.

David Tennan't 14th Doctor Bi-Generating into Ncuti Gatwa's 15th Doctor.
David Tennant’s 14th Doctor Bi-Generating into Ncuti Gatwa’s 15th Doctor.
Credit: BBC – Youtube

With Gatwa an already popular figure after starring in the hit Netflix show Sex Education, could he be the man to bring Doctor Who back to its best?

The Sci-fi Appeal

Immediately, the time travel and sci-fi plot is what makes it such a catch. History lovers can enjoy it with various trips back to significant periods in time from the Pompeii Volcano to visiting Agatha Christie.

Likewise, dystopian lovers or futuristic fans can marvel at the stories set at the end of time, or in the distant future. This balance gives Doctor Who that instant appeal.

The Charismatic Catch

Another huge factor is the youthful nature of the Doctor.

Since 2005, Doctor Who’s popularity peaked with Tennant and Matt Smith. They were incredibly likeable characters, who fans could fall in love with. Their charming, charismatic personalities, always lit up the screen. But the transition from Smith to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor completely contrasted this. Capaldi’s 12th Doctor was colder, older, and harder to warm to. While Capaldi was still a brilliant Time Lord for the show, the drop in popularity was no surprise, as he didn’t have the charm of his previous counterparts. Such personalities are why Gen Z fell in love with the show, as they had a young role model on screen who was simply fun to watch, while still able to express the emotional heartache of being the Doctor. But when the show moved away from this, so did the fans.

The Companion’s Role

Likewise, the choice of companions is so important. Fans like to be able to connect to the Doctor’s new friends, watching their growth alongside the Time Lord, before their inevitable demise. Every Doctor has companions that they become incredibly close to but either they die, or they decide to leave the Tardis. Davies and Steven Moffat (head writer from 2010-2017) were masters at constructing fantastic relationships between the Doctor and their companions. As fans, we became emotionally attached to the pairings. This made for heartbreaking endings (cough cough Doomsday…).

Rose Tyler and the 10th Doctor upset after being seperated in the Doomsday event. Both with their heads to the wall.
Rose Tyler and the 10th Doctor separated after Doomsday. Credit: BBC – Youtube

The Importance of Strong Writing

But this is only possible with strong writing, and a friendly Doctor isn’t everything. Whittaker’s Time Lord was outgoing and bubbly but her series struggled due to the writing. This show thrives in balance. The equilibrium between the lighthearted, silly episodes and the dark, powerful thrillers. From farting Slitheen to soul-scorching Darleks. Davies and Moffatt excelled in keeping Doctor Who funny but also complex with staggering teasers woven into each episode, to build up to the season finales. This was pivotal to the success of the show.

How’s Ncuti’s first season gone so far?

The opening season is always the hardest, but Ncuti has excelled so far. His energy and charm is alluring and entertaining. His chemistry with companion Ruby Sunday (played by Millie Gibson) is fantastic. They bounce off each other’s personalities incredibly well. As a companion, Ruby Sunday’s character adds real value and doesn’t feel out of place at all. This is a huge testament to Gibson’s acting and Davies’ writing of the character. The stories have had the right balance between being fun and dark at the same time. It’s brought back that eery, ominous feeling in the pit of your stomach when watching some episodes. E4 ’73 Yards’ especially, had this classic Doctor Who vibe to it. The rising tension, ending with ambiguity. What more could you want?

Can Ncuti Gatwa revive the show?

With the landscape of television having changed drastically since Doctor Who’s prominence in the early 2010s, returning the show to its former glory could be difficult. But not impossible.

In his little time as the Doctor so far, Gatwa has made it his own. Seemingly avoiding the trap of being too similar to Tennant or Smith, Ncuti is bringing a new lease of life to the show. While being likeable is incredibly important, ensuring he’s not the same, is just as. Gatwa lights up every scene he’s in, with incredible energy and vibrancy in his role. In an era where we get bored instantly, his eccentric personality counters this, keeping us engaged.

Ncuti Gatwa's 15th Doctor in the snow
Ncuti Gatwa’s 15th Doctor in the snow. Credit: BBC

What made the 10th and 11th Doctors so successful, was their ability to interchange between the bubbly side and the fury of the Time Lord. To look 30 but also thousands of years old. Gatwa has already excelled in this. You can see the youthful nature of his incarnation, being weighed down by the expectations and trauma of the previous Doctors. This is no easy ask. It’s just a testament to the supreme acting of Gatwa. His uniqueness in the role is seemingly the future making of a fan favourite Time Lord.

Future Hope

With Gatwa living up to the high promise and Davies bringing back the strong writing, it really is an exciting time to be a Doctor Who fan. After years of decline, Ncuti is looking like the man to bring the show back to its former glory.

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Hi there, I'm a university student with a huge passion for Film and TV.

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