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Ncuti Gatwa, "Doctor Who" YouTube screenshot

Ncuti Gatwa | Source: “Doctor Who” YouTube screenshot

Blerds across the globe got a delightful treat this Christmas.

More than a year after the official announcement of the new actor to portray “Doctor Who,” Ncuti (pronounced SHOO-ti) Gatwa debuted as the lead of the eponymous British series. The former “Sex Education” and “Barbie” star made his official debut near the end of the third installation in the 60th anniversary series of specials.

But Gatwa made his full episode debut as the Doctor in the fourth Christmas special titled “Church on Ruby Road.” The Christmas specials are on Disney Plus, and the first three are worth a watch. Still, if you just want to see Gatwa’s dazzling smile, fast forward to the last ten minutes of the third special to see a beautiful handoff from fan favorite David Tennant, who played the tenth and fourteenth incarnations of the Doctor. It’s a touching moment that seems emblematic of the energy Gatwa will surely bring to the show.

MORE: Ncuti Gatwa Steps Into Lead Role On Long-Running British Series ‘Doctor Who’

There have been fifteen incarnations of the lead character known simply as the Doctor. He is an enigmatic, time-traveling elder from a faraway planet. And now, as critic Eric Deggans described him, “He’s suave in a non-geeky way. He can command a dance floor. He can actually sing. And he’s a Black man.”

Taking on the helm of the longest-running Sci-fi show is no small feat. But Gatwa seems up to the challenge in the first “Doctor Who” Christmas special to air on Christmas Day since 2017. According to The Radio Times, Gatwa’s Christmas special was the top-rated scripted show to run in Britain on Christmas Day.


Each actor who plays the Doctor brings a certain flair and charisma, and Gatwa is all smiles and charming in his Christmas Special. Decked out in a brown leather trench coat, Gatwa’s doctor has BTE (big time lord energy). This version of the Doctor definitely has a skincare routine. (Catch Gatwa talking about how he keeps his skin smooth and hydrated.)

Watching the emergence of Gatwa’s doctor was also a rare moment for Black men in any genre or reality. Gatwa’s emergence displayed a vulnerability, camaraderie, and joy denied to many brothers. His version of the Doctor seemingly brings a sense of peace and healing to a character haunted by serious trauma and loss. There are few representations of Black men being allowed to fully embrace healing and the following joy. In some ways, Gatwa playing the Doctor not only gives representation to Black fans, but Black boys and young men like my son have someone fearless, joyful and dynamic, being himself on his terms. It’s a winning combination; hopefully, the writing can keep up with Gatwa’s talent.


And, of course, like with every fandom, the racists aren’t happy and have lots of complaints. “It’s too woke,” they cry. Narrator Voice: “Doctor Who” has been “woke” before the word came into the mainstream.

But fans of good storytelling and strong Black leads cannot let the chorus of unimaginative haters limit the possibilities for Gatwa’s doctor. It’s ridiculous to be upset about a character that regenerates and can be anyone. The Doctor has no fixed gender or race, and we are finally getting the full breadth and potential of the character.

Some of us may look at a British show that has starred almost exclusively white men with thick accents over its sixty-year history and wonder what it could have to offer. For my family of Blerds, Doctor Who is both an experience and an opportunity for intergenerational bonding. My dad has been a “Doctor Who” fan since his teens, and like any parent, he sat us down and had us watch along.

While I’m not a fan of the older series, the modern version of “Doctor Who” (which came back to TV in 2005) has been in constant rotation for me and my children. The Doctor is extraordinarily ordinary, stands for fighting for the greater good, and has a kind heart…two, in fact.

For us, “Doctor Who” isn’t simply a fandom or an escape. But sci-fi and fantasy help expand our understanding of the world around us and even maybe help us see the potential in ourselves. Three generations of our family have eagerly awaited the new “Doctor Who” era with Gatwa at the helm.

“Doctor Who” can be a bit cheesy and over the top at times, but that’s also the quirky charm of the show. If you need every moment of a show to make sense, it’s time to try something new. Just embrace the fantastical and enjoy the ride. So buckle up and take the plunge if you appreciate good storytelling, compelling characters, and a good chuckle.

While the direction for the Doctor, as played by Gatwa, remains to be seen, some exciting threads from prior seasons could come into play. Gatwa’s Doctor will be back in Spring 2024 on Disney Plus. But if you’re interested in watching and learning more about the mysterious being known as the Doctor, here are some must-watch characters.

Companions and friends

The people who travel with the Doctor are called companions, and in recent years, have given lots of rich backstories and dialogue with these characters and the people around them.

Martha Jones

Martha Jones, played by the amazing Freema Agyeman, is the tenth Doctor’s companion in season three. She’s a promising young doctor who also likes a slice of adventure. Bonus with Martha is the guest appearances by Adjoa Andoh (Lady Danbury on “Bridgerton”) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Loki” and “The Girl Before”), who plays her mother and sister, respectively.

If you aren’t up for the entire season, check out season three, episodes 11-13. Martha Jones is also a significant part of the last two episodes of season four and pops up in the “Doctor Who” spinoff “Torchwood.”



Bill Potts

Pearl Mackie played Bill Potts, a companion during the doctor’s twelfth iteration in season 10. A student, Bill is inspired to push herself to new heights under the Doctor’s tutelage. There are touching moments between Bill and the twelfth doctor, played by Peter Capaldi. Skip around and explore. Everything with Bill is delightful.


Donna Noble

Donna is bold and says what she thinks, often without a filter. We all have a Donna in our lives, making her one of the more endearing and relatable characters in the modern series. You catch a glimpse of Donna alongside Martha in the clip above.

But if you’re not up for a third entire season—because you should give Martha’s season three and Bill’s season 10 all the love—check out the last three episodes of season four.

Ryan Sinclair

One of several companions to accompany the thirteenth doctor, Ryan is a young man raised by his grandparents, adding another contour of family relationships to the story. You can catch Ryan in seasons 11 and 12.

The Fugitive Doctor

An incarnation of the Doctor who predates the series—ah, the beauty of science fiction, time travel! Played by Jo Martin, this version of the Doctor, known as The Fugitive Doctor, hides in plain sight as a woman named Ruth Clayton. Her existence was buried deep away, even from the memory of the Doctor and all their incarnations. You can catch her in several episodes beginning with season 12, episode five, “Fugitive of Judoon.”

The distinction of Gatwa as the first to lead the series is relevant because Martin was the first non-white person to play a version of the highly revered time lord.

Danny Pink

A retired soldier and teacher, Danny Pink is the boyfriend of the twelfth doctor’s companion, Clara, in season eight. Samuel Anderson plays him.

Mickey Smith

While he didn’t start as a companion, Mickey (played by Noel Clark) traveled with the Doctor alongside his on-and-off girlfriend, Rose. He’s a pretty pivotal character in several episodes in the second season. Spoiler! Later, he married Martha Jones, and both worked for the planetary defense organization UNIT.

Anoa Changa (she/her/hers) is a writer and retired attorney.


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