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Doctor Who: Ncuti Gatwa to replace Jodie Whittaker, BBC announces

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Ncuti Gatwa will be the 14th Doctor in the long-running BBC show. Photograph: Ian West/PA

Ncuti Gatwa will take over from Jodie Whittaker as the Time Lord in Doctor Who, the BBC has announced.

The 29-year-old will become the 14th Doctor on the popular BBC show after Whittaker announced last July she would be leaving the role.

The Scottish actor, who was born in Rwanda, starred as Eric Effiong in Netflix’s hugely popular Sex Education about the socially awkward high school student Otis (Asa Butterfield) and his sex therapist mother Jean (Gillian Anderson). He will become the first black actor to play the title role full-time. In 2020, Jo Martin made a guest appearance as a previously unknown version of the Doctor hiding on Earth disguised as a human tour guide.

Russell T Davies will return in the next series of Doctor Who as showrunner, after he initially helmed the 21st-century revival of the show from 2005 to 2009.

In a statement on the official Doctor Who website, Ncuti said: “There aren’t quite the words to describe how I’m feeling. A mix of deeply honoured, beyond excited and of course a little bit scared. This role and show means so much to so many around the world, including myself, and each one of my incredibly talented predecessors has handled that unique responsibility and privilege with the utmost care.

“I will endeavour my upmost to do the same. Russell T Davies is almost as iconic as the Doctor himself and being able to work with him is a dream come true. His writing is dynamic, exciting, incredibly intelligent and fizzing with danger.”

Davies said: “The future is here and it’s Ncuti! Sometimes talent walks through the door and it’s so bright and bold and brilliant, I just stand back in awe and thank my lucky stars. Ncuti dazzled us, seized hold of the Doctor and owned those Tardis keys in seconds. It’s an honour to work with him, and a hoot, I can’t wait to get started.”

Whittaker’s Doctor will be seen in one more episode, expected to air in autumn this year to coincide with the centenary of the BBC. She was the first woman to play the role on an ongoing basis. It was a move that initially delivered a 10-year ratings high, but which also courted controversy with some fans who felt the character should always be a man, and even led to one Conservative MP in parliament saying it had deprived boys of a role model and contributed to them turning to crime.

When Gatwa starts his tenure in the Tardis, Doctor Who will not be produced in-house by the BBC, but by Bad Wolf Productions, a company set up by the executives Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter. Both previously worked on Doctor Who. The company is majority-owned by Sony and has previously produced TV series including A Discovery of Witches, His Dark Materials and I Hate Suzie.

Gatwa will be known by fans as the 14th Doctor, despite the numbering of the actors playing Doctor Who getting increasingly jumbled over the years. While it was quite simple to count the Doctors in the show’s initial 1960s and 70s heyday, John Hurt appeared as the mysterious War Doctor in 2013 for the show’s 50th anniversary, and Martin made her debut as the Fugitive Doctor in 2020.

To further confuse matters, both Richard Hurndall in 1983 and David Bradley in 2017 have played on-screen versions of the “First Doctor”, originally portrayed by William Hartnell when the series began in 1963.

Whittaker’s current companions – John Bishop as Dan and Mandip Gill as Yaz – will also be replaced in an all-new 2023 restart for the show. Of her character’s exit, Gill said: “I think just like me, just like my character, there’ll be a lot of tears, but I loved where it ended up.”

Upon her announcement that she was leaving the role, Whittaker described it as “the best job I have ever had”, saying: “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express what this role has given me. I will carry the Doctor and the lessons I’ve learnt forever.”

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