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DOCTOR WHO: INTERVIEWS WITH CAST AND SHOWRUNNER RELEASED BY BBC

The BBC have released press interviews with Ncuti Gatwa, Millie Gibson and Russell T. Davies ahead of the series launch this weekend on BBC One and iPlayer. Interviews with other cast can be read in full here. Interviews courtesy of BBC Press.



RUSSELL T DAVIES

SHOWRUNNER, WRITER AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER

Q: What made you so eager to come back to the helm of Doctor Who?

A: I just love the show. I have loved it all my life. I think about it all the time. It's not like I ever stopped thinking about it really. I have every single issue of Doctor Who Magazine in a special cabinet with a glass front. I used to smoke, so that would protect the magazines from my cigarette smoke. That's how much I love the show.




 

Q: Why is now the right time for you to return to Doctor Who?

A: All those years while I was away, I was beginning to think about what the future of Doctor Who looks like. And then the BBC hijacked me on a Zoom - they trapped me! They sprung their ambitions on me to make Doctor Who bigger, with worldwide streaming, a simultaneous drop, a production partner with a global scale and ambition. And it literally fit exactly what I thought the show should be doing. I think I actually said ‘yes’ on the spot. You’re not supposed to do that. You're supposed to say, ‘Let me go away and think about this.’

 

Q: What part did you play when speaking to potential streaming partners?

A: I pitched the concept of the entire first series. There were no scripts, but I worked out the rough format of how it would go and the shape of it and what it would look and feel like.

 

Really, I just described the fundamentals of travel in time and space, anywhere in history, anywhere in the future, any planet, any genre. That’s the important thing to understand about Doctor Who. It's very rare. We can have a comedy one week, a terror the next week, a haunted house the next week and a thriller the next week. That's very unusual. I was selling it from scratch, really, but always emphasising the Doctor and the companion as the heart of it. And it worked. And now here we are. Hurray!

 

Q: What convinced you to cast Ncuti Gatwa as the new Doctor?

A: He's already one of our great actors. In Sex Education, you couldn't take your eyes off him. I literally swear, in five years’ time, you’ll have the next James Bond right here. I'll be being held back by security, saying “I know him!”




I consider myself to be the luckiest man on earth that in the year that I came along to take over Doctor Who, Ncuti Gatwa was coming to the end of his time on Sex Education. I’m so lucky that happened. It just looks like it was meant to be.

 

When you see him in action as the Doctor, he's just astonishing. I had to have a few words with myself. I thought, ‘You have done a few Doctors now, can you do it again? Are you going to get excited? Are you going to get energised?’ And then you look at Ncuti doing the role, and it's like a brand-new playing field. It's open vistas and new horizons ahead of you. It's so exciting that it inspires me. It generates stories in me. It's an absolute joy to work with him.

 

Q: What does Millie bring to the role of Ruby?

A: She is just tremendous. She also brings an awful lot of experience – she has been in Coronation Street since she was 14 years old. I was watching the show for the entire time that Millie was in it. I used to watch agog as they piled more and more plots on her. I've worked on soaps, and I know how they work. I literally sat there thinking, ‘The writers love her.’ I know some of the writers and they told me, ‘Oh my God, she's terrific.’ I consider myself to be so lucky because as we turned our wheel round to look for a new companion for Doctor Who, she decided to leave Coronation Street – to the extent that literally her last episode transmitted on a Friday night and she walked into the audition on the Saturday morning. That’s amazing. That makes you think it was meant to be.

 

I don’t need to tell you how much skill she's got, how much energy she's got, how much life she's got, how much comedy she's got. She's immensely skilful at comedy, and that's very rare. She's got salt, she’s got spice, she's got fire. But I particularly love the fact she's genuine a 19-year-old playing a 19-year-old. That’s very rare. A 19-year-old playing a 19-year-old brings an energy that an older actor couldn’t. I wanted that. I wanted those open eyes. She is like the viewer who has never watched Doctor Who before. She brings a freshness and a newness and a joy to it. It's really lovely to see. I'm so pleased that it worked.




 

 Q: Is there a theme that runs throughout the season?

A: You could watch every single episode separately without bogging yourself down with continuity. But as we saw at Christmas, there is obviously a mystery to Ruby's birth family. She was a foundling left at a church. It is a fairy tale like story, but it keeps following her. That story is not finished. Who is her mother? How can they possibly find out what went on? The way the Doctor ties into this is fascinating. This emotional man I've been talking about opens up about his family in a way that he's never done before.

 

He left his family behind in 1963 and practically never mentioned it again. That's a man who doesn't know his family, and that is fascinating. So as his mind is focusing on that, Ruby's mind is focusing on her family. Those two stories come together in possibly the greatest finale ever committed to film, except we don't actually use film anymore! But it really is an astonishing climax.

 

Q: After 61 years, how does Doctor Who stay so fresh?

A: It's not like I have to walk in with any special skills; the show keeps refreshing itself. Every week, he lands somewhere new. Every week, he meets a new person, a new enemy, a new friend. And that's lovely. That does mean that a lot of stuff has been covered. We have to be wary of anything set in the Dickensian era or landing in World War II once too often, except sometimes those are the loveliest stories of all, so you just have to take a deep breath and say, ‘That works.’ But as long as you keep it fresh, it will succeed.

 

That comes naturally. It's 2024, so we're all writing a show that sounds like it's in 2024. That means you're not delivering something they would have delivered the 60’s. We have new attitudes, new morals, new insights into people. The world has changed. And as long as you continue to do that in the dialogue, in the stories and the attitudes, then we will stay on top of the wave. I think that’s important.

 

Q: How do you hope viewers will respond to this series?

A: Most importantly, I hope and I know this will happen in some shape or form, that some six-year-old will start to draw that blue box and will run around the school yard with a sonic screwdriver, and will start to think of stories and in 30 years’ time will be sitting doing an interview for their own show.

 



NCUTI GATWA

THE FIFTEENTH DOCTOR  

 

Q: How did you react when you heard you had got the part of The Doctor?

A: My agent called to tell me I had the role just as I was walking into the barbershop. I think I was paralysed by the weight of 60 year history. No pressure! I was very, very overwhelmed. But I felt like I had a little piece of gold.

 

Q: Did you understand at that point how massive the Whoniverse is?

A: No! I feel quite silly that I didn't comprehend the sheer scale of it beforehand. But once I stepped into the world, I realised how huge it is. I thought, ‘Well, of course, it’s Doctor Who!’ I immediately understood why it’s a show we all know and love. It just takes your breath away, how far-reaching the scope of the show is. You embrace the fandom. The fans absolutely make the show what it is. They're the final character.

 

Q: Did the other Doctors give you advice about the role?

A: Yes. They have been amazing, so supportive. I bumped into Matt Smith at a party before I was allowed to announce it to anyone. I told him I was following in his footsteps, and he had no idea what I was talking about. But when it was announced, he texted me – ‘Aah, now I get it!’ He was so lovely. He was like, ‘Take it all in your stride. If you ever need any advice, here's my number, send me a text.’ Now that I'm in the role I get what they mean. What it’s like to play that role is not something that anyone else can understand. I’m very grateful for their support.

 



Q: Can you talk about some of the monsters that the Doctor will be meeting in new series?

A: Russell's brain has managed to create a whole new level of monster that's really terrifying! In the first episode, for instance, the monster is so scary. When I heard about it, I thought, ‘Oh, that's a nice beginning-of-the-series monster to warn the audience about what’s to come. It’s on the same level of scariness as the Goblin King.’ But then I saw the actual costume and it is absolutely terrifying. I was so shocked! We certainly are on track to get a whole new generation of kids hiding behind the sofa!

 

Q: Is there an overarching theme in this series?

A: Yes - It’s to do with family. The mystery of Ruby Sunday is the overriding theme of this season. We saw in the Christmas special that the Doctor and Ruby bond over the fact that they both orphans, they are foundlings.

 

Q: What are the key characteristics of your Doctor?

A: I would describe him as a bit cheeky and confident, but there is also a depth to him, emotionally. The character is very emotionally strong. This Doctor wears his heart on his sleeve.

 



Q: What is it like working with Millie?

A: It’s incredible. She’s a great actor, and she’s delightful. She charmed us all the moment we met her, and that never stopped. She helps define the energy of my character. It was the missing element. As soon as the companion walked in, the energy and the chemistry were just there. Millie and I had never met before, but we just hit the ground running. That dynamic between the Doctor and the companion just worked instantly. Millie is the perfect person for this new era. Of course, as we know, the companion is the eyes of the audience. And what Millie brings is a lightness and a curiosity, but also something real and deep. I think that's the perfect vessel for the audience to join us in the new era. Millie brings so much to the table.

 

Q: What makes Russell’s writing so special?

A: I think he brilliantly captures the human condition at the same time as taking us to times we couldn't imagine. He's really good at putting the micro and the macro right beside each other, light and darkness, tragedy and comedy. He’s excellent at writing duality. He’s also not afraid to be a little bit dangerous as well. And that makes things really exciting.

 

Q: Have you been impressed by the Doctor Who fan art?

A: Absolutely. After the Christmas episode, the fan art just exploded. I was so blown away by the talent, but also by the love for the show. It's really overwhelming. There are some incredible artists in the Whovian Family.




 

Q: Did one particular work of art stand out for you?

A: I posted on my Instagram a picture someone had drawn of William Hartnell handing me the keys to the TARDIS. That one gave me a lump in my throat. It was amazing. Talk about the history of the show summed up in one picture. This show has carried many a generation and it just feels wild to be a part of it.

 

Q: Could you give us a summary of this series in five words?

A: It'll blow your socks off!

 

MILLIE GIBSON

RUBY SUNDAY

Q: How would you describe Ruby?

A: She’s an absolute fireball! She's craving for adventure to happen. She's charismatic. She's a glass-half-full kind of person. She's just very positive, I think she's just lovable. I look at her and think, ‘Yes, I agree with Ruby. She’s right. Everything is going to be okay.’ I think that's nice to see.

 

Q: Do you enjoy working with Ncuti?

A: Absolutely. The energy is like a tennis match. Ruby says one thing and the Doctor says another, and it's just like, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. It’s so much fun to play. At the end of every day, we were knackered because we used so much energy. But at the same time, we would always find a bit of the scene where we could breathe, and it would be a little bit emotional and raw.




 

It's such a lovely dynamic to watch and to act. Some of the adventures and situations they find themselves in are really funny. Whenever you think, ‘Oh my God, how are they going to get out of this one?’ they will use their humour, and their charm, and their spark. So hopefully people will get to know them and fall in love with them and laugh at their journeys along the way.

 

Q: Why is the relationship between the Doctor and the companion so vital to the show?

A: The connection between the Doctor and the companion has got to be there because they’re fighting for their lives together every day as they travel the universe. They have got to have faith and trust in one another. They're forever bonded. I think the Doctor is very protective of Ruby. But there is a certain love between every single duo that has ever been on the show. It’s beautiful.

 

Q: Were you a fan of the show as a child?

A: Yes. It used to be a show that my dad and I always watched together. I’d say, ‘It’s Saturday night, and Doctor Who is on – never mind going out with friends!’ I was the Matt Smith era. So that's why I'm so hooked on the Weeping Angels. When you find a Doctor, he immediately becomes ‘your’ Doctor. So now it will be Ncuti, obviously.

 



Q: What will audiences take away from this series?

A: It always relates back to the theme of being abandoned because the Doctor and Ruby are both foundlings. When it’s over, I think people will just be calling and wanting a hug from their mum, or calling up their best friend and asking to hang out.

 

Q: Can you sum up Doctor Who in five words?

A: Magical. Musical. Supernatural. Lovable. Timeless.

 

The first two new episodes of the season will premiere at midnight on May 11 on BBC iPlayer, and then on BBC One later that day. ‘Space Babies’ will air on BBC One at 6:20pm followed by ‘The Devil’s Chord’ at 7:05pm.


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