Jodie Whittaker doesn’t think Ncuti Gatwa needs any advice from her on becoming the next face of Doctor Who.
At the Q&A after the press screening for her final episode, ‘The Power of the Doctor’, held at the Curzon Bloomsbury in London on Tuesday 11th October, Whittaker was answering questions alongside co-stars Mandip Gill, Sacha Dhawan, and departing showrunner Chris Chibnall.
When asked by Q&A moderator Charlie Girling what her biggest piece of advice is for the next Doctor, Jodie Whittaker’s light-hearted reply was: ‘There’s no advice you can give. I’m certainly not giving that phenomenal actor any advice, he doesn’t need it from me!’ She added one very short-but-sweet encouragement to Gatwa: ‘It’s yours to own, and you’ve earned it.’
Asked to pinpoint what she would miss most about Doctor Who, Whittaker described the role as the most special time of her life.
‘I’m not even slightly embarrassed about crying about it,’ she laughed through tears, ‘The fact that us lot will be friends for life but that this family grows and it will be bigger than us, and it’ll go on and Ncuti will be extraordinary and he will bring an audience that we haven’t reached and his performance will be so magical, and now we get to sit back and enjoy it as the fans that we can be now, and knowing that whatever is to come, we were once a part of that.’
To a round of applause, Whittaker concluded ‘We’re in the family, and they can’t kick us out!’
Mandip Gill was similarly short on advice for the next Doctor (‘What would be the point?’ she agreed), jokingly offering: ‘Wagamama’s is really nice on Cardiff Bay!’ Referring to the return of companions Janet Fielding and Sophie Aldred in the Centenary special, Gill added ‘We’re always going to be a part of it. I mean, you’ve just seen what can happen in years to come so, if they need another Companion, I will answer that call!” To which Chris Chibnall comically told her ‘Have some decorum!’, and Whittaker joked ‘I’ve handed my CV to Russell… changed my age!’
It’s become a sort of unofficial tradition for Doctor Who stars to pass on advice to their successors as they take on the role of the Doctor.
Peter Capaldi was asked the same question about Jodie Whittaker back in 2017, and like Whittaker, his advice was brief: ‘Just enjoy it because it’s absolutely incredible.’ And Whittaker also revealed that the week before her casting was announced, she got more advice from Capaldi alongside David Tennant and Matt Smith:
‘I think the thing that was the overriding message was that you are going to have the time of your life,’ she recalled. ‘Also, that this is like no other job, and it’s completely unique for every single person who plays the part.’
The advice Matt Smith gave Peter Capaldi on becoming the Doctor was somewhat cautionary: ‘Listen to no one. There’s so many opinions out there and you’ve got to filter so many of those voices out.’ When asked about it at Doctor Who’s official 50th Celebration in London in 2013, Smith said: ‘I don’t think anything can prepare you for the experience of what being the Doctor in Doctor Who is but I think he’s as ready as he can be’, adding: ‘I’ve just said ‘Have a good time, mate’.’
David Tennant reminisced with Matt Smith about the advice he gave him on taking over the role when they were interviewed on set of the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who special:
Smith said: ‘You did say that I’d have the most fun ever, and you know what? You were right.’
Tennant went on to say the role is ‘quite unique’ and added: ‘The show has a particular place in people’s affections, and so when you’re the face of it, it’s an unusual set of pressures that that brings. 89% of which are wonderful.’
Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor Who exit was more controversial, and while explaining why he left the show, he didn’t seem to feel he’d had much wisdom to pass on to his successor at the time: ‘I think it’s fair to say that David Tennant, who came after me, understood that much more than me: the size of the show.’
A size that, to go by Jodie Whittaker’s words on Gatwa’s Doctor being set to reach an audience her fam didn’t, will hopefully only be getting bigger.
Jodie Whittaker’s final episode and BBC Centenary Doctor Who special ‘The Power of the Doctor’ will air on Sunday 23rd October at 7.30pm on BBC One.