Has everybody forgotten which show this is?
Over the weekend, The Mirror reported the rumoured news that Millie Gibson’s time in the TARDIS has all but come to an end, and that the Doctor’s next companion is already filming scenes for Ncuti Gatwa’s second run. According to the report, Varada Sethu (Strike Back, Jurassic World: Dominion, Andor) in an as-yet-undisclosed role will be taking over from Ruby Sunday as the Doctor’s companion during series 15.
Cue: a lot of bad faith headlines about Gibson being ‘fired’, ‘axed’ or ‘dropped’ from the show in a fandom-rocking ‘shock’ move that is… exactly how Doctor Who has worked since the year dot. Companions come and companions go. That’s why there are enough of them to fill up a Routemaster bus, but only 15(ish) Doctors.
Of course Millie Gibson wasn’t going to stick around forever – her character was introduced in 2023 Christmas special “The Church on Ruby Road” with a mystery all of her own. Foundling Ruby Sunday was left outside a church as a newborn by an unidentified figure, and series 14/season one (as it’s being styled) promises to return to that church and solve that enigma.
Once the question mark is no longer dangling over Ruby’s birth, she’ll be on to the next thing: pop stardom with The Red Notes, or being converted into a Cyberman, or marrying a Gallifreyan security guard, or getting her memory wiped and winning the lottery and then returning 15 years later to smash up a puppet and eat cauliflower cheese in her garden, or any of the exits Doctor Who has given its companions over the decades. It was ever thus.
What’s particularly nasty about framing the rumoured new companion arrival in this way is its attempt to create an opposition between Gibson and Sethu, and between their fans. Describing Sethu as Gibson’s replacement rather than her successor is an insidious choice and one made advisedly by outlets hoping to drive traffic by drumming up conflict.
Instead of Sethu being welcomed to Doctor Who while Gibson is cheerily waved on her way, the personnel change now appears fraught and Gibson’s departure appears to have happened under a cloud.
The BBC, Disney+ and production company Bad Wolf have yet to comment on the rumours, understandably. Leaks and rumours like that are an inevitable part of Doctor Who filming so far in advance. To announce a new companion months before the previous one’s first series has even begun would be a highly confusing marketing move for a show trying to broaden its fanbase. New viewers have only just met Ruby and her Doctor, whose first season lands in May 2024.
In conclusion then: a big, brilliant welcome to Millie Gibson – we can’t wait to see more from Ruby Sunday. And a big, brilliant welcome to Varada Sethu and whoever else may pick up the companion baton in future. The show needs you all.
And to everybody who made a 19-year-old actor’s weekend worse than it needed to be: behave. She is defended.
Doctor Who returns in May 2024 to BBC One in the UK and Disney+ around the world.