Doctor Who: Why Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor Isn’t In “73 Yards”

Four episodes into the new series and the Doctor disappears?

Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor wearing a yellow duffel coat and an orange hat in Doctor Who episode "73 Yards"
Photo: James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios

Warning: contains plot details for Doctor Who episode “73 Yards”. 

Just when the new Doctor’s adventures had started to flow (from outer space to 1960s England to war-torn future planets), in new episode “73 Yards”, he vanishes. One minute: the Doctor’s there, enthusing about the Welsh landscape, and the next? Gone, leaving companion Ruby to work out her next moves alone.

In the story, the Doctor’s absence from “73 Yards” is explained by magic. He accidentally steps on and breaks a fairy circle (after Ruby’s butterfly in the series opener, those two really need to start trading more carefully). The circle’s charm is released and, though the TARDIS remains as a monument, the Doctor is removed to parts unknown. After a bit of a timeline-averting rewind though, back he comes at the end and it’s business as usual next week. 

In the real world, the Doctor had to be absent from “73 Yards” because Ncuti Gatwa had a schedule clash. His commitment to film the final series of Netflix high school comedy-drama Sex Education fell at the same time as the first block of Doctor Who series 14 filming in December 2022 to January 2023. (Sex Education filming wrapped on February 10 2023, and Gatwa confirmed his final day of filming that month in a since-deleted Instagram post.) Therefore, new companion Millie Gibson took up the reins in Gatwa’s absence and “73 Yards” was the first series 14 episode she filmed. 

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For new viewers, it’s worth knowing that the same thing has happened before on Doctor Who, either due to schedule clashes or, in the pre-Disney+ funding days, because of a need to film two episodes simultaneously for reasons of budget economy. Necessity has proved the mother of invention on more than one occasion, and the requirement to film a “Doctor-Lite” episode has resulted in some real favourites from “Blink” to “Turn Left” to everybody’s number one top pick “Love & Monsters”. 

Doctor Who series 14 is streaming now on BBC iPlayer in the UK and on Disney+ around the world.