In November 2023, Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary celebrations and three specials created real momentum for Ncuti Gatwa’s arrival in the TARDIS. Audiences were tantalisingly introduced to the Fifteenth Doctor at the end of “The Giggle”, and had to wait just two weeks until they met him properly in “The Church on Ruby Road”.
On Christmas Day 2023, the Doctor was in the house! And then… the great big head of steam that had been built up dissipated as fans were forced to sit on their hands until the show’s return five months later in May 2024.
If Executive Producer and Head Writer Russell T Davies had his way though, there’d have been no such wait. Writing his regular “Letter from the Showrunner” in the new Doctor Who Magazine (which celebrates its 600th edition – happy milestone DWM!), Davies explained that he and the team originally wanted no broadcast gap.
“In an ideal world, we might have followed The Church on Ruby Road with a full series of Ncuti and Millie in January, and believe me, we tried.
“Way back in 2022, we juggled schedules and budgets and capacity, but…nope. We’d have ended up spending money on the rush, rather than on the programme itself.”
The reason for the extended wait? It’s all down to SFX, says Davies:
“People keep telling me how fast and easy FX are, and I hear the distant sobs of our FX teams. This stuff takes ages! Look at that gorgeous UNIT Tower, the No-Things, The Meep! It’s months and months of hard work, and well worth the wait.”
Fair dos. The UNIT Tower is gorgeous. Much better that we wait than they compromise and set it all in an underground car park.
Had series 14 been midway through airing on BBC and Disney+ right now instead of still being tweaked, fiddled with and scored though, a recent situation with companion actor Millie Gibson might have been avoided.
When series 15’s rumoured new companion Varada Sethu was spotted filming scenes for the 2025 episodes in early January, tabloids reported that Gibson had been “dropped” and “replaced” on the show. The reality is that her character Ruby Sunday’s arc has simply concluded by early on in series 15, followed by a new story with a new companion, as has happened roughly 50 times before on Doctor Who (48 ½, TV show-only, I’ll be taking no questions at this time – Ed).
Doctor Who being filmed further in advance of broadcast than ever before means that the gap between production leaks emerging and the episodes they concern airing is longer than ever before. More rumours will inevitably escape well before it’ll do any of us any good to hear them, but with any luck, common sense in reporting them will be a bit more common next time.
Elsewhere in the showrunner’s letter, Davies gives a status update on all 17 upcoming episodes (two eight-part series plus the 2024 Christmas Special), ranging from “Complete! Done! If a gap suddenly appeared on BBC One, we could transmit” to “…will be written soon, honest, guv!”. Buy the magazine to find out more.
Doctor Who series 14 will air on BBC One in the UK and Disney+ around the world starting in May.