New Doctor Who Is a 45-Minute ‘Escape’ From a ‘Difficult World,’ Says Russell T Davies

Your appointment with the Fifteenth Doctor is nigh.

This Friday at 7/6c on Disney+, Doctor Who will embark on a new season of adventures, with Ncuti Gatwa — introduced in the December special “The Giggle” — at the helm, and impromptu companion Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson, from the holiday special “The Church on Ruby Road”) at his side.

More from TVLine

“Season 1,” as the first series of Gatwa/Gibson episodes is being called, opens on Friday with the cries of mysterious (and talking!) “space babies,” followed by a second episode that cues up a malevolent Maestro. The eight-episode builds to a finale that will answers big questions, while raising new ones.

TVLine spoke with returning showrunner Russell T Davies about his plan to bring 45-minute increments of “joy” to a “difficult” world.

TVLINE | First and foremost, settle the debate: Is this Season 1, or Season 14?
It’s Season 1. We previously had a Series 1, so don’t worry about it. It’s as timey-wimey as the rest of Doctor Who is.

TVLINE | Because I noticed, in the premiere, you sprinkled some exposition for any potential first-time viewers.
A lot of first-time viewers. I’m here for first-time viewers. It’s what we want. We’re on this bigger platform now, so it’s an open door. Ruby Sunday walks into that TARDIS and says, “What do you mean, ‘TARDIS’? What’s a police box?” It’s designed to start for new viewers, while making old viewers feel very, very comfortable. It’s a tightrope I’ve done before, to be honest, and I think we got it right.

TVLINE | How does Ruby’s relationship with the Doctor subvert, or reinforce, previous dynamics we’ve seen on the series?
Well, it’s unusual, it’s a new take on these two, in how much they correspond with their lives and their families. She comes in with an unusually strong story, which is she was a foundling left on the church doorstep on Christmas Eve in 2004. [Ed. Note: Rose Tyler first met the Tenth Doctor just after midnight, on Jan. 1, 2005.] That always takes me back, but that will be a spine of the show. At the same time, before I came back [for the show’s 60th anniversary in 2023], the Doctor had already discovered, in the show, that he was a foundling, that he’d been found abandoned as a child and taken in by the Time Lords. So, you’ve got the two of them corresponding in this way. They have an unusually detailed story that progresses subtly, week by week, building up to a great, big series finale in which many things are answered. Some new questions are asked, as well, but you will be delivered of an ending. I can promise you that.

TVLINE | You said last week that people will be “screaming” when they watch the finale….
I did. Every time I watch it, my colleagues say, “Will you stop screaming at your own episode, please?” The penultimate episode, which is called “The Legend of Ruby Sunday,” the cliffhanger to that…. It’s a two-parter, so it has a proper cliffhanger leading [to the finale]. Genuinely, I sit and watch that if I need to wake myself up or give myself a thrill. I love it. I’m so proud of it.

Doctor Who Season 14 Preview Russell T Davies
Doctor Who Season 14 Preview Russell T Davies

TVLINE | What about Millie’s chemistry with Ncuti struck you right out of the gate?
Oh, it’s amazing, and what I think is very unusual — because Millie is, what 19 years old? — is what an accomplished comedy performer she is. She’s so funny. And it’s not a comedy part, it’s that she covers the full emotional range. She’s heartfelt, heartbroken, passionate, angry as Ruby, but sometimes it’s a very witty show, and you need to crack open the one-liners, and she does that so brilliantly for someone so young. And I didn’t really spot that in the audition. We loved her. Full stop. When it actually came to shooting, that was quite an amazing thing to discover, and of course Ncuti bounces off that…. The two of them, it’s like watching the most sizzling game of ping-pong you could ever imagine.

TVLINE | I was going to say, the two of them combined, there’s this youthful energy and vibrance that just pops off the screen.
Yes. Yes. That’s what I wanted, exactly those words. And joy. I wanted joy to come off the screen. I think it’s a difficult world these days. I think we can all spend the time watching the news being very, very worried, profoundly worried by what’s happening in the world, and if Doctor Who can be 45 minutes of an escape from that, an oasis in which you will go through many emotions, I think you’ll come out with a great big grin on your face. I think we need that a lot of television like that.

TVLINE | What do you think will make Ncuti a great Doctor?
Well, Exhibit A — the episodes. There he is. It’s beyond great. I consider myself to be magnificently lucky. In the year that I came back to [showrun] Doctor Who, that was the same year that he decided to leave Sex Education, and I am the luckiest man in the world, because he brings everything. He simply has that thing that you want in all great actors, but which is, nonetheless, very rare, which is a wide open range that is limitless.

He can do the heavy stuff. He can do the light stuff. He can do the stuff you can’t imagine, which is the most important thing. Things that I’ve never planned or prepared for, he’ll suddenly give the Doctor a look or a spin or a likeness or a complexity that brings the whole thing to life, and frankly, makes my writing look better, so I’m all for that. But I love him. I’m loving working with him.

TVLINE | Now, what happened back in January that there were these reports that Millie was going to be one-and-done? Because that seems like the kind of rumor the studio could have gotten ahead on.
Do you think? I think if we start responding to Internet messages, I’d have no time for this interview. I’d still be chasing my tail, because by the time you’ve answered, the rumor’s moved on. You just need to have the patience and confidence to know that these [Season 2] episodes are coming. There she is. She’s magnificent. She’s absolutely magnificent. The story is absolutely astonishing.

TVLINE | Lastly, and without spoiling anything about Episode 2, I have to rhetorically ask: Could anyone in the world have played the Maestro but Jinkx Monsoon?
Again, we’re lucky. How lucky are we that Jinkx had just been crowned the all-star of all-stars on [RuPaul’s] Drag Race [All Stars Season 7]? I went and saw Jinkx in Little Shop of Horrors last night. And [her Doctor Who appearance] was just before she’d gone and done Chicago, so she was already looking at more of an acting career, but still doing magnificent tours and coming out of Portland and doing sort of Christmas shows and things. It was good timing. I’m very glad we were able to make that offer. Brilliant.

Want scoop on Doctor Who, or for any other TV show ? Email, and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line!

Best of TVLine

Get more from Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Newsletter