Welsh landscapes the perfect backdrop, says Ncuti Gatwa

All eyes will be on new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa, but he does not think he will be the biggest star of Doctor Who‘s Christmas special.

Instead, the Rwanda-born Scottish actor joked he was angry Davina McCall’s cameo “steals the show” and pointed to the setting in “mythical” Wales.

He also praised Swansea-born writer Russell T Davies for “whipping up” the “fresh and scary” world it is set in.

The Christmas special – Gatwa’s first full episode – airs on Christmas Day.

While the role may be new for the 31-year-old, the setting is very familiar, having spent the best part of five years filming in Wales for Sex Education and as the Time Lord since February.

He jokingly thanked the country for “welcoming me and consistently employing me”, and described why he thought it provided the perfect backdrop.


Tenby was one of the locations that captured the imagination of the new Doctor

“Wales is just the most beautiful country, like ridiculously so at times,” he told BBC Radio Wales.

“And I can see why they film Doctor Who here, because there’s something almost mythical about some of the landscapes in Wales.

“There’s a place where we shot the beginning of episode four of Doctor Who. Tenby, ‘loads of people go there for their caravan holidays,’ they said to me. What a stunning place. And you guys just have that for free.”

Southerndown Beach, near Bridgend, Cardiff Bay, Caerphilly Castle and Margam Country Park all pop up in the 14th series, set to air in 2024.

Doctor Who fans got a short first glimpse of the 15th Doctor in a special episode earlier this month.

He normally transforms – or “regenerates – into his next incarnation.

However, viewers briefly saw Gatwa alongside the previous Doctor, David Tennant.

Doctor Who scene

Wales mixed with festive scenery such as snow was used to create the backdrop to the Christmas special

The Barbie movie star is now set to have the spotlight shone solely on him – but he thinks this may not be the case on Christmas Day.

He points to a cameo by TV presenter Davina McCall, saying: “She steals the show.

“I’m very angry, but she’s an absolute diamond in the show. It’s such a perfect Christmas adventure.”

Ncuti Gatwa's 15th Doctor dancing in a club

The 15th Doctor hits the dancefloor in the Christmas special

While it will be new territory for Gatwa, the new series heralds a return for a man central to the success of the show in recent times.

Russell T Davies was head writer of the revival of the BBC sci-fi drama from 2005 to 2010, with the new series his first involvement since.

Gatwa said of his input: “He is whipping up a world that is so exciting, and new and fresh, and scary and deep and dark and so much fun as well.”

As the show celebrates its 60th anniversary, he believes the longevity is down to writers such as Davies being able to reflect society in the UK and around the world.

“He is able to channel issues and conversations and where we are in the world through the power of his pen and this is what he’s doing on this show,” Gatwa added.

“And so I think it’s really important that the show continues to be a bit of a mirror to us and who we are as humans.”

David Tennant and Ncuti Gatwa

Gatwa takes over the role previously filled by fellow Scot David Tennant

Perhaps the success is also down to the personal attachment many feel to it – as Gatwa described Doctor Who as a show he loves “as do we all in this country”.

“And the character was one that I felt the relationship with,” he added.

“I feel like, the Doctor’s like a member of our family, like we’ve all grown up with him.

“It’s like a piece of furniture in the house. And so I always knew that I liked that piece of furniture. And I was like, I would like to be that piece of furniture.”

Ncuti Gatwa playing the 15th Doctor

Ncuti Gatwa is the long-running sci-fi show’s 15th Doctor

While many people will no doubt be watching his first appearance as the Time Lord on Christmas Day after eating and drinking too much, Gatwa enjoyed the moment in slightly different circumstances after having the episode sent to his phone.

He said: “I came back, because I’m such a rock star, from the gym. And I watched it on my own. I put my phone in airplane mode. I sent my flatmate out. And then watched it on my own.

“And then as it got to the bit where I was going to like pop out, I had to pause the screen, go for a little walk, poured myself a glass of something, have a little breather, and then switched it back on.

“God, my heart was just racing with nerves, anticipation, just feeling sick, but feeling excited.”

You can watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special on BBC One Wales and iPlayer at 17:55 GMT on Christmas Day

Or you can listen to Claire Summers’ interview with Ncuti Gatwa on BBC Sounds

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