The Rwanda-born, Scotland-raised Gatwa, 29, will be the first Black actor to helm the quintessential British sci-fi show, but he won’t be the first Black Doctor: Jo Martin has played “Fugitive Doctor” in several episodes.
BBC announced the "Sex Education" star's new position as the fourteenth doctor on Sunday.
"There aren’t quite the words to describe how I’m feeling. A mix of deeply honoured, beyond excited and of course a little bit scared," Gatwa said in a statement. "This role and show means so much to so many around the world, including myself, and each one of my incredibly talented predecessors has handled that unique responsibility and privilege with the utmost care. I will endeavour my upmost to do the same."
He added, "And so as much as it’s daunting, I’m aware I’m joining a really supportive family."
"Unlike the Doctor, I may only have one heart but I am giving it all to this show," said Gatwa, a reference to Doctor Who's two hearts.
— Doctor Who (@bbcdoctorwho) May 8, 2022
'Doctor Who': BBC show makes history by casting its first black Doctor
Showrunner Russell T. Davies also commended Gatwa in a statement
"The future is here and it’s Ncuti!" Davies said. "Ncuti dazzled us, seized hold of the Doctor and owned those TARDIS keys in seconds. It’s an honour to work with him, and a hoot, I can’t wait to get started."
The showrunner also teased that more information will be shared about Gatwa's succession after Jodie Whittaker's run as the Doctor.
Jodie Whittaker's historic role: The unimaginable joy of finally seeing a woman as 'Doctor Who'
"I’m sure you’re dying to know more, but we’re rationing ourselves for now, with the wonderful Jodie’s epic finale yet to come," Davies said. "But I promise you, 2023 will be spectacular!"
Whittaker is ending her journey as Doctor Who, but she'll be holding onto the title forever, she said in an interview with The Guardian.
"Even though there might be 13 more Doctors after me, I’ll always have been the Doctor," the BBC star said. "From the other people who have done it, you know that it’s one of those jobs where you are always a part of the family – you don’t get kicked out."
Whittaker also joked that she'd be "devastated" if the cast creates a new WhatsApp group chat without her.
The actress' role was also historic as the first woman to become the Doctor.
Prior to Whittaker and Gatwa, 13 leads had been white men: William Hartnell (1963–1966), Patrick Troughton (1966–1969), Jon Pertwee (1970–1974), Tom Baker (1974–1981), Peter Davison (1982–1984), Colin Baker (1984–1986), Sylvester McCoy (1987–1989), Paul McGann (1996), Christopher Eccleston (2005), David Tennant (2005–2010), Matt Smith (2010–2013) and Peter Capaldi (2014–2017).
In 2020, Martin became the series' first Black doctor. Her incarnation of The Doctor, a shape-shifting, time-traveling alien, appeared in a January episode of the show but wasn't meant to replace Whittaker's.
Martin's character appeared alongside Whittaker's as a previously unseen past incarnation of The Doctor, just like John Hurt's version (dubbed "The War Doctor") appeared with Tennant (the 10th Doctor) and Smith (the 11th Doctor) in 2013.
Her character is first introduced as Ruth Clayton, an Earth civilian whom The Doctor shows up to protect from an alien fugitive. But after her memory is reinstated, she reveals herself to Whittaker as a past version of The Doctor.
Martin was not cast as the new lead, but BBC and Big Finish Productions created a two-volume audio series with her character titled, "The Fugitive Doctor Adventures."
Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY, and The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Doctor Who': Ncuti Gatwa becomes first Black actor to play lead role