Russell T Davies worried Ncuti Gatwa's Doctor Who debut too harrowing

The sci-fi series showrunner said his lead star's performance in a scene addressing racism was 'one of the most remarkable performances' he'd seen.

Doctor Who S1,Premiere,Ncuti Gatwa, Millie Gibson & Russell T Davies,                               ,BBC Studios,Jonanthan Birch
Doctor Who stars Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson with showrunner Russell T Davies. (BBC)

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has opened up on the concerns he had over Dot and Bubble's shocking racist finale being the first scene Ncuti Gatwa filmed as the Doctor.

However, he told behind-the-scenes show Doctor Who: Unleashed that Gatwa's performance was "one of the most remarkable" he'd ever seen.

Davies also challenged viewers to ask themselves if they had seen the ending's twist coming – and if not, why not.

Davies has admitted Gatwa's first day on the Doctor Who set included such a harrowing scene that the entire crew had concerns over whether it was too much.

The series showrunner spoke about this week's episode Dot and Bubble on behind-the-scenes show Doctor Who: Unleashed, where he talked about the ending that saw Gatwa's Doctor confronted by racist attitudes from a group of privileged teens who he was trying to save from giant man-eating slugs.

Doctor Who: Unleashed,01-06-2024,5,The Doctor (NCUTI GATWA) ,**STRICTLY EMBARGOED UNTIL SUNDAY 26TH MAY 2024**,BBC Studios,James Pardon
Ncuti Gatwa had a tough first day on set at Doctor Who. (BBC)

Davies told how the ending was the first scene Gatwa had filmed in the role after his regeneration scenes, and said he was blown away by the actor's performance in a tough dialogue that saw the Doctor try to challenge the group's racism.

He said: "We handed that scene to Ncuti and I was wary. I was thinking oh my god, especially as that's the first scene he shot."

"We were all kind of holding our breaths thinking, that's no way you'd start any lead actor off," Davies continued. "We talked about it – should we reschedule, should we let him settle in, should we hold this scene off, but in the end we decided to go for it and bang, that's a great actor, he just hits it and it's one of the most remarkable performances I've ever seen."

Gatwa said of the scene: "That was an incredibly intense scene to start Doctor Who on but very exciting to get my teeth into it."

Davies added that he hoped the episode would challenge viewers' prejudices, saying: "It will be interesting to see the response to this episode. I think the main response to this episode is going to be about that ending.

Doctor Who S1,01-06-2024,Dot and Bubble,5 - Dot and Bubble,Lindy (CALLIE COOKE),*NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 0001HRS, SUNDAY 26TH MAY, 2024*,BBC Studios/Bad Wolf,James Pardon
The Doctor was the only Black character in the cast of Dot and Bubble, which featured Callie Cooke. (BBC)

"What we can't tell is how many people will work that out before the ending, because they've seen white person after white person after white person, and television these days is very diverse. I wonder, will you be 10 minutes into it, will you be 15, will you be 20 before you start to think everyone in this community is white? And if you don't think that - why didn't you? So that's going to be interesting and I hope it's going to be one of those pieces of television you'll see and always remember."

Millie Gibson, who plays Ruby Sunday, said: "That reveal at the end, it was heartbreaking. You probably do realise but it's the moment you look around and everyone is white."

It seems the episode had the desired effect on Doctor Who fans, as many of them shared how stunned they had been by the final scene.

One person commented on X: "I was like... Why is everyone white apart from the Doctor? Like it felt off, because Doctor Who always tries to be as diverse in its casting as possible Then came the twist at the end and all those microagressions made more sense. Slug supermacy!"

Doctor Who S1,01-06-2024,Dot and Bubble,5 - Dot and Bubble,Lindy (CALLIE COOKE),*NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 0001HRS, SUNDAY 26TH MAY, 2024*,BBC Studios/Bad Wolf,James Pardon
A group of privileged teens faced a plague of giant slugs in Dot and Bubble. (BBC)

Another wrote: "I’m calling it. The last 5 minutes of tonight’s Doctor Who, Dot and Bubble, is the best ending of an episode of Doctor Who ever. Ever.

Someone else admitted: "I was thinking all the way through what a load of bs this is. Then came the ending , which totally blew me away" as another person added: "Felt like a fairly throwaway episode (apart from Ricky, who is a KING) and then… oof! That ending. Well played."

One viewer wrote: "An ending for the ages made more remarkable because it was Ncuti's first scene - wow," and someone else agreed: "That ending won’t be leaving my head anytime soon."

Doctor Who: Unleashed airs on BBC Three at 7.30pm on Saturday.