Doctor Who Hints Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor Regrets 1 Thing About His Past Regenerations


Doctor Who’s titular protagonist has constantly evolved over the decades, but season 14 suggests Ncuti Gatwa’s incarnation regrets one recurring aspect of his predecessors. Since returning in 2005, Doctor Who has been a very different beast compared to the classic series that aired between 1963 and 1989. The “no kissing in the TARDIS” rule has been relaxed to allow kissing both in and around the ship, companions do much more than just running around and screaming, and season-long arcs are far more common.

Doctor Who season 14’s own long-term arc comes to a head in “The Legend of Ruby Sunday,” which exposes the One Who Waits as Sutekh. The episode also contains a major reveal regarding the Doctor’s children, as Fifteen admits his own offspring haven’t yet been born. In the midst of these revelations, Ncuti Gatwa’s character subtly shows regret over a personality trait held by most of the Doctor’s past regenerations.

The Fifteenth Doctor Thinks He Was Too Closed-Off In Past Regenerations

Doctor Who Really Did Live Up To Its Name

In Doctor Who season 14, episode 7, “The Legend of Ruby Sunday,” Kate Lethbridge-Stewart questions the Doctor over why he never discussed Susan, even with his closest allies. Fifteen ruefully tells the leader of Doctor Who’s UNIT team, “I was a different Doctor back then, Kate. The Great Enigma. Still can’t shake it off. I’m trying…” The conversation acknowledges how previous Doctors were far more reticent, and confirms this is something the Doctor regrets about his past regenerations.
One of the biggest differences between classic Doctor Who and the regenerated show post-2005 is the Doctor’s more open, human personality. Previously, the Doctor was an alien, offish, secretive figure who, despite being extremely empathetic, could always remain somewhat detached. The process of making the Doctor more relatable began with Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor in the 1990s, but accelerated rapidly with David Tennant, Matt Smith, Jodie Whittaker, and now Ncuti Gatwa. Gatwa’s admission of “I’m trying…” provides a canon explanation for why modern Doctors have become more emotionally available compared to their classic counterparts.

Why RTD’s Modern Doctor Who Needed To Change The Doctor

Changing The Doctor’s Persona Was An Important Part Of Modernizing Doctor Who

The evolution of the Doctor from 1963’s prickly grandfather figure to 2024’s friendly fashionista is a drastic transition, however gradual it may have been, but modern Doctor Who with a closed-off Doctor simply wouldn’t be sustainable. Audience expectations and tastes have morphed massively over the past 60 years, with TV viewers increasingly expecting things like fully-formed protagonists, more sophisticated scripts, characters with emotional depth, and respect for canon continuity.

For Doctor Who to succeed post-millennium, the character of the Doctor needed to change. “The Great Enigma” of the classic era was ideal for its time, and watching those episodes back remains a hugely enjoyable experience in 2024, but Doctor Who could never continue in that vein and realistically expect new generations to invest in its main character. Even Christopher Eccleston and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors – who both occupy the gruffer end of the Time Lord’s personality spectrum – experienced considerable development across their respective reigns, softening as the seasons passed.


The Doctor’s “Great Enigma” Regret Fixes Canon (& Makes Doctor Who’s Future More Exciting)

How Fifteen’s Doctor Who Season 14 Admission Impacts The Show’s Past & Future

The Fifteenth Doctor’s admission that his classic regenerations acted like “the Great Enigma” allows Doctor Who to retroactively explain a sticky aspect of the show’s labyrinthine canon. All regenerations of the Doctor, irrespective of era, have always cared about their companions. It always felt odd, therefore, that the Doctor never revisited Susan onscreen, or spoke about his children, or tried to restore Jamie and Zoe’s memories. The real-world explanation, of course, was that Doctor Who needed to keep moving forward after cast members left the show, but from an in-universe perspective, it never made sense – the staunch refusal to discuss Susan especially.

The Doctor’s newfound emotional maturity will allow former companions to stay connected with the Time Lord, just like Mel in Doctor Who season 14’s final episodes.

The Doctor’s expression of regret in “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” paints the emotionally elusive traits held by past incarnations as a defense mechanism. In other words, the old Doctors desperately wanted to tell the Brigadier all about Susan and how proud he was of his estranged granddaughter, but avoided doing so for fear of picking at an emotional wound. It’s an explanation that at least tries to smooth over an element of Doctor Who canon that has traditionally been very hard to explain.
The Doctor trying to change his ways may seem anathema to the character’s initial design, but it does make Doctor Who season 15 and beyond more exciting. Talking more openly about Susan – or just acknowledging her existence – keeps the door open for her eventual return.

And rather than briskly moving on every time a new companion enters the TARDIS, the Doctor’s newfound emotional maturity will allow former companions to stay connected with the Time Lord, just like Mel in Doctor Who season 14’s final episodes. This way, the Doctor’s friends and family begin to look less like a string of disgruntled exes and more like an ever-revolving wheel of allies who come and go.