Doctor Who's Next Season Gets Surprising Episode Count for Disney+

By Sam Hargrave Posted:
Doctor Who, Ncuti Gatwa, David Tennant, Disney+, Peter Capaldi

Ncuti Gatwa's Doctor Who Season 14 just revealed a surprising episode count ahead of its jump to Disney+ streaming in 2023.

Doctor Who is getting a new lease of life in 2023 as returning showrunner Russell T Davis brings the British sci-fi mainstay into a whole new era. The BBC will be teaming up with Disney+ to take the time and space hopping adventure international as Ncuti Gatwa enters the spotlight as the 15th Doctor.

The Sex Education star will be joined on his adventures by a new companion, Millie Gibson's Ruby Sunday, following three 60th Anniversary specials starring David Tennant in November 2023. As part of this historic Disney collaboration, the show will be receiving a record-breaking budget, opening up plenty of new doors.

Despite that higher budget, one area that Davis and company have been staying silent on has been the episode count for Season 14. This follows consistently diminishing season lengths since Peter Capaldi joined the show in 2014. But now, that episode count has been revealed, along with other exciting new details.

Doctor Who Boss Reveals Exciting Season 14 News

Doctor Who Duo Series 14
Doctor Who

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davis had some exciting revelations to offer regarding Season 14 and Ncuti Gatwa's upcoming reign as The Doctor in the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine - via TV Zone UK.

Davis confirmed that 2024's next full season - which will follow four specials in late 2023 - will consist of eight episodes. Justifying the episode count, the showrunner acknowledged that this will be a shorter season, but called for fans to "give [them] time" and promised they "have plans:"

"Okay, that's fewer episodes than the last full season. But give us time. We have plans, and that's a promise!" 

The Doctor Who boss added how each season will come accompanied with a Christmas Special - marking a return to the annual tradition that began in 2005 and came to an end under Chris Chibnall's reign in 2018. Davis also teased how he is currently writing the special for 2024's festive season:

"For the first time ever, I'm writing a Christmas Special... at Christmas! And this isn't for next year, no, the 2023 script has been long since signed-off. The new one is for end-of-year 2024!"

The British writer was questioned on the extended gap of 13 episodes between the latest episode, "Power of the Doctor," and the three 60th Anniversary specials that will release in November 2023. However, he ensured that the plans going forward will be for "no gap years [and] lots of content:"

"It takes a while to get the empire in shape, but that's a serious plan: annual Doctor Who, no gap years, lots of content, on and on."

Doctor Who, Season 14, 60th Anniversary, Ncuti Gatwa, 15th Doctor
Doctor Who

Davis also touched on the singular shot of Ncuti Gatwa's 15th Doctor that was featured in the teaser trailer for the 60th Anniversary specials. Shockingly, the writer revealed that the cloudy background used in the teaser was a replacement for the real location which would "give away too much:"

"You'll never see that again. Because the actual location would give away too much!"

Gatwa and incoming companion Millie Gibson (Ruby Sunday) just recently began production on Season 14 in Cardiff, Wales. The announcement was made by Doctor Who's official social media channels, revealing the first installment that goes before cameras will be helmed by director Dylan Holmes Williams.

Doctor Who, Season 14, Filming
Doctor Who

Both the Sex Education star and Gibson conducted their first outfit fittings with Doctor Who's costume designer on Monday, October 31, ahead of commencing shooting on Monday, December 5. The outfits will likely be revealed in the imminent future before any location shooting is conducted. 

The magazine additionally revealed five new crew members for the upcoming season, the full list of which can be seen below:

  • Will Cohen - VFX Producer
  • Sandra Cosfeld - Production Co-ordinator
  • Pam Downe - Costume designer
  • Ceres Doyle - Post-production producer
  • Claire Williams - Hair and make-up designer

Why Doctor Who's New Episode Count Is Surprising

For the first seven seasons of the Doctor Who revival, the annual tradition included a 13-episode run and a festive special. But the show has gradually reduced its season lengths in recent years to 12 episodes for Season 8, 9 and 10, 10 episodes for Season 11 and 12, then just eight episodes for Season 13, aka Flux.

So, Season 14 maintaining that eight-episode count shouldn't come as that much of a surprise. However, Flux's short length was justified by the pandemic interfering with production and the whole season spanning one story, compared to the usual "adventure of the week" format, neither of which ought to apply anymore.

Perhaps the BBC and Disney+ may be eager to take a "quality over quantity" approach as it begins it endeavor to turn Doctor Who into a global franchise. Although Davis' acknowledgement of this being a shorter season and the tease of "give us time, we have plans," may imply that could increase for future outings.

The long-term plan described of "annual Doctor Who, no gap years, lots of content," lines up well with reports of plans to turn the show into a larger franchise akin to the MCU. Not only will this involve annual seasons and specials, but also reportedly new spin-offs starring the show's monsters and other characters. 

As filming gets underway on Season 14, fans will almost certainly be learning more soon, with a costume reveal for Ncuti Gatwa's 15th Doctor likely just weeks away before filming goes on location. Additionally, news of further cast hirings also ought to be on the way - with some major stars on the table given the budget increase.

What remains clear is that Davis is as eager as ever to keep the future of Doctor Who shrouded in mystery and to preserve surprises. This is immediatly clear by the decision to edit the background behind the only shot of Gatwa in the show due to spoilers, which leaves the question: where is the 15th Doctor hiding?

Fans will be waiting a while for answers as Doctor Who won't return until November 2023 with David Tennant's trilogy of 60th Anniversary specials. Ncuti Gatwa will takeover the role with December 2023's festive special before Season 14 gets underway in 2024 - airing on the BBC in the UK and Disney+ worldwide.

- About The Author: Sam Hargrave
Sam Hargrave is the Associate Editor at The Direct. He joined the team as a gaming writer in 2020 before later expanding into writing for all areas of The Direct and taking on further responsibilities such as editorial tasks and image creation.