As it’s the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who, and rather than gushing about David Tennant’s continued allyship, I thought I’d write about the history of queer characters in the franchise. Since my last history piece, I have discovered a few more of the Doctor’s LGBTQ+ companions in the Big Finish audio adventures, so I thought I’d give you an updated list to check out!
Oliver Harper (Tom Allen)
Played by queer comedian and presenter Tom Allen, Oliver Harper was a Big Finish creation, featuring in three episodes of The Companion Chronicles series. He was a city trader in London in 1966 and briefly travelled with the First Doctor and his companion Steven Taylor (both voiced by Peter Purves).
He used the TARDIS to escape arrest for being gay and kept his sexuality secret from the Doctor and Steven as he believed that they would disapprove and force him to leave the timeship.
When he revealed the true nature of his “crime”, Steven assured Oliver that by his time (Steven is from Earth’s future), there was no longer any stigma attached to homosexuality. Similarly, the Doctor had guessed his “crime” and said the crime was society’s, not Oliver’s. Oliver is, in universe, chronologically the first queer companion of the Doctor.
The Oliver Harper Trilogy is on sale at the moment from @bigfinish ! I’d recommend it throughly! Mind you, as a Steven fan, I’m biased but it is utterly fab! X The Perpetual Bond is the first one, I can’t remember which way round the other two go! Lils, Epic fail! #DoctorWho pic.twitter.com/GcG27LExRF
— Lily May Sherratt (@IreneWildthyme) February 17, 2023
Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker)
Another futuristic companion and Big Finish creation, Liv was a companion of the Seventh (briefly), Eighth (mainly) and Ninth Doctors. She was a human from the Planet Kaldor who didn’t feel like she belonged there so she travelled as a medical technician.
Liv found romantic situations difficult and travelling with the Eighth Doctor meant the opportunity to have a relationship did not come up often. However, during the Stranded storyline, the TARDIS is broken and the Doctor, Liv and another companion, Helen, are stuck on 2020 Earth. It is at this time that she develops a relationship with Tania Bell, who is later revealed to be a trans woman.
Tania is worried about telling Liv she is trans but when Liv finds out, she doesn’t see why that would be an issue. They develop a romantic relationship and Liv is torn between leaving on the TARDIS when it is repaired or staying with Tania. I won’t reveal her choice.
So, as it happens it’s #NicolaWalker‘s birthday today 🥳 To celebrate, a character poster for #LivChenka, who continues to be my favourite #DoctorWho character! Happy Birthday #fanart @bigfinish pic.twitter.com/gsiKV4CYjv
— Jana (@JanaJa1) May 15, 2023
Tania Bell (Rebecca Root)
Tania Bell was a member of Torchwood and moved into the Doctor’s property on Baker’s Street to keep an eye out for him. When the Eighth Doctor arrives, she has to keep her allegiance secret as he is not meant to know about Torchwood yet (its existence is only discovered by the Tenth Doctor). She befriends the Doctor and his companions and even gets to travel in the TARDIS.
I really like the character and Rebecca Root is wonderful in the role. I was hoping that Big Finish would utilise Tania in the future and this seems to be the case as she features in a Ninth Doctor story and, coming in January, a Twelfth Doctor story, in an audiobook format where Rebecca Root reads part of it.
Tania is the first transgender companion in any media.
The Tania Bell fandom never loses https://t.co/GVysx44jrw
— daniel of traken (@Life_Universe_) November 27, 2023
Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman)
In the BBC Wales era, the biggest influence has obviously been Russell T Davies who worked for years to get the broadcaster to bring the show back. His era added the first non-heterosexual companion to the TV series: the pansexual Captain Jack Harkness (played by queer actor John Barrowman).
Harkness’ sexuality was further explored in the more adult spin-off Torchwood, which focused on his relationship with Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd).
Captain Jack Harkness travelled with the Ninth and Tenth Doctors.
captain jack harkness everyone pic.twitter.com/TVfsLfN1r7
— luca ☆ (@yearofthecrow) November 30, 2023
Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie)
The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) era saw the debut of the first openly LGBTQ+ full-time companion, Bill Potts (a personal favourite) played by bisexual actor Pearl Mackie. She was also the first onscreen openly queer companion.
Her sexuality was fully established in her debut episode, ‘The Pilot’ (2017). The actor was not out when she was in Doctor Who and has credited the show with helping her find a connection with the LGBTQ+ community.
Now that RTD has officially brought back Mel in the upcoming Doctor Who series, next he needs to bring back my queen Bill Potts. I’d love to see a lesbian black woman interact with a more queer-written black Doctor! pic.twitter.com/ENkdojaDMm
— Soupsuf 🍲 (@theultrayusuf) November 29, 2023
Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill)
Last year’s New Year’s special, ‘Eve Of The Daleks’, revealed that female companion Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gil) had romantic feelings for Jodie Whitaker’s Thirteenth Doctor. This was a bit of a revelation as it hadn’t really been hinted at before, with viewers seeing her feelings as more of a friendship. Although looking back at the previous season again, the feelings can be seen as romantic.
— cmac (@underwxrId) January 19, 2020
So lots of companions for you to check out. Those Big Finish audios in particular are great. So all we need now is a queer actor playing the Doctor…
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