With a showrunner like Russell T. Davies (among others) it should come as no surprise that Doctor Who is considered a beacon of queer representation within the Sci-Fi community.
While starting out as a children’s show for the BBC in the 1960s, the TV series has lept bounds in terms of its LGBTQ+ representation. According to an article on Tardis (the Doctor Who wiki on fandom.com), early analysis of The Doctor understood the character to be asexual. With theories breaking so-called ‘fanon’ (fandom canon) to suppose that The Doctor, due to their alien nature, is incapable of romantic or sexual attraction.
Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor) even went so far as to explain that “Love is a human emotion and the Doctor isn’t human.” The article on Tardis rightly points out however that, “Asexuality is, however, a facet of human sexuality, and an estimated 0.4%-1% of adult British humans are asexual.”
Moving forward into the 20th century, with the “re-birth” of the show so to speak, there has been plenty of Queer representation in the show. Perhaps most significantly was Pearl Mackie, who plays the Twelfth Doctor’s final companion Bill Potts. Speaking in an interview with Digital Spy, Pearl spoke about the significance of being the Doctor’s first openly gay companion. She explained that:
“Getting the job and being catapulted into this amazing world and this huge fandom and also opening up this whole world of LGBTQ fandom that had been there in the Doctor Who community but hadn’t had, apart from Captain Jack, like a solid a companion to channel and represent them essentially.”
In speaking with Digital Spy, Pearl—who is bisexual herself—commented on the significance of having LGBTQ+ characters represented on TV, explaining that “I’ve met a lot of people to whom Bill was a huge catalyst in enabling them to come out to their families, which is something that you never really think as an actor you ever have any kind of impact on someone’s life ion that scale.”
Similarly, in talking about the importance of having Queer characters in a TV series like Doctor Who, John Barrowman, who played Captain Jack Harkness in the series, expressed his hopes to see a transgender Doctor when they recast Jodie Whittaker.
He added that:
“I was the first openly gay actor playing a character like Captain Jack, who we called omnisexual. He didn’t care who he slept with really, and he was unapologetic about his sexuality,” he said. “We have had LGBTQ+ representation on the TARDIS. During Peter Capaldi’s reign, we had a character who was a lesbian (Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie). So yeah, we’ve had them, why not have a Doctor the same?”
The so-called Who-verse has also introduced a transgender companion (Tania Bell) in the audio series Stranded. As Barrowman emphasises, however, he would like to see a shift towards more central characters (the Doctor themself in particular) being depicted as queer in their next regeneration.
The significance of a queer Doctor cannot be understated, and considering that The Doctor is a genderless alien floating through time and space, I think there’s scope for them to be a little queer!
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