Doctor Who will return to our screens this April for its tenth season – the last with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. This time, he will be accompanied by two companions; Nardole, played by Matt Lucas, who has previously traveled with the Doctor, and Bill Potts. Newcomer Pearl Mackie plays Bill, and the character has no experience of alien life form or time travel, which will make for an interesting dynamic as she takes up residency in the TARDIS with two aliens.
Bill is feisty, fun, inquisitive. She also happens to be gay. In a Doctor Who first, and indeed, in a very rare occurrence for a prime time family show, Mackie’s character will openly state her sexuality – in her second line of dialogue, no less. We seem to say this every time a LGBTQ character crops up in any movie or TV show; while it shouldn’t be an issue, it’s bound to offend and upset some people, so kudos to showrunner Steven Moffat and the BBC for taking this step.
Mackie agrees it shouldn’t be a big deal, telling the BBC that representation of all kinds, matters in shows such as Doctor Who:
“It shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st Century. It’s about time isn’t it? That representation is important, especially on a mainstream show. It’s important to say people are gay, people are black – there are also aliens in the world as well so watch out for them. I remember watching TV as a young mixed race girl not seeing many people who looked like me, so I think being able to visually recognize yourself on screen is important. [Being gay] is not the main thing that defines her character – it’s something that’s part of her and something that she’s very happy and very comfortable with.”
Doctor Who has included LGBTQ characters before; Captain Jack Harkness is bisexual, as is River Song (she’s had wives as well as husbands), but as the Doctor’s companion, Bill Potts will be a central character, and never before has a character’s sexuality been so openly stated on the show. Reaction to this news should be positive; after all, Doctor Who are undoubtedly going to help people who recognize themselves in Bill’s character. There could even be the possibility of seeing a same-sex romance on screen. In the U.K., Doctor Who airs on a Saturday night, with families watching the show together. What better opportunity could there be to normalize same-sex relationships? The BBC are sending a strong message of acceptance and inclusion with this character; let’s hope it’s only the start of things to come.
Looking ahead to season 11, and it’s unsure if Bill Potts will remain in the TARDIS when Capaldi’s Doctor regenerates. Presumably, it will in part depend on the reception her character gets, but let’s throw this out there; if the Doctor regenerates as a woman, as many are hoping for, could we see another epic romance to rival that of Rose and Ten?
Doctor Who season 10 airs on BBC 1 and BBC America from April 14th