So Dr. Who finally returned to our screens after what has felt like a long vacation. The Christmas special just wasn’t enough to satisfy my nerdy little taste buds and with rumours of a new, queer companion I was quite giddy by the time it returned on Saturday!
That said, I would be lying if I wasn’t a little apprehensive about what they would do with this new companion, I’ve been hurt before when my favourite franchises resort to tokenism, stereotyping and trope wielding, but was reasonably confident in their ability to handle a LGBTQ* companion with nuance and sensitivity as there is good form to be found in John Barrowman’s Jack Harkness, and my fierce favourites Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint (of infamous ‘lesbian lizard kiss’ controversy!).
I have to say that I was initially disappointed with the show and the new companion Bill, whose opening gambit is essentially an extended fat phobic joke. I just can’t see the point in heralding a positive move for diversity in the representation of queer folk and women of colour if it is at the expense of, or offered alongside the oppression of fat people. Gutted.
Despite my love of Peter Capaldi’s Malcom Tucker, he has not been my favourite doctor by a long distance (it’s Matt Smith for me all the way), his darker, cantankerous ‘Who’ had started to bring me down after a while and the show felt like it had lost some of it’s cheeky charm and loveable ‘naffness’, but despite not getting off to a good start, Pearl Mackie’s Bill Potts appears to have re-ignited that spark that was missing. The Doctor and his new companion appear to have a great chemistry already which lifts the show and brings back its more dynamic feel. Capaldi’s scenes with Bill have been my favourite of his performances during his time in the franchise and his quip about moral relativism had me chucking out loud…’Hardly anything’s evil. Most things are hungry. Hungry can look a lot like evil from the wrong end of the cutlery. Do you think your bacon sandwich loves you back?” – A Perfect return to form; humour is intertwined with important ethical questions and the Daleks are back!
And so to the question of queering the doctor. Like many fans I have been frustrated time and again when each new replacement doctor is revealed to be… wait for it… another white man, but in the past at least, Dr Who’s queer characters have been portrayed with love, complexity, tenderness and a notable lack of aversion to showing physical intimacy/ affection. Bill looks set to follow suit. Her attraction to women thus far has been revealed in passing, no eyelids batted, no trumpets blown and no sense that her queerness is merely a thinly veiled a plot device- she simply is. End of story, and as it should be. My only hope now is that as we begin our speculation anew following Peter Capaldi’s announcement that this series will be his last, that the show finally does something interesting with the opportunity and offers us anything but another stale, pale, male! They have consistently shown that they are capable of handling diverse characters so lets have one front and centre that we can really get behind! – Oh, and please, leave out the fat jokes, they’re beneath you and they hurt your fans who take so much from being able to see heroes who are like us on mainstream television.