By Kali Kushner | Assistant Culture Editor
For readers who are not familiar with the BBC show, “Doctor Who,” the series focuses around the “Doctor”, a timelord who encounters adventures across time and space inside his Tardis (time and relative dimension in space) and his varying companions. Companions usually consist of humans who suddenly meet the Doctor and are thrown into the wild universe that has built up over the years.
Although Doctors and companions change every couple of seasons, all of the Doctors since the show debut (1963) have been straight White men and for the most part companions have been White heterosexual women. Due to this, the series has received criticism for not having much diversity over these fifty-four years, and the producers have been slow to make any improvements. However, according to news sources, the show is finally about to take a step forward by introducing the first openly gay companion.
The new companion will be played by Pearl Mackie, a fairly new television actress who has only starred in two other shows, but is about to make “Doctor Who” history. In Mackie’s interview with The Telegraph, she described being frustrated as a child due to the lack of mixed-race representation on screen, “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 recognise yourself on screen is important.”
Now some twenty years later, Mackie has the opportunity to provide mixed representation, but a canonically queer character to a show that has literally had over fifty years worth of heteronormativity might be a challenge. Mackie is very aware of her new role and the effect it will have on viewers, especially ones who have also struggled with recognizing themselves in media. As Mackie expressed to BBC, “It shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st Century. It’s about time isn’t it?” I wholeheartedly agree.
I’m excited to see more representation on screen and desperately hope that the show does not ruin their opportunity to promote diversity in the media. More and more mainstream shows have started to dabble in writing queer characters, but most of the time said representations fall short, either because the writers limit the character to their sexuality, use the character for queer baiting as a way to look like they are writing diverse characters but never making the representation canon, or the writers outright kill the one canon queer character.
Thankfully, Mackie has already touched upon some of these fears, stating, “[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.”
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I hope Mackie is allowed to explore her role and really make history in regards to positive queer representation. If you’re interested, the new series premieres on BBC One on Saturday, April 15.