“Doctor Who” Is Finally Getting a Gay Companion, Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Shenanigans to Get 100% Wibblier

The Whoverse is no stranger to queerness. Omnisexual Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood is probably the gayest TV character in history. And then there was poor sweet bisexual Ianto (RIP). Tosh (RIP) fell in love with a woman once. Gewn Cooper made out with a woman once. We’ve had Captain John “Spike” Hart. We’ve had Madame Vastra, the lizard woman from the dawn of time, and her wife, Jenny (RIP, but then: RESURRECTED!). And we heard rumor that our beloved River Song (long may she reign) was bisexual (she once had a wife). Clara hinted at being bi. But now, my friends! Now the wibbly wobbly timey wimey shenanigans in the TARDIS are about to get even gayer as Bill Potts becomes the Doctor’s very first openly gay companion.

According to the BBC, “Bill Potts’s sexuality will be revealed pretty much straightaway in her second line of dialogue when the show returns to BBC One on 15 April.”

To Victorian England on the double, good sir! I have an appointment with a Silurian!

But wait, there’s more! Pearl Mackie, who plays Bill Potts, is also biracial! A queer woman of color weaving her way through the space-time continuum! Here’s what Mackie had to say about the role:

“It shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st Century. It’s about time isn’t it? 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 recognise yourself on screen is important.”

As we all know, there’s a rising tide of horrifying heteronormative white nationalism sweeping through Europe and the United States, so having a biracial queer companion on the most beloved sci-fi show in history is a big dang deal. Yes, it airs on BBC One in the family hour and that’s amazing enough, but the reach of Doctor Who is global. The show, but also the merchandising, the comic con appearances, the comic books, and on and on.

Okay, but! There’s EVEN MORE. You have your reservations about showrunner/writer Steven Moffat and so do I. He does not have a very good track record writing women, on Doctor Who or on Sherlock or probably even in his own journal. But this is it for him and, assuming Bill survives, the new Doctor Who showrunner is a guy you don’t even know you know: Chris Chibnall. He was basically the showrunner for the first two (best and gayest) seasons of Torchwood. He created and managed Broadchurch. And he helped develop Merlin (your Katie McGrath origin story, Supergirl Supercorp shippers) for the BBC. He knows what he’s doing and he has a solid track record of doing right by the gays.

Obviously we gotta lose the antiquated language of “companion” and obviously we gotta get a woman Doctor. In the meantime, though, Bill Potts a good step forward. I hope she has sex with Jane Austen.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 821 articles for us.

62 Comments

  1. Heather! Thank you for reminding me that Spike was on Torchwood!

    Just here to say that the sexual tension between Captain John (Spike) Hart and Captain Jack Harkness was some of the thickest I’ve ever seen on my television and I mighhhhhht need to go back and re-watch that soon. This weekend. Right when I get home.

    • If you were watching then you’d know Moffat teased this with Clara. I was really annoyed it was not on screen, but on the other hand given its Austen people would be bound to pick it apart. I need it but at the same time I can’t see anything living up to that hype.

  2. You know, I was sitting here thinking about how the entire world is going to shit and then I saw this headline and gasped so loudly my co-worker asked me what was wrong, assuming – I’m guessing – that 45 had said yet another heinous thing. Now we are discussing all the various manifestations of queer that Bill could be and I’m bummed because I was finally going to give up on this show until Moffat left and now I must suffer through a bit more of his arrogant ass writing but also excited because HOMOS!!!!!

  3. Also yasss the reign of Moffat terror is over I can get back into doctor whooo

    The problem wasn’t just his characterisation of women. His writing is messy. He makes things move at an extreme pace to simulate excitement and it doesn’t work.

  4. I fell off Doctor Who when David Tennant left and IDK why I haven’t gone back. BUt NOW! Now I need to get back in so I can see this. And it sounds like I need to revisit Torchwood.

  5. An angel came to me in my sleep and asked me the one way she could get me to start watching Doctor Who again and I said, “fire Moffat, make it gayer, and bring back David Tennant.”

    2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

  6. I DID NOT know that the new showrunner ran early Torchwood! I’m a long time Who fan but have been not so into it lately. I’m excited about the ways he will reinvigorgate (and hopefully embrace all things queer) the show!!

  7. I have a very low tolerance for Moffat. I’ve tried to give him chances, I watched the first three seasons with Matt Smith and I watched again when Capaldi came on but I’ve always ended up getting disgusted and dropping the show. Anyway, looks like I’ll be watching Doctor Who again for the first time in a couple years. But I definitely go in with trepidation. He did give us Vastra and Jenny, even if I don’t think it was brilliance on his part as much as just stumbling into something amazing that he was smart enough to keep, so I do have to be grateful for that.

    Also, I hated Torchwood and dropped it (the rape alien being played for laughs was so gross you guys) so it’s not a recommendation to me to say this guy was in charge of it.

    • I have enjoyed some of Moffat’s work in the past, but I’m just so over it. It feels to me like he sees himself as progressive, but doesn’t actually understand or fully respect women. I know I’m in the minority, but I don’t even love Jenny and Vastra – it’s great that they are a queer couple and all, but in the episodes I saw them in Vastra treated Jenny as more of a servant than an equal partner, and it made me a little uncomfortable.

    • Moff wasn’t in charge of Torchwood!! That was Russell T Davies, a gay man who also worked on Queer As Folk and more recently Banana/Cucumber. He was in charge of the entire reboot of Doctor Who, from Doctors Nine until Ten/Tennent. While Torchwood is SO FAR from perfect (esp early on in the series, imo) we can’t blame Moff for it.

      (We can and should, however, blame Moff for sloppy writing and astounding levels of sexism, combined with a total refusal to take on criticism or reflect on his past mistakes. URGH. Don’t get me started.)

    • Russell T. Davis maybe missed it with Torchwood, I agree with you on that, but his Doctor era was amazing, not to mention that he’s the one who bring the show back to life in the first place.

  8. If you go back to old-school Who, the seventh Dr’s companion – awesome, fearless tomboy Ace (played so briliantly by the gorgeous Sophie Aldred) – was meant to have a love affair with a female alien.

    BBC bosses at the time wussed out, especially as Dr Who was seen as almost a kids’ show back then.

    The whole thing was reduced to a few lingering gazes and no more.

    But yay for new representation!

    • I watched a film about how health professionals should respond to ‘challenging’ behaviour in patients this week that was presented by Sophie Aldred. She also did some science programmes in the 90s and tbh i fancied the pants off her.

  9. This makes even more excited for the show to come back.

    Bill, going by the trailers, looks like a lot of fun. And I am glad this will be Moffat’s last series. He is staying for the Christmas special. As is Calpaldi. But after that, new show runner and a new Doctor.

  10. It’s wild that people hate Steven Moffat so much when he wrote the only lesbians in Doctor Who history and one of the only two companions in the new series who actually behaved like a human woman, but whatever lol

      • i’m with you. i stopped watching doctor who after amy left, but i have to say season 5 was one of the more compelling seasons of tv i had seen in quite a while as of the time it aired

      • Moffat is terrible at writing women as human beings and not magical maguffins and his plots are atrocious excuses for him to say “look how clever I am” rather than make sense or be true to the characters and stories that came before. Basically the only thing that matters in his Doctor Who is HIS Doctor Who. Everything that came before his time gets swept under the rug or massively retconned.

        • it’s just that this argument has been used a lot by people who generally seem to be set on disliking him and read some kind of communal article on the subject? but if you’re talking about treating women like human beings we can turn to the writing failures from the first four seasons of the show. martha and rose, who weren’t allowed to have flaws, and donna, who was dialed up to 15 all the time and rarely given nuance. look at the disgustingly misogynistic episodes from the pre-moffat era like season two’s “love and monsters.” look at how davies had no women writers on his staff EVER, while moffat had (a still pitiful) three.

          i’m not sure what you mean about stories not being “true to the characters,” since his characters were, of course, all new during his era. but unlike past companions, his are allowed to grow and change and come into their own instead of rehashing the same old beats time and again. they’re not tools for comedy but for insightful stories.

          can you give an example of what you mean in specific terms, or are you just paraphrasing a bunch of thoughtcatalog thinkpieces from 2013?

          • LOL If others have made the same arguments I just did, then it’s because a LOT of people share the same issues with his work that I do. I haven’t read any of these think pieces you refer to and you are somewhat insulting me. Martha and Rose and Donna all felt like real people and were written beautifully and thoughtfully. Moffat’s characters got bent and twisted to fit the whims of whatever flashy concept he was in love with at that time. I’m not saying there weren’t things to love about his characters but they always had unsatisfying ends, which is really his biggest problem as a writer. He thinks up some exciting idea for a episode or arc, but has now clue how to come to a compelling, and EARNED, ending to the story.He overused and wasted the incredible character of River, and his other leads were “The Girl WHO Waited” AND “The Impossible Girl” TM. He sucked at writing women and if you don’t agree that’s fine but a lot of people feel like I do.

          • ROSE AND MARTHA didn’t have flaws? Please. Especially when only flaws Amy and Clara have are the way they’re written.

            Rose was superficial and judgmental at times, and she treated Mickey pretty terribly. I’ll agree with you on Martha, although I think she was excellently written and people still accuse her of myriad flaws – namely, of the flaw of not being Rose.

            And Donna??? rarely had nuance??? Donna was a woman whose brash, uncaring attitude masked deep compassion and awful self-esteem, who believed herself to be far less extraordinary than she was.

      • I mean, if his story lines work for you, then that’s great! I know some people who love the current show, but I personally couldn’t stay interested in the second season of Moffat/Matt Smith.

        For me, some of his one-off episodes are okay, but his overarching plots feel kinda convoluted for the sake of being convoluted rather than actually clever or compelling. I think that he prioritizes his plots (which I don’t generally care for!) over character development or character-focused writing, which is much more my jam.

        I also think that he has a history of making kinda misogynistic and homophobic remarks, so in addition to not liking him as a writer, I don’t much like him as a person, but you mentioned the story so that’s the part I’m responding to.

    • How about Moffat being misogynistic and sexist? I’m not a fan of Doctor Who or Moffat’s writing in general — my peripheral knowledge of the show is courtesy of my ex and current girlfriend — so I won’t be able to give specific examples from canon very well. But if you want specific examples of him being misogynistic or sexist, those are more than easy enough to find.

      “Between the marriages, I shagged my way round television studios like a mechanical digger.”

      “I just thought my wife was fat [while she was pregnant].”

      (SOURCE: http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/interview-steven-moffat-doctor-who-screenwriter-1-474813 )

      There are even ‘better’ quotes, though I can’t find them stored on more reputable sites so you may consider them less trustworthy, but here’s a gem for you anyway:

      “Your wife turns into a boat, and shortly after that, you never sleep again and you clean shit off someone. [During my wife’s pregnancy] I was thinking, ‘how long before she gets back to normal size? Will this damage anything?’”

      (SOURCE: http://www.hollywood.com/celebrities/steven-moffat-sexist-quotes-60232421/ )

      And a really cool infographic on Moffat’s reign on Doctor Who compared to previous showrunners, to prove his views bleed through into his writing:

      He’s miserable at writing stuff that passes the Bechdel test, for one.

      https://rebeccaamoore.com/2014/05/29/university-study-on-sexism-in-bbcs-doctor-who-infographic/

      Mind, I adore Madame Vastra and Jenny and I never knew I wanted to see unapologetic interspecies katakana-wielding queer ladies as much as I do. But does it make him less repulsive? Not particularly.

      If you want to argue that he still writes really compelling seasons despite his, er, drawbacks, then fine. But is it so wild for me to dislike him?

  11. It’s funny because I started watching Doctor Who in 2011 because the girl I liked at the time recommended it, then quit watching in 2014 after getting tired of Moffat’s BS, then came back to it a year later because… the girl I liked at the time recommended it (different girl than the first time). I was undecided on whether to watch this season until I saw this news, but now I definitely will.

    So my reasons for watching this show have /always/ been gay af, and I’m glad that this time around the gay is actually in the show.

  12. I was really enjoying this article, and all its bouncy enthusiasm, so I smiled when I heard there was EVEN MORE! And then the EVEN MORE! turned out to be NONSENSE! (Yes, I am shouting for no reason. You started it.)

    “You have your reservations about Steven Moffat and so do I. ”

    No. No, I don’t. I really don’t. Especially since you assumed it. Specifically since you assumed it.

    “He does not have a very good track record writing women”

    Other then River Song. Or Clara (the best realised, most three-dimensional companion Dr Who has ever had.) Or Missy. Or Amy. Yes, Amy.

    “… or probably even in his own journal. ”

    Because if we can’t make unjust assumptions about people’s inner thoughts on the basis of complete ignorance, what have we got left? Send a link to Donald Trump, he’ll love this.

    Then you got to, frankly, the real nonsense part. Steven Moffat creates this character, casts her, and runs her whole first year in the show (which may or may not be her whole time in the show) and you big up Chris Chibnall. Right. Okay. Yes, simple! All we have to do is ignore her first year, and everything about Bill that we like (because Steven Moffat wrote it) and everything Bill does that we like (because etc etc) and then we can credit it all to Chris, and everything’s okay! Because then Steven Moffat didn’t create her (just as he didn’t write Captain Jack’s first story, or make River Song bi, or make Clara bi, or write Doctor Who’s gayest ever joke, you know the one, in “Time Crash”) and we can all stay in our unchallenged happy space. Good grief.

    “Obviously we gotta get a woman Doctor”

    Yes, we should. Until then we’ll have to settle for a woman Master, and the two closest characters to female Doctors the show has ever had (River Song and Clara) and the moment of concrete proof that Time Lords can change gender when they regenerate. All of which Steven Moffat gave us.

    I’m not an confrontational person, and I don’t like posting like this, but I predicted this kind of stuff the second the announcement was made. And the corners of the internet have sadly not disappointed me. But then I read some of the comments above, including the condescending dismissals, the assumptions about Moffat’s previous achievements to fit people’s prejudices, and the personal insults, and maybe you’re only giving your audience what they want. I’m glad I’m not a typical member of your audience.

    The write-ups of “The Good Fight” are still fun. I’ll keep reading those.

    Bye all

    • I’m actually impressed that you’re so unwilling to internalize and ponder a opinion contrary to yours that you have to write off every contrary opinion as “nonsense”. You play bafflement like you’ve contracted the vapors, I mean it would honestly be an impressive show if I didn’t see it on the internet 10 times every single day (also gotta love it when the flounce at the end)

      Hmm let’s see here we find a group of women (and otherwise identified folk) coming together on the internet (a “corner” of the internet you don’t normally frequent but instead chose to seek out in order to confirm your preconceived ideas hmmm) sharing in the idea that Steven Moffat doesn’t write very interesting female characters. *CLUTCHES PEARLS* could she mean it???????!! Could she truly mean that throughout the history of the written word someone has summoned together a more compelling depiction of humanity as expressed through the life of a woman than the great, noble, and possibly bisexual Clara Oswald? OF COURSE NOT. ONLY A PURE LACK OF REASON AND COMPLETE FAILURE TO GRASP THE MASCULINE PURSUIT OF LOGIC COULD BE THE EXPLINATION FOR THIS.

      Fetch my me my smelling salts, gents. The ladies are speaking gibberish and slithering across the yellow wallpaper again.

      (Also, for the record, comments like the one above are why I find it so exhausting to share my true opinions with men. They love it when you’re all “bouncy enthusiasm” but the second you express an opinion contrary to theirs it’s like you’ve blasphemed against their gods. Yuck.)

      • ‘Fetch my me my smelling salts, gents. The ladies are speaking gibberish and slithering across the yellow wallpaper again.’

        I just giggle snorted my tea out of my nose. Thank you Monique, thank you.

    • the gayest joke on Doctor Who ever was “buy me a drink first” “such hard work” “but worth it” (Boom Town) or “fifty two academics just punched the air” (The Shakespeare Code)

      Also, the two closest characters to a female Doctor? I’ll give you Clara, but are we forgetting the Doctor-Donna?

  13. I don’t trust Chibnall to give us a lady Doctor and do it right. If that happens, it has to happen under a female showrunner or one who has experience writing trans characters, and it has to be an older actress. Plus, given the choice between “the next Doctor is a white woman” and “the next Doctor is a man of color” I would pick the latter.
    Also, we should get the Rani back. Played by an Indian lady.
    BUT BIIIIIIILLLL omg omg i am fangirling so hard about Bill. i love her so.

  14. You have the right to hate him (even though I hold a really contrary opinion, but that’s for another day), but you do realize that Chibnall has NOTHING to do with the character and that Moffat is the one who actually created Bill and will be in charge of her arc throughout season 10 where he still will be showrunner ? And that it’s really unlikely that Bill will carry on throughout season 11 because Chibnall will likely want “clean slate” with a new Doctor and comapanion ?

    Attributing Bill (and her being written as a lesbian) to Chibnall is just plainly, factually wrong. Which, if you really dislike Moffat’s writing, should make you worried I guess ? But I hope you leave him the benefit of the doubt.

  15. I liked Davies Who better, but I like River Song, Amy, Clara, Jenny, Vastra, Missy, Ashildr and some more. If I like Bill that will be another female character by Moffat that I’ll have liked from this show.

    I’ll take Moffat ‘misogyny’ over Adam and Eddy (Once Upon a Time) misogyny any day. See also the misogyny by CW that’s happened to season 2 SuperGirl. Could Who be better, sure. If we’re grading on a curve, then count the blessings. I don’t get the hate, but I found it entertaining.

    I agree with the other female poster to an extent – what’s so terrible female wise about Moffat’s Dr Who again?

    It certainly went crazy het shippy and too much shipping is rarely good for most works of fiction and even less so for fandom. Plot over character is not good either, of course.

    As breather even blotted, Moffat laid ground work for a female doctor, so I’ll take that ‘retcon’. I have not seen stuff before the reboot, I do want to.

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