LGBTQ In The Worlds Of Doctor Who - Doctor Who The Fan Show

LGBTQ In The Worlds Of Doctor Who - Doctor Who The Fan Show

Christel Dee, Bethany Black, Benjamin Cook and Waris Hussein talk about LGBTQ in Doctor Who. (DOC: LGBTQ In The Worlds Of Doctor Who)

The ongoing and improving portrayal and representation of queer identities in the Doctor Who universe affects how many fans experience Doctor Who, (DOC: LGBTQ In The Worlds Of Doctor Who, REF: Queers Dig Time Lords) and has been considered an important issue by 21st century showrunners such as Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, and Chris Chibnall.[1][2]

Overview Edit

1963 - 1989 Edit

When interviewed for an episode of The Fan Show on LGBTQ+ issues and Doctor Who, Waris Hussein stated that Doctor Who in its original form, being a 1960s BBC children's programme, was not in his mind very associated with queer topics. The only connection he could make was that the character Tegana from Marco Polo was, in being "everything you could possibly associate with dark forces", a copious wearer of leather and thus a potential "fantasy figure" for gay audience members. (DOC: LGBTQ In The Worlds Of Doctor Who)

Within early decades of Doctor Who, some fans considered the Doctor to be asexual, using the Fourth Doctor's line in City of Death that Countess Scarlioni was "probably" beautiful as proof. (REF: The Television Companion) Tom Baker later identified that he played the Fourth Doctor to be asexual and clueless to human sexuality, sometimes for visual humour. (DOC: Getting Blood from the Stones) Sixth Doctor actor Colin Baker agreed with this theory, saying, "Love is a human emotion and the Doctor isn't human." (REF: The Television Companion) Asexuality is, however, a facet of human sexuality, and an estimated 0.4%-1% of adult British humans are asexual. [3] [4] Similarly, what Colin Baker describes is closer to aromanticism, which also manifests in a number of humans.

In an interview included in the DVD release of The Curse of Fenric, writer Ian Briggs revealed that the story's Dr Judson was intended to be — like the man he was based on, Alan Turing — struggling with his homosexuality, but this was ultimately cut as it was not at the time considered appropriate to discuss such topics in a family programme. Briggs instead transformed Turing's frustration at being unable to express his true sexual identity into Judson's frustration at being disabled. (DCOM: The Curse of Fenric)

According to Rona Munro, the writer of Survival, there was to be a lesbian subtext to the relationship between Ace and Karra. This raises the possibility of Ace being the first LGBT companion on screen. (DOC: Cat-Flap)

Through their continued use outside television, various characters from the original series of Doctor Who have since been identified as being queer. The 1996 Virgin New Adventures novel Happy Endings revealed that recurring Third Doctor era character Mike Yates had a male partner named Tom. Liz Shaw, another Third Doctor era character, had a relationship with Patricia Haggard in When to Die, a 2014 P.R.O.B.E. direct-to-video film produced as a tribute to Liz Shaw's late actress, Caroline John. In the 2016 Short Trips audio story A Full Life, the Fourth Doctor companion Adric was depicted as bisexual, in a timeline where he had a wife and later a husband. Harry Sullivan, another Fourth Doctor companion, was originally planned to be referenced along with a boyfriend in the 2017 episode Knock Knock from Series 10. In the final version of the episode that was broadcast, a character named Harry still mentioned his grandfather and his grandfather's boyfriend, but the lines that identified the grandfather as Harry Sullivan were cut, on the grounds that viewers in 2017 may not remember a companion from forty years earlier.[5]

1990 - 2004 Edit

Virgin Publishing's New Adventures saw the first unambiguous gay representation. [1]

Russell T Davies' novel Damaged Goods put significant focus on British gay culture of the 1980s, with the Doctor's companion Chris Cwej going to a club. Established via Cwej happily having sex with David Daniels in Damaged Goods, Cwej's apparent bisexuality was reinforced in Bad Therapy and The Room With No Doors, the former showing an empath notice that Cwej is interested in both men and women and the latter having an implied sexual relationship between Cwej and Joel Mintz.[6]

In 1995, the P.R.O.B.E. home video The Devil of Winterborne depicted a same-sex romance between its characters Luke Pendrell and Christian Purcell, including an onscreen kiss.

It was heavily controversial when the Eighth Doctor shared his first kiss with Grace Holloway in the 1996 TV Movie. (DOC: The Doctors Revisited - The Eighth Doctor) From the TV movie on, the Doctor had an active sexual and romantic life in the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures and the BBC Wales version of Doctor Who, not always heterosexual. The novel The Year of Intelligent Tigers, for instance, showed the Eighth Doctor in a relationship with Karl Sadeghi intended by author Kate Orman to be romantic and sexual. [7] Seeing I, another Orman-penned Eighth Doctor Adventure, portrayed companion Sam Jones as bisexual. In the novel, Sam had separate relationships with two male characters and a female character, Chris, over the course of her three year separation from the Doctor.

The 1999 comedic special The Curse of Fatal Death, written by Steven Moffat, doubled-down on the romantic potential introduced for the Doctor in the TV Movie, with the story's alternative Ninth Doctor intending to retire and marry his companion Emma, with whom he had developed a romantic and sexual relationship. Over the course of the special, after a series of regenerations, the Doctor eventually settles into a female incarnation who seems perfectly willing to go ahead with her marriage to Emma. Emma, on the other hand, seems uncomfortable at the idea, breaking the engagement.

DWM 328 kiss

Izzy Sinclair and Fey Truscott-Sade kiss in COMIC: Oblivion

Meanwhile, the ongoing Doctor Who Magazine comics introduced Izzy Sinclair as a companion for the Eighth Doctor. Izzy was decided to be a lesbian by Alan Barnes as he wrote her first story Endgame, and it was alluded to throughout her run of about six years. Izzy's character arc culminated in Oblivion with her finding the self-confidence to fully accept her homosexuality and kiss Fey Truscott-Sade. (Author's Commentary: Oblivion)

2005 - present Edit

With Doctor Who's return to television in 2005, Captain Jack Harkness became the first televised non-heterosexual companion. From then on, the programme — not to mention its more adult-oriented spin-off, Torchwood, with Jack in the lead — contained many references to various sexual orientations, and demonstrated the evolution of views towards homosexuality in humanity's future. In including this representation, Russell T Davies's intention was to express that, in his own words, "sexuality is fluid".[2]

In greater detail, Torchwood showed all members of the main cast in some sort of non-heterosexual situation in at least one episode of the series. (TV: Everything Changes, Day One, Cyberwoman, Greeks Bearing Gifts). One of the series' main focus was the relationship between Jack and his boyfriend, Ianto Jones, as well as including a subplot in Series 2 about John Hart, Jack's old male lover. (TV: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, etc) Steven Andrew, then Head of Drama and Acquisitions for CBBC, also requested that Davies put a gay character in The Sarah Jane Adventures, in an attempt to introduce a "normal" gay teenager into children's television. Before the show's cancellation, the plan was to have Luke Smith come out and eventually have a boyfriend, Sanjay. (DCOM: Death of the Doctor) [8]

Davies' tenure has not gone entirely without criticism, however. The series 1 episode Aliens of London was criticised for a scene where Rose Tyler calls the Ninth Doctor "gay" after expressing his displeasure at being slapped by Jackie Tyler, with objections coming from its use as an insult. Episode writer Russell T Davies, an openly gay man, defended the line, saying he was trying to reflect how people talk in real life.[9]

Beyond television, 2011 brought the First Doctor a gay male companion from the 1960s, Oliver Harper. Oliver comes out to the Doctor and Steven in Big Finish's The Cold Equations. He was ashamed and afraid to reveal his sexuality to them, in fear of getting kicked out of the TARDIS, as homosexuality was criminalised in his time, but the Doctor assures him that this persecution was "society's crime", and not Oliver's.

After becoming showrunner of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat continued to introduce a number of queer characters, such as Day of the Moon's Canton Everett Delaware III, whose longing to marry a man in 20th century America where this is legally impossible is given focus.

Most notable were the recurring characters of the Victorian Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint, a married lesbian couple, introduced as such in A Good Man Goes to War. A line in companion Clara Oswald's debut Asylum of the Daleks also established her, from the get-go, to have had experience with at least one woman, though her apparent bisexuality would only be elaborated on fleetingly in later stories, only becoming explicit and undeniable in Moffat's 2017 The Day of the Doctor novelisation.

2014 saw the release of the comic The Swords of Kali, which featured Rani Jhulka, an openly lesbian woman and the final appearance onscreen of Jenny and Vastra in Deep Breath, although they would continue to appear in tie-in novels and comics.

Bill and Heather kiss

Bill Potts and Heather kiss in TV: The Doctor Falls.

The 2016 TV spin-off Class, written by Patrick Ness, featured a gay romance between central characters Charlie Smith and Matteusz Andrzejewski.[1]

2017 saw the debut of televised Doctor Who's first openly gay full-time companion, Bill Potts.[10] Created by Moffat, Bill's sexual preference was fully established from the beginning of her debut episode, The Pilot, and the character would go on to start a romance with Heather, with the novelisation of Twice Upon a Time revealing that the two of them eventually settled down together.

2017 also saw Big Finish introduce Orr to the Torchwood Three team, beginning with their Aliens Among Us series. Though they are an alien, and thus don't strictly count as nonbinary human representation, Orr uses they/them pronouns and opts for Mx in place of binary gendered honourifics (like Mr, Ms or Mrs). The team quickly comes to support and validate them, even amid the initial confusion which some characters express on first encountering someone who does not fit neatly into any conception of gender with which they're yet familiar. It was important to Russell T Davies, as well, that the new team include a particular kind of gay representation which he saw as important to the modern era: the older gay man, here St John Colchester, who is settled down with his husband, Colin.

2018 saw some of the first prominent and positive transgender human representation in Doctor Who thus far, with Russell T Davies' Sally Salter in PROSE: Rose and Alan Flanagan's Eleanor Blake in AUDIO: The Jabari Countdown.

Previously, trans representation had mostly been confined to one-off lines, like in Torchwood's Greeks Bearing Gifts, which many have read as derisive and transphobic. The character of a horse in A Town Called Mercy, who the Eleventh Doctor says prefers to be called Susan due to "life choices", has also attracted criticism as a wholly disrespectful joke. More debatable is the case of Cassandra O'Brien.Δ17, who refers in The End of the World to having once been a "little boy" and is simultaneously painted as a prime example of someone who's excessively modified their body, and said for this reason by Rose to be less than human; if the "little boy" line is taken at face value, Rose's treatment of Cassandra and her surgery becomes much more problematic,[11][12] though it is far from certain that this was the intended reading of the scene, with the "boy" line quite possibly being meant to instead be one of Cassandra's egregious mistakes about her hazily-remembered life on Earth — meaning Cassandra would not constitute trans representation of any kind, good or bad.

Series 11 in 2019 saw multiple appearances of queer side characters, like Angstrom in The Ghost Monument, Frankie Ellish in Arachnids in the UK, or Richard in Resolution. Ongoing criticism from within the queer community surrounded the nature of the representation in series 11: each time a queer character is introduced, usually by mentioning a off-screen partner, that character either dies themselves immediately thereafter, or their partner has. One commentator saw this as Chris Chibnall and company "throwing diverse characters into the plot without considering the consequences, or the tropes that they're fulfilling, by not taking enough care. [...] I don't think that they were actively, like, Let's murder all the queer characters, but they did that because they weren't paying attention." Furthermore, she continued, the queer characters seemed to be the only ones made to "randomly mention partners" as their death approaches.[13]

Adam Jake kiss-Praxeus

Kiss between Adam Lang and Jake Willis inside the TARDIS in TV: Praxeus.

2020 saw the return of Captain Jack in Fugitive of the Judoon and the introduction of married couple Jake Willis and Adam Lang in Praxeus. Notably, both Adam and Jake survive to the end of the story.

Instances of representation by category Edit

Asexuality and aromanticism Edit

As detailed earlier, the question of the Doctor's sexuality was always a controversial one, with one of the most enduring pieces of fanon being that the Doctor, and possibly Time Lords as a species, were asexual. Sixth Doctor actor Colin Baker (REF: The Television Companion), Eleventh Doctor actor Matt Smith[14] and Fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker (DOC: Getting Blood from the Stones) all identified their respective Doctors as asexual (and in Colin Baker's case, aromantic) and clueless to human sexuality, using this as a basis for visual humour and as a way to emphasise the Doctor's alien nature (this even though asexuality and aromanticism are, in fact, a perfectly extant facet of human sexuality, with an estimated 0.4%-1% of adult British humans being asexual[3] [4]). The novel Lungbarrow showed Time Lords to indeed reproduce non-sexually, though it did not, strictly speaking, confirm or deny asexuality or aromanticism in Time Lords.

Bisexuality and pansexuality Edit

The 2016 Short Trip A Full Life shows an adult Adric who has, at separate times, a wife and a husband.

In the special 2011 minisode Space/Time, Amy Pond briefly began to act flirtatious with a time-displaced copy of herself, with the Eleventh Doctor commenting "this is how it all ends: Pond flirting with herself. True love at last. …Sorry, Rory."

Clara Oswald was repeatedly shown to be attracted both to men and women, beginning in her first appearance as one of her splinters, Oswin Oswald, who, in Asylum of the Daleks, mentions that her first kiss was someone called Nina. The prime Clara would go on to find the appearance of her own past self attractive in Listen, mention having greatly enjoyed kissing Jane Austen in The Magician's Apprentice and to consider going on a date with Kate Stewart (as well as complimenting Elizabeth I's own kissing skills) in Steven Moffat's novelisation of The Day of the Doctor.

The 2020 The Diary of River Song audio story, Carnival of Angels, had Luke Sullieman expressing attraction for both male and female characters.

Homosexuality Edit

Bill Potts, a full-time companion in Series 10, was the first such companion on televised Who to be openly gay, and began a romance with Heather.

Omnisexuality Edit

Steven Moffat has revealed on Twitter that River Song, coming from the same 51st century as Jack Harkness, is just as omnisexual.[15]

Trans representation Edit

Transgender identities were addressed briefly, in a notoriously less-than-sympathetic light, in the Torchwood series 1 episode Greeks Bearing Gifts. A scene has Jack Harkness recounting a time when a former co-worker of his, a "regular guy" called Vincent, who had a girlfriend and liked beer, disappeared for a couple of months and came back asking to be called Vanessa. Throughout his anecdote, Jack continually referred to Vanessa with male pronouns while continually deadnaming her.

Positive representation of transgender individuals, though minor, finally came in the novelisation of Rose in the form of Sally Salter, a friend of Mickey Smith who was a member of his Bad Wolf band.

The Big Finish audio story The Jabari Countdown went on to introduce Eleanor Blake, the first trans character in the DWU to play a major role, helping to save the Earth with the Seventh Doctor, and sharing a brief romance with Chris Cwej.

Behind the scenes presence Edit

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Although Doctor Who would go a number of years after its inception before having LGBTQ individuals openly represented within its universe, members of the community have contributed their talents to the franchise for much longer, as far back, from a retroactive standpoint, as its very first episode. Waris Hussein, who directed the shows opening serial, An Unearthly Child, as well as several episodes of in the serial Morco Polo, came out in 2017.

In terms of openly gay individuals to have worked on the show, the earliest and most well known instance was the shows longest-running producer, John Nathan-Turner, who took on the role, having previously worked as a production member on the series, beginning from Season 18 and seeing out the final ten years of the shows "classic" run.

The most famous presence was Russell T Davies, who revived Doctor Who with Series 1 and continued to act as showrunner until The End of Time. His tenure saw him bring LGBT representation into televised Who for the first time, beginning with the introduction of the shows first openly queer character during the first series. Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman, who is openly gay. Before reviving Doctor Who, Davies wrote the Virgin New Adventures novel Damaged Goods.

A large number of other gay actors besides John Barrowman have been cast in the series, especially during Davies' tenure, such as Andrew Hayden-Smith and Russell Tovey, both of whom played implicitely non-straight characters (in Hayden-Smith's case, the implication occurred in a deleted scene). The initial reintroduction of the Master to the modern series saw him being played for the first time by an openly gay actor in the form of Derek Jacobi, though the casting had no noticeable inpact on the Master's possible sexual orientation.

Some gay actors had also been cast in the classic series though, in most cases, these were before said actors had made their sexuality public, such as Matthew Waterhouse, who played Adric. Very few gay actors who appeared in the classic series had their sexual orientations known publically, primarily due to the different social climate of the time, where being gay was nowhere near as socially acceptable, with homosexual acts even still being considered a criminal offence in the UK during the first four years of the shows run. Max Adrian, a gay actor who played Priam in the 1965 serial The Myth Makers, was one of these rare exceptions. The fact that his character never shared any scenes with the First Doctor in the serial sparked the myth that William Hartnell refused to work alongside him because of his sexuality (as well as the fact that he was Jewish). Their lack of scenes together were purely coincidental, however, and no record exists of Hartnell possessing such intolerant views.

Another notable individual to have lent their talents to the Virgin New Adventures range before moving on to modern televised Doctor Who was openly gay Gareth Roberts, who wrote for both televised Who as well as various episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Roberts' most recent planned contribution, to the Target Storybook (2019), was removed before publication in response to a series of transphobic tweets the writer had made in 2017. Roberts' removal further enforced the Doctor Who franchises status as an ally to the transgender community.

Bethany Black was Doctor Who's first transgender actress on television, who played the character 474 in Sleep No More. Rebecca Root was the first trans actress on audio, voicing the character Sable in Zaltys and Cantico in Partisans.

Previously, trans woman writer Lilah Sturges wrote the IDW comic story A Fairytale Life, although she had not come out at the time, and was credited under her birth name. More recently, Juno Dawson, another trans woman, wrote the BBC New Series Adventures novel The Good Doctor.

In the modern day, celebrity queer actors such as Alan Cumming and Stephen Fry have been cast in the series, as James I and C respectively.

Reception Edit

Accolades Edit

Doctor Who received a Ally Award at the 2017 PinkNews Awards for its "long-standing LGBT inclusiveness". The award was picked up by Bill Potts actress Pearl Mackie, alongside executive producer Brian Minchin.[16]

Controversies Edit

As the subject of LGBTQ rights is still seen as a sensitive issue in many communities across the world, including countries were such issues are still seen as taboo, the DWU's queer representation has not gone without its controversies.

A scene in Doctor Who series 8 opener Deep Breath, where Madam Vastra gives oxygen to her wife Jenny Flint via a mouth-to-mouth kiss, generated 6 complaints to Ofcom, with grievances directed at what had been branded as the promotion of a "blatant gay agenda".[17] Ofcom responded to these complaints by confirming that they would not investigating the case.[18] The scene went on to recieve even more controversy when it was cut from Asian broadcasts of the episode in order to comply with Singapore's broadcast code.[19]

Footnotes Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Scott, Darren (5 October 2018). Doctor Who's LGBTQ+ representation is nothing new – but it took us a long while to get there. Digital Spy. Retrieved on 24 January 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Winehouse, Alex (21 June 2011). Torchwood, Doctor Who Crossover Rumour Denied. Gigwise. Retrieved on 17 December 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Wellings, K. (1994). Sexual Behaviour in Britain: The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. Penguin Books.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Nancy L. Fischer; Steven Seidman (2016). Introducing the New Sexuality Studies. Routledge. p. 183. ISBN 978-1317449188. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  5. Fraser McAlpine. ‘Doctor Who’: 10 Things You May Not Know About ‘Knock Knock’. BBC America. Archived from the original on 2020-02-04. Retrieved on 2020-02-04. “Mike Bartlett, who wrote this episode, originally planned for the character Harry to be the grandson of the Fourth Doctor’s beefy companion Harry Sullivan. He told Doctor Who Magazine: “It was a reference I enjoyed hugely, because I love Harry Sullivan. And housemate Harry has, I think, a similar sort of attitude, of energetic sort of pluck. It was decided that, in 2017, people might not remember one companion from 40-odd years ago. So it got cut.””
  6. To clarify the nature of Chris Cwej and Joel Mintz's relationship, Kate Orman later contributed a sex scene between the two, set during The Room With No Doors, to the Craig Hinton memorial charity book Shelf Life.
  8. Hypable Staff (5 July 2013). Russell T. Davies dishes on 'The Doctor Who' spin-off: 'The Sarah Jane Adventures'. Hypable. Retrieved on 17 December 2013.
  9. Burk, Graeme; Smith?, Robert (6 March 2012). "Series 1". Who Is the Doctor: The Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who-The New Series (1st ed.). ECW Press. pp. 3–62. ISBN 1-55022-984-2.
  11. "Michelle Kerry" (27 January 2015). Little Boxes Will Make You Angry: Doctor Who and Transphobia. Doctor Who TV. Retrieved on 9 December 2015.
  12. STFU Moffat haters (via Queer as in F*ck You) (15 September 2012). Wait, why do you dislike Toby Whithouse? I mean,.... Tumblr. Retrieved on 9 December 2015.
  13. "Ep 101: Resolution of the Daleks". The Web of Queer.
  14. Reynolds, Andrew (16 July 2011). Smith: 'Doctor Prefers to Play Chess'. Kasterborous. Retrieved on 17 December 2013.
  15. Hogan, Heather (14 May 2012). "Doctor Who" boss reveals River Song is bisexual, "Desperate Housewives" boss slaps lesbian fans in the face on the way out the door. Retrieved on 17 May 2012.
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