It goes without saying that representation is important. We need characters from all walks of life to normalise our differences. It may not feel important to everyone but to someone, seeing a character reflect who they are, especially someone young and struggling to find their place in the world, it means everything.
That said, individuals change quicker that organisations, especially ones with a remit to reach as wide an audience as possible – so when it came to sharing the news that new companion Bill Potts is gay – reactions felt a little self-congratulatory to an audience that had come to accept that, yes, Doctor Who is inclusive.
The reaction to the news did not go unnoticed. Steven Moffat, speaking at last night’s press screening for Series 10 opener, The Pilot, said that the furore that greeted the news that the Doctor’s latest assistant will be a gay woman as “nonsense” and said it constituted the “minimal level of representation” we should see on television.
Moffat said he had been taken aback by “all the fuss” the news had generated. “In a way there shouldn’t be any” he said.
“Just to be clear, we are not expecting any kind of round of applause or pat in the back for that. That is the minimal level of representation we should have on television and the correct response would be: ‘What took you so long?’ not ‘We’re so great.’”
Bill’s sexuality is made clear from opening moments of the first episode, which will air over Easter weekend, and she isn’t the first gay or bisexual character to feature in Doctor Who, such as John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness, Neve McIntosh’s Vastra, and Alex Kingston’s River Song.
For a long time the show had been communicating that it was perfectly acceptable, and perfectly ordinary to be LGBT; it’s something that Moffat knows is an important message to send out – especially to the shows younger viewers.
“It is important we don’t make a big fuss about it in a show that communicates directly with children,” he said. “You don’t want young kids who regard themselves as boring and normal and happen to fancy their own gender to feel as if they’re some kind of special case. That’s frightening.”
Mackie also added that sexuality was not the defining feature of her character and that she had really nothing more to add on the subject. “I think Steven’s covered it really,” she said. “People are gay, so yeah.”
Doctor Who returns with The Pilot on April 15th on BBC One.