For more than 50 years Doctor Who has treated fans and viewers to adventures across space and time, to impossible worlds to defeat unfathomable enemies. However, Doctor Who Season 10 will do something that the venerable science fiction franchise has never done before: feature an openly gay companion.
Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie, is Doctor Who’s first gay companion. The BBC announced this ahead of time with a video message from Mackie, but Bill’s sexuality will also reportedly be clear from her second line of dialogue on the show.
"It shouldn't be a big deal in the 21st Century. It's about time isn't it?" Mackie told the BBC. "That 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,” Mackie continues. “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 recognize yourself on screen is important. [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."
The Doctor has had non-straight guest companions in the past. Captain Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman, was pansexual, though that partly reflected the very different attitudes towards sexuality that humans have in the 51st century, where Jack was from. River Song, the Doctor’s wife who was played by Alex Kingston, was bisexual. There were also some hints that the previous companion, Clara Oswald played by Jenna Coleman, was bisexual, but Clara's sexual orientation was never addressed explicitly.
However, this will be the first time that the Doctor’s co-star, the lead companion, will be openly gay. Pearl Mackie’s popularity has gone through the roof since being announced as the new companion for Peter Capaldi’s final season as the Doctor (as well as Steven Moffat’s final season as showrunner), and this announcement will likely buoy that popularity even further.
"My Twitter follower count went from 400-and-something to 16,500 in about two hours, so that was pretty mental," Mackie says. "But it's been really nice, everyone seems to be really excited. It's sort of like being welcomed into a family and all the fans have been really welcoming."
The introduction of a gay companion is certainly a progressive move by the long-running series. Could a female Thirteenth Doctor be next?
Bill Potts will make her official debut on Doctor Who when Season 10 premieres on April 15 on BBC America.