Bill Potts is going to be openly queer from the very beginning of her journey with Doctor Who’s titular Time Lord.
Pearl Mackie revealed to BBC that her character Bill, the Doctor’s new companion, will be the first openly queer full-time companion in Doctor Who history. Supposedly, this fact will be made apparent within Bill’s first few lines in the series, and Mackie couldn’t be happier, speaking to both the character and representation as a whole:
“It shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st Century. It’s about time isn’t it? 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. 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.”
Having an openly queer character who’s open from the beginning running around with the Doctor as a companion is, as Kaila Hale-Stern from The Mary Sue points out, a relief. “They don’t save this as some kind of big reveal,” Hale-Stern writes. “It’s just, quite simply, another part of who Bill is.”
That’s not to say that Doctor Who hasn’t had openly queer characters before. It’s just been a long time since any of them were on the show, and they’ve never been series regulars. Captain Jack Harkness, Madame Vastra, and Jenny Flint were all openly queer; they just weren’t around all the time.
And while there’s no report as to what, exactly, Bill identifies as — there are no labels yet — this seems like Doctor Who is taking a step in the more diverse direction again, even if the next Doctor doesn’t turn out to be female.
Doctor Who returns to BBC and BBC America April 15, 2017.