The Doctor always manages to regenerate into a white man. And while the titular Time Lord of Doctor Who has had many companions over the years, only a few have been people of color. Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) is the Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) first companion who is an openly queer woman of color, and, rightfully so, Season 10 of Who won’t be shying away from that. According to showrunner Steven Moffat, the writers “didn’t see an alternative” to addressing race.
“History is always whitewashed,” Moffat told TV Guide. “How do we manage to have a diverse cast despite that? The way that we did it was … [to just] say that you will see people of different colors there. In fact, there were. People all didn’t arrive in the twinkle of an eye. It is bending history slightly, but in a progressive and useful way.”
The preview for Season 10, Episode 3, “Thin Ice,” has Bill saying to the Doctor that Regency England is “a bit more black than they show in the movies,” keeping in line with Moffat’s note about history always being whitewashed. And it is oh-so-true.
“Also, it wouldn’t be a pleasant place for [Bill] in several respects,” Moffat said. “Taking that on is just respectful of the audience really,” he continues. “It’s a chance to — I’m always reluctant to sound so pious and so do-gooding and all of that. It’s useful that these things are talked about. The evil in Doctor Who can sometimes be the evil in our real world, too.”
Danny Pink was the most recent non-white companion and before him it was Martha, who also dealt with historical racism and sexism while adventuring through time and space with David Tennant’s 10th Doctor. Bill will simply be the next companion to deal with this disturbing reality, although she’ll also have the added pressure of identifying as queer.
If the show continues down this path, then Moffat could truly have a triumphant final season of Who on his hands, and Bill could be one of the most relevant characters in the show’s history — not that she isn’t already.
Doctor Who’s third episode of Season 10, “Thin Ice,” airs Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern on BBC and BBC America.