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Doctor Who's new companion is a triumph for diversity in TV
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3.5/FIVE

THE show that everybody knows even if not everybody watches it is back for a tenth season.

The season premiere on Easter weekend saw the Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, joined by a brand new companion, university student Bill, played by Pearl Mackie.

In the first episode entitled “The Pilot,”  The Doctor has retired his time-travelling TARDIS to become a lecturer in a university, on pretty much any subject he fancies. Bill, a chip server in the university’s canteen, is offered a place at the uni by The Doctor as she is always sneaking into his lectures. And right on cue, freaky alien shit happens.

Bill is crushing on a student called Heather who appears to like her back. All seems well. Unfortunately, this is Doctor Who, and nothing is straight forward. Spoiler alert: Heather is killed and possessed by alien space fuel, of course.

Good ol’ BBC is really pushing the diversity boat out with Bill as she is both mixed race and a lesbian. Doctor Who and its many spin-off shows have included ethnic minority and LGBT characters in the past, but the last non-white companion was ten years ago and the main companion has never been gay. So Bill is a character who really champions intersectionality, representing the diverse modern society in which we live.

Bill is perhaps the only keen university student to ever exist. Source: doctorwho.tv

Whenever a minority is found to be represented in a popular mainstream show, you always get the congratulatory articles saying ‘well done’ to the BBC or ‘this is great for insert minority group here.’ You also get the not-so- congratulatory ones. After the episode aired, I found finding reviews online constantly referring to a response by feminist campaigner Julie Bindel.

Bindel stated that Bill being a lesbian ‘is something that is clearly done for the benefit of those who just think of it as girl-on-girl titillation.’ This feminist campaigner is essentially claiming that Bill is included in the show simply to please straight male viewers interested in girl on girl action.

 

“Dismissing Bill’s lesbianism as ‘girl-on-girl titlation’ for straight male viewers is a confusing and ridiculous assumption.” 

 

Bill’s crush on fellow student Heather is without a doubt the driving force of the episode. However, claiming its inclusion simply as ‘girl-on-girl titillation’ is a confusing and ridiculous assumption since Bill and Heather never have sex, kiss, or even really touch at all. Bill and Heather’s liking for each other is shown subtly and tenderly but is shown as normal and unremarkable as any straight relationship would have been.

Doesn’t get more ‘titlating’ than this, really. Source: doctorwho.tv

Since season 7, Doctor Who had become too complicated and convoluted. Its formula of a companion seeing the universe and being amazed by space and time travel had been lost and it wasn’t feeling like Doctor Who anymore. However, the show appears to be returning to its roots and I look forward to seeing how this season will develop and what direction it will take.

Season 10 of Doctor Who will be airing every Saturday on BBC One, with the first episode currently available on BBC iPlayer. Why don’t you take some time out from your non-time travelling realities and give it a watch?