+

The 36th season premiere of "Doctor Who" treated viewers to something they had never seen before in the show's 54-year history.

Photo courtesy of BBC Worldwide Limited.

The Doctor's newest companion and co-star is Bill Potts, an openly gay woman.

The Doctor (who has been played by 13 different actors over the years) always has a traveling companion to keep him grounded on his adventures throughout time and space. His companions are almost always female, often young, and conventionally attractive. Their relationships are not always romantic, but as is the case in many shows featuring male and female leads, the romantic and sexual tension is always there, hovering in the subtext.


New companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) is different. She's gay, a fact that she mentions nonchalantly during her first conversation with the Doctor, seconds after appearing on screen.

Photo courtesy of BBC Worldwide Limited.

Bill's sexual orientation is not the most interesting thing about her character. That's a good thing.

Viewers see her inquisitive nature, her determination as she audits classes at the university she can't afford to attend, and her sense of adventure before the first act is over. Her positive demeanor and radiant attitude draw viewers in instantly. The fact that she happens to be gay is just another facet of her character. It doesn't define her.

The Doctor doesn't bat an eye in reaction to the news, and Mackie hopes the response will be the same in real life. "It shouldn't be a big deal in the 21st century. It's about time, isn't it?" she told the BBC.

Showrunner and writer Steven Moffat had a more "Moffatesque" response to the overwhelming attention given to this plot point:

"So just to be clear, we are not expecting any kind of round of applause or pat on the back for [introducing a gay companion]. That is the minimum level of representation you should have on television, and the correct response should be, 'What took you so long?'” he answered when asked about it at the premiere.

Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images.

In 54 years, the Doctor's companions have all looked and acted pretty similarly.

Depending on who you ask and how they count repeat appearances, anywhere between 30 and 40 companions have taken adventures with the Doctor(and yes, I do count James Corden as one of them).

Looking at the companions featured before Bill Potts since "Doctor Who" was rebooted in 2005, all of the Doctor's long-term female companions have been young and straight. Almost all of them have been white, with big eyes and pouty lips. Other characters often assume they are romantically involved with the Doctor even if they aren't, a pattern that has led to Moffat getting grilled for creating companions who are just there to flirt with the Doctor.

All photos by BBC/Everett Collection.

We have yet to see how Bill Potts will develop over the series — or whether she'll fall victim to one of the most common endings for queer characters: the "bury your gays" trope. GLAAD's annual report on LGBTQ inclusion found that almost 10% of the LGBTQ characters on the shows they analyzed died or were killed.

From the pilot alone, however, Mackie's Bill is a welcome breath of fresh air and representation that "Doctor Who" has sorely needed.

LGBTQ lead roles in television are on the rise, but there is still much work to do.

In the seasons of "Doctor Who" that have aired since 2005, just 3% of its characters have been LGBTQ. That's not great, considering the show has an incredibly large universe to play around in and explore.

Broadcast television as a whole fares slightly better, but not by much: In 2017, just 4.8% of characters on broadcast series (not including Netflix other streaming services) identify as LGBTQ, according to GLAAD. That's the highest percentage GLAAD has ever seen, according to the report.

Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images.

The TARDIS — the name of the Doctor's blue police call box spaceship — comes with the familiar phrase, "It's bigger on the inside." With the introduction of the first openly gay lead character on the show, audience members are finally seeing the inclusiveness exhibited across all dimensions and time in the Who-verse.  

The BBC has mandated that by 2020 at least 8% of all on-screen characters must be LGBTQ. Whether Moffat's creation of Bill Potts came about organically or because of this mandate, it shows us what this world can look like if we let everyone play. When writers create characters out of their established comfort zones, it reinforces that good things can happen on screen and in real life.

This era of "Doctor Who" — and our TV media landscape — is finally catching up with universes thousands of years in the future. It's about damn time.

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

Honorees, speakers and guests on stage at We the Peoples

True

Some people say that while change is inevitable, progress is a choice. In other words, it’s a purposeful act—like when American media mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner established the United Nations Foundation 25 years ago.

Keep ReadingShow less

Delivering packages AND safety.

This article first appeared on 6.15.22.

Amazon delivery drivers don’t have the easiest job in the world. Sitting through traffic, working in extreme temperatures, hauling boxes … not exactly a fun time. So when a driver goes out of their way to be extra considerate—people notice.

One delivery driver has gone viral for the way she delivered a little bit of safety education, along with some lighthearted advice. The TikTok video of the encounter, which now has more than 4 million views, was shared by Jessica Huseman, who had only recently moved into her new house.

The clip shows the doorbell cam recording of the driver approaching the house. As the delivery driver makes it to the front door, she sings, ”Hello … I hope your Monday’s going well. You have no markers on your house that says what number you are.”

From there, the driver’s song quickly changes tune, going from funny jest to helpful PSA.

Keep ReadingShow less
True

Innovation is awesome, right? I mean, it gave us the internet!

However, there is always a price to pay for modernization, and in this case, it’s in the form of digital eye strain, a group of vision problems that can pop up after as little as two hours of looking at a screen. Some of the symptoms are tired and/or dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain1. Ouch!

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

10 things that made us smile this week

An update on the 'corn kid,' a powerful airport haka, some moving mama-baby reunions and more in this week's roundup of joy.

Image by Robert Vincent from Pixabay

Upworthy's weekly roundup of joy.

Thanksgiving week in the U.S. is a time for practicing gratitude, and we want to take just a moment to give thanks to you.

You, dear readers, are a big part of Upworthy's mission to celebrate the best of humanity and to show how people can be a force for good. Every time you share our stories, drop a positive comment on a post or tell a friend about something you saw here, you help create the world we all want to live in. A world where kindness and compassion are the norm, where humanity flourishes in all its beautiful diversity and where genuine joy and laughter abound.

Without you, we'd just be throwing all this good stuff into the ether, so we are so very grateful you are here.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Guy forgot to change his address in his Chipotle app and it resulted in the sweetest exchange

"Take it with you bro" turned into a tear-jerking story of human connection.

Shahid Davis told a delivery driver to keep his meal and the result was a sweet moment of human connection.

This article first appeared on 3.3.22.

Sometimes the silliest of mistakes can result in the sweetest of coincidences.

Shahid Davis had ordered dinner from the Chipotle app and was checking on the map to see how far away the driver was when he realized that the driver was half a continent away. Davis had been staying at a hotel in Iowa the last time he ordered, and he forgot to go back and change the delivery address to his home in Hagerstown, Maryland. He contacted Chipotle, but the customer service person told him they couldn't do anything since it was already out for delivery.

So when the delivery person texted Davis to let him know they were there, he explained what happened.

"I'm here with your order," the person texted.

"Take it with you bro and enjoy the lunch," Davis responded. "I forgot to change my address and I currently in Maryland."

Keep ReadingShow less

Megan Montgomery and Jason McIntosh.

This article originally appeared on 12.16.19


If you were to look at Megan Montgomery's Instagram account, you'd see a beautiful, smiling woman in the prime of her life, her youth and fitness the envy of women the world over. You'd even see some photos of her with her husband (#datenight), with comments saying things like "Aww, gorgeous couple!"

But beneath her picture perfect feed was the story of a woman in an abusive relationship with her husband—one that would start with his arrest shortly after they got married, and end 10 months later with him shooting her to death in a parking lot.

In a Facebook post, one of the people who was out with Megan the night of her murder detailed how her estranged husband had come to their table, put his hand on her neck and shoulder, and escorted her out of the building.

Keep ReadingShow less