+
upworthy
More

Doctor Who's newest companion is adventurous, inquisitive, and openly gay.

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.

Planet

Easy (and free!) ways to save the ocean

The ocean is the heart of our planet. It needs our help to be healthy.

Ocean Wise

Volunteers at a local shoreline cleanup

True

The ocean covers over 71% of the Earth’s surface and serves as our planet’s heart. Ocean currents circulate vital heat, moisture, and nutrients around the globe to influence and regulate our climate, similar to the human circulatory system. Cool, right?

Our ocean systems provide us with everything from fresh oxygen to fresh food. We need it to survive and thrive—and when the ocean struggles to function healthfully, the whole world is affected.

Pollution, overfishing, and climate change are the three biggest challenges preventing the ocean from doing its job, and it needs our help now more than ever. Humans created the problem; now humans are responsible for solving it.

#BeOceanWise is a global rallying cry to do what you can for the ocean, because we need the ocean and the ocean needs us. If you’re wondering how—or if—you can make a difference, the answer is a resounding YES. There are a myriad of ways you can help, even if you don’t live near a body of water. For example, you can focus on reducing the amount of plastic you purchase for yourself or your family.

Another easy way to help clean up our oceans is to be aware of what’s known as the “dirty dozen.” Every year, scientists release an updated list of the most-found litter scattered along shorelines. The biggest culprit? Single-use beverage and food items such as foam cups, straws, bottle caps, and cigarette butts. If you can’t cut single-use plastic out of your life completely, we understand. Just make sure to correctly recycle plastic when you are finished using it. A staggering 3 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans annually. Imagine the difference we could make if everyone recycled!

The 2022 "Dirty Dozen" ListOcean Wise

If you live near a shoreline, help clean it up! Organize or join an effort to take action and make a positive impact in your community alongside your friends, family, or colleagues. You can also tag @oceanwise on social if you spot a beach that needs some love. The location will be added to Ocean Wise’s system so you can submit data on the litter found during future Shoreline Cleanups. This data helps Ocean Wise work with businesses and governments to stop plastic pollution at its source. In Canada, Ocean Wise data helped inform a federal ban on unnecessary single-use plastics. Small but important actions like these greatly help reduce the litter that ends up in our ocean.

Ocean Wise, a conservation organization on a mission to restore and protect our oceans, is focused on empowering and educating everyone from individuals to governments on how to protect our waters. They are making conservation happen through five big initiatives: monitoring and protecting whales, fighting climate change and restoring biodiversity, innovating for a plastic-free ocean, protecting and restoring fish stocks, and finally, educating and empowering youth. The non-profit believes that in order to rebuild a resilient and vibrant ocean within the next ten years, everyone needs to take action.

Become an Ocean Wise ally and share your knowledge with others. The more people who know how badly the ocean needs our help, the better! Now is a great time to commit to being a part of something bigger and get our oceans healthy again.

Innovation

A student accidentally created a rechargeable battery that could last 400 years

"This thing has been cycling 10,000 cycles and it’s still going." ⚡️⚡️

There's an old saying that luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.

There's no better example of that than a 2016 discovery at the University of California, Irvine, by doctoral student Mya Le Thai. After playing around in the lab, she made a discovery that could lead to a rechargeable battery that could last up to 400 years. That means longer-lasting laptops and smartphones and fewer lithium ion batteries piling up in landfills.

Keep ReadingShow less

How anger and irritability can disguise depression

Anger is such a weird emotion and it's totally not anger's fault. It's just existing for valid reasons but shows up when we feel like it shouldn't. The thing with anger is that in many cases it acts as a coat for an underlying emotion hiding that for some reason or another isn't ready to be revealed.

But sometimes anger is hiding something bigger than a fleeting emotion. Emma McAdam, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and host of the YouTube channel, Therapy in a Nutshell, posted a video explaining how anger and irritability can actually be a symptom of depression.

The video really breaks down how the media portrays depression versus some of the lesser known symptoms of depression. When people think of depression, they often imagine someone that's extremely sad all the time and struggling to do basic skills. But depression can show up hidden behind other symptoms like irritability, insomnia, loss of appetite, and lack of focus.

Keep ReadingShow less
Science

Researchers dumped tons of coffee waste into a forest. This is what it looks like now.

30 dump truck loads and two years later, the forest looks totally different.

One of the biggest problems with coffee production is that it generates an incredible amount of waste. Once coffee beans are separated from cherries, about 45% of the entire biomass is discarded.

So for every pound of roasted coffee we enjoy, an equivalent amount of coffee pulp is discarded into massive landfills across the globe. That means that approximately 10 million tons of coffee pulp is discarded into the environment every year.

Keep ReadingShow less

How to end hunger, according to the people who face it daily

Here’s what people facing food insecurity want you to know about solving the hunger problem in America

Even though America is the world’s wealthiest nation, about 1 in 6 of our neighbors turned to food banks and community programs in order to feed themselves and their families last year. Think about it: More than 9 million children faced hunger in 2021 (1 in 8 children).

In order to solve a problem, we must first understand it. Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, released its second annual Elevating Voices: Insights Report and turned to the experts—people experiencing hunger—to find out how this issue can be solved once and for all.

Here are the four most important things people facing hunger want you to know.

Keep ReadingShow less

An ambulance, a Waffle House and an angry bison.

While the United States is undeniably one of the most culturally dominant countries in the world, its depth and complexity go far beyond what most people understand before seeing it for themselves.

The U.S. is a melting pot of diverse cultures, histories and landscapes, creating a rich and complex national tapestry that takes time and travel to truly comprehend. Heck, even Americans ourselves have a hard time understanding each other from time to time.

It's a place where every state can feel like its own little world, each with its own traditions, accents and cuisines. So, it’s understandable that when many people from around the world visit for the first time, there are some things they probably wished they had known ahead of time.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Service dog flunks out of training school in spectacular fashion

The other dogs can't believe what they are seeing.

Double H Canine Academy in Louisville, Kentucky is a place where dog owners can take their rambunctious pets and have them turned into respectable members of the family.

However, as you can tell in this hilarious video, not all dogs are meant to follow orders.

Keep ReadingShow less