Doctor Who’s Ncuti Gatwa and Russell T. Davies on Bringing Out the Doctor’s Queerness

Doctor Who’s Ncuti Gatwa and Russell T. Davies on Bringing Out the Doctor’s Queerness

Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor Who debut last year broke the mold for many reasons, but for one excellent one among many, it meant that for the first time ever fans got to be introduced to a Doctor played by an openly queer man—and playing a Doctor unafraid of acknowledging that, either.

“Do you know what? It makes perfect sense to me,” told Variety recently in a wide-ranging story about his casting as the 15th Doctor. “I feel like anyone that has a problem with someone who’s not a straight white man playing this character, you’re not really, truly a fan of the show. You’ve not been watching! Because the show is about regeneration, and the Doctor is an alien—why would they only choose to be this sort of person?”

But while Gatwa is the first openly queer star of the series—and his Doctor has already unabashedly touched on his approach to gender and sexuality, from clubbing in kilts to telling his new companion, Millie Gibson’s Ruby Sunday, about his long, hot summers with Harry Houdini. But for the series’ showrunner, Russell T. Davies, this is just the latest in a long line of the show either directly touching on the Doctor’s relationship with queer identity—especially in the modern era of the show—or leaving the character open enough to interpretation that fandom has put a queer lens on the character for years and years before that.

“They weren’t exactly the straightest men in the past,” Davies added. Most of the contemporary incarnations of the Doctor have been defined by straight-presenting romantic relationships, but even then they’ve all played on and discussed their own concept of queer attraction in passing moments, or, perhaps even more appropriately for the Doctor, a being who has spent eons travelling across all of time and space, attraction that goes beyond human understandings of gender. More recently queer acknowledgement by the character has come more explicity—from Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor acknowledging her feelings for one of her companions, Yaz, to David Tennant’s return as the 14th Doctor taking a moment to thirst over Sir Isaac Newton.

While it won’t be a defining aspect of Gatwa’s Doctor, according to Davies, that is a trend you’re going to see continue in the show. “You’re talking about someone who does have a lightness and a joy about him that, to me, chimes with queer energy,” Davies added. “It’s very rarely driving the story vehemently, but you will see moments exploring it. We’re not delivering a neutered Doctor.”

Ultimately, it just means Doctor Who will continue to do what it always has—reflect the whole wide world and universe around it in as many ways as it can. “It’s very hard for anyone to stop me doing these things,” Davies concluded. “You’d have to be a pretty brave executive to say, ‘Don’t go there’ to me. I’m sure there are people thinking that, but I wouldn’t work with them, would I?”

Doctor Who returns on May 10 at 7pm Eastern time on Disney+, and May 11 at 12am UK time on BBC iPlayer.

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