Sorry straight white men, Doctor Who was never made just for you (2024)

From the moment I saw Ncuti Gatwa dancing the night away in a bright outfit during the 2023 Christmas special, I knew I would fall in love with his iteration of The Doctor.

Not everyone was as excited by such an unapologetically queer Black Doctor Who though. A vocal contingent of keyboard warriors took to social media to claim the show had gone too ‘woke’.

From arguing that the show has been ‘torn apart by woke ideologues’ to creating their own social media trend #RIPDoctorWho, you don’t need to go far to find the litany of tired complaints.

But I’d argue that the show has always been socially-progressive and inclusive.

I started watching the show during David Tennant’s run as the 10th Doctor over 15 years ago, and immediately fell in love with the beautiful themes of found family, combined with the captivating space-and-time adventures. I never looked back.

Over the past 60 years, the iconic British TV show has cultivated a devoted fanbase – following the timey-wimey adventures of an alien known as the Doctor and his human companion in the TARDIS.

In a nutshell, there is no world too crazy, time too far, or creature too strange. Not even the end of the universe is the limit.

So for a show so versatile, and with fluidity so naturally imbued into its bones, it’s truly baffling that a non-straight, non-white Doctor feels so unbelievable to so many people.

It’s not the first time this ‘woke’ accusation has been levelled at the show.

Ncuti’s predecessor Jodie Whittaker (the 13th Doctor) battled intense public scrutiny as the first woman to take over the beloved role. Angry viewers similarly accused the show of pandering to woke times, causing Jodie to tell the press ‘it’s terrifying that a woman being given a particular job can cause so much rage’.

Now Ncuti has been forced to justify his place in the sci-fi series since news of his casting in May 2022.

In a recent interview with Attitude, the Sex Education star has spoken about the irrelevance of trolls: ‘You are so angry over something so inconsequential that you can’t be an interesting person. You can’t have much in your life.’

But the bigoted straight white men who have spiralled into a meltdown clearly haven’t been paying attention to the reboot’s rich and ever-evolving history of multiculturalism and LGBTQ+ inclusion.

When Queer As Folk creator, Russell T Davies, brought Doctor Who back in 2005 it was clear from the get-go that this is a show for all the outcasts in society.

Class commentary was placed front and centre through Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and her mum Jackie who lived on a London council estate. And left-wing sentiment has been a common thread throughout the series.

In this season, viewers were introduced to queer companion Captain Jack Harkness (who shared a same-sex kiss with The Doctor in the season finale on primetime TV as far back as 2005).

Alongside the steady drip of LGBTQ+ side characters, in 2008 Freema Agyeman made history as the first full-time Black female companion, Martha Jones. One episode (Family of Blood) sees her proving her worth as a Black female Doctor while trapped in the past.

At the time, Agyeman too faced racist backlash from the public, which she later revealed: ‘What I didn’t anticipate – and maybe I was naïve – was the racism from certain sectors of the fanbase… yeah, I couldn’t rationalise that.’

Since the early reboot days the ‘woke’ momentum has only picked up, and with it the accuracy of the representation.

Behind the scenes, screenwriters such as Vinay Patel and Malorie Blackman have penned historic stories about partition and the civil rights movement. While Segun Akinola did a tenure as Doctor Who composer from 2018 to 2022.

On screen in recent years – under the helm of showrunners Steven Moffat and Chris Chibnall – we’ve seen a South Asian Master (the Doctor’s recurring arch-nemesis) played by Sacha Dhawan and Jo Martin magnificently embodying the Fugitive Doctor.

Elsewhere, we’ve seen explicitly queer companions such as Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), who got her almost-fairytale lesbian ending, as well as a prominent storyline featuring trans actor Yasmin Finney who plays Donna’s daughter. Need I go on?

Ncuti’s Doctor is not even the first time the titular hero has centred their LGBTQ+ identity in the episode. During Jodie’s final season, The Flux, we saw a doomed romance between herself and Yaz (Mandip Gill).

If anything, there is still a long way to go to make Doctor Who diverse – both in front and behind the camera.

The upcoming season only features one episode from female screenwriters and none from writers of colour. There is also yet to be a modern-era showrunner who isn’t a white man.

As the show looks towards a bright future – boosted by a major global deal with Disney+ – Ncuti’s Doctor is only the beginning of everything this show can become. It is certainly not for just one demographic.

One thing is for sure, neither Ncuti nor returning showrunner Russell have allowed the barrage of social media hate to stop them from realising a beautifully diverse character.

The 15th Doctor has already been confirmed as unapologetically queer, with a nod to Ncuti’s Rwandan heritage in his character’s screwdriver through a proverb inscribed in Gallifreyan.

In the words of Ncuti himself: ‘[Doctor Who] matters for people of colour, for marginalised people who really gravitate towards the show because it’s about friendship and it’s about adventure and it’s about union and unity.’

There’s something in Doctor Who for everyone, not just the few. So while the haters continue shouting into the void about the identity of a fictional alien, I’ll be switching on every Saturday night to see the human race celebrated in all its glory.

If someone has a problem with that, they know where the door is.

Doctor Who returns to BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Saturday May 11 at 6:20pm with double bill opener, Space Babies and The Devil’s Chord.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

Share your views in the comments below.

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Sorry straight white men, Doctor Who was never made just for you (1)

Sorry straight white men, Doctor Who was never made just for you (2024)
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