Pride Month Character Spotlight: Bill Potts
Welcome to the tenth article in our Pride series for the month of June! Each day we will be highlighting a different LGBTQ+ character who we think is a great example of representation, dynamic characterization, and overall badassery. Check out the rest of the series here.
Bill Potts was a breath of fresh air.
Not that Doctor Who was ever a show I’d classify as stagnant, but as we watched Clara Oswald ride off into the sky at the end of the ninth season, someone needed to come along that was completely new to change the trajectory of Who. And Bill Potts (played by the amazing Pearl Mackie) was just what the doctor ordered. (I’m sorry, I had to.)
Bill (named so after the actress who played former companion Rose, Billie Piper) was in every way different than the companions that had come before her. She was quirky and offbeat, her sense of style straight out of the 1980s and yet totally fresh. She was nerdy and excited about the new world the Doctor (somewhat reluctantly) showed her. She was full of wide eyed wonder and had an innocence about her. She was really a student to the Doctor’s teacher. And above all, she was not another love interest for the Doctor. Because our darling Bill was introduced right out of the gate as a lesbian.
(Revealed in the best way, as she explained to the Doctor how she served the girl she was crushing on in the school canteen extra chips at lunch. Is there anything more adorable?)
By season 10, Doctor Who hadn’t shied away from representation. Earlier this month we did a story on Captain Jack Harkness, but in the seasons since, they’d had hints of bisexual story lines for companions River Song and Clara, and even had a recurring lesbian couple, Vastra and Jenny. But the introduction of a full season companion as a lesbian was a game changer about representation in the longest running sci fi show.
And frankly, it’s one thing to toss that in as a side plot for the sake of fulfilling a diversity quota. But there’s nothing side about Bill’s sexuality. She falls in love in the first episode, and later, the Doctor (and the Pope) actually interrupt a date she’s on. Being gay is just a part of her life, and one that is never questioned by the Doctor. It’s hardly even a footnote to him.
One of the things I love about Doctor Who is that even when the story line gets dark, they never stray too far from being a show that the whole family could watch together. Which is why it was so critical that her sexuality was written as seamlessly into her character as it was. There was even a scene in “Knock Knock” where her new roommate, a young man, hits on her and she basically says (politely), no thanks, you’re not my type. And he doesn’t have some sort of freak out – he just accepts it and they move on. It may not seem like a big moment, but setting examples of how normal an interaction like this could be on a family show is a pretty big deal. It’s not that Bill doesn’t get male attention, its that it’s handled in a mature,reasonable way. An example to set for the next generation of Whovians watching with their folks.
Bill, like most Doctor Who companions, ends up being a fantastic example of the best humanity has to offer – brave, kind, compassionate, and with a seemingly endless desire to learn and explore. I won’t spoil it for you in case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t caught the latest season of Doctor Who, but she even gets the girl in the end. And after everything she went through with the Doctor, she really deserved it.
Do you have a character spotlight suggestion? Leave it in the comments down below!