- Rebecca Root is the latest LGBT+ character and the first official transgender companion to the Doctor.
Doctor Who has its first transgender companion in the show’s history – with trans actress Rebecca Root playing the role.
Root will play Tania Bell in Stranded, an episode in Doctor Who’s Big Finish audio series.
The character won’t be on screen yet. But it is still the first time Doctor Who fans will have seen the Doctor have a trans companion.
However, it isn’t an ‘issues-led’ story about being trans. Root, aged 51, told geek-loving site Nerdist that Tania Bell’s gender identity is not at the heart of her story in Stranded.
She said: ‘She’s a person like all the other people I have played and hope to play in the future. She’s not perfect, but she’s not a mess, and certainly, I don’t think her gender identity has any influence on her behavior in the story.’
How Doctor Who has taken LGBT+ characters forward in time
Quintessentially British TV sci-fi show Doctor Who has been running since 1963 and has long had a passionate LGBT+ fan base.
Indeed, it pioneered LGBT+ inclusion when Russell T Davies, the creator of the groundbreaking drama Queer As Folk, rebooted the show in 2005.
Doctor Who fans – or Whovians – soon met Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) as a bisexual companion. Then in series 10, Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) became the first gay companion.
Meanwhile Bethany Black became the first trans actress in the show in series nine.
Likewise, the series passed another milestone when the Doctor regenerated as a woman with Jodie Whittaker playing the 13th Doctor from 2018 to today.
Moreover, in the last series Jo Martin demonstrated a black actress could play the role.
Root, who starred in BBC sitcom Boy Meets Girl, said she would have loved to have seen a trans character in the show when she was a child.
‘It would have been amazing to see a trans person in a show like Doctor Who. In fact, to see a trans person period would have been amazing. But I [grew] up in the ’70s and society was differently populated back then, and gender ID was not really “a thing”.’
The TV version is on the 13th Doctor. But the Big Finish audio series will see Root play alongside the eighth Doctor, Paul McGann.
And Root hopes her character will return too:
‘I hope so, very much. Perhaps even in a spinoff too, somewhere along the line, somewhere in time…’