representation matters

‘Doctor Who’ prompts complaints and praise over inclusion of trans character

Fans of the long-running British sci-fi show Doctor Who are thrilled the series is now back for a short run over the holiday season.

Playing the Doctor for three special episodes to mark the show’s 60th anniversary is David Tennant, who previously played the role between 2005-2008. He will be replaced by queer actor Ncuti Gatwa for the show’s next season.

Besides Tennant, writer and producer Russell T Davies (Queer As Folk) has returned as showrunner. The specials, which began airing on November 25th, featured a new character.

Rose Noble Temple is played by Yasmin Finney, known to millions from Netflix’s Heartstopper. Rose is the transgender daughter of Donna Noble and Shaun Temple. They are supportive of her gender identity.

At one point in ‘The Star Beast’ episode, Donna (played by Catherine Tate) tells her mother, “You have a kid. You think, good I’ve got it, that’s mine. Then she grows up into this extraordinarily beautiful thing and you think: where the hell did she come from? How lucky am I?”

The BBC, the UK’s state broadcaster, publishes details of how many complaints shows rack up. It has revealed that it has received 144 complaints about the character of Rose in Doctor Who. Most of the complainants suggested the character was “inappropriate”.

It’s worth noting that ‘The Star Beast’ episode drew an audience of 7.6 million in the UK, so the number of complaints was small compared to the number who watched.

Online, many others have welcomed Finney’s inclusion in the show.

“Seeing a fellow trans person on such a big show means so much to me, thank you ♥︎” said a respondent on Finney’s Instagram.

“So familiar and real”

A mom with a trans son also posted a heartfelt message about the way the show handled family issues around a trans child.

“Thank you so much for your authentic portrayal of a trans girl in a supportive family. My son transitioned in junior high, and we had what seemed to be those same boys deadnaming him, with me wanting to go talk to their moms and my son wanting me to stay quiet.

“Donna and her mom’s discussion of accidentally messing up pronouns especially when talking about the past and not knowing how to compliment Rose also seemed so familiar and real.”

“And thank you for posting the family photo frame from the Temple Nobel house. That was actually the bit that made me teary. When my son first transitioned, we had to remove all earlier photos of him. I was so happy when he got to the point where he felt secure enough in his identity that he went through old photos and separated out ones where he looked gender-neutral enough to be OK with having those in public parts of the house. It was like gifting us back our son’s younger years.”

Davies has stood by his decision to include trans representation in the show. At a press conference last month, he blasted the way trans people are vilified in some sections of the press.

“[There are] newspapers of absolute hate, and venom, and destruction, and violence who would rather see that sort of thing wiped off the screen destroyed. Shame on you, and good luck to you in your lonely lives.”

Neil Patrick Harris

The next episode of the Doctor Who 2023 specials will air this Saturday. Entitled ‘Giggle’, it will feature gay actor Neil Patrick Harris in the role of the villain, The Toymaker. Outside of the UK, it will be available on Disney+.

Don't forget to share:
Read More in Entertainment
The Latest on INTO