Doctor Who is a Lifeline for Queer People Like Me

The tale of a travelling Time Lord, changing faces and genders like you or I might change outfits, has always resonated with LGBT+ people, writes Max Wallis. But Ncuti Gatwa’s delightfully camp incarnation kicks the representation up to a whole new level

Doctor Who is Back, and It Is Queerer Than Ever

Doctor Who is back, and it is queerer than ever. Flush with the House of Mouse’s cash, it is also flashier, more glamorous, and has a marketing spend to rival Succession. With OG reboot showrunner Russell T Davies back at the helm, it feels like 2005 all over again.

In 2005, I was desperately sad, growing up at the tail end of Section 28. I was regularly called homophobic slurs in school and ignored by teachers when I expressed my sadness. The law that banned the “promotion of homosexuality” was only repealed in 2003, the same year Doctor Who was announced to return from its dormancy.

Doctor Who: A Source of Healing

Doctor Who is a lifeline for queer people like me. Back then, I was broken, gay, and living in a challenging environment. Now, after surviving a suicide attempt in London, I find myself broken again in more ways than one. And once more, Doctor Who is healing me.

At its heart, Doctor Who is a lifeline for queer people like me. It’s a TV show about a time-traveling, gender-bending alien with two hearts, older than time, who has worn more faces than Joan Collins and has slept with everyone from Houdini to Queen Elizabeth I. The latest incarnation, played by Ncuti Gatwa, is definitively queer.

Representation Matters in Doctor Who

“Ncuti is the perfect hero for these troubled times,” says Paul Burston, host of the Polari literary salon and prize and author of We Can Be Heroes – A Survivor’s Story. “A black queer man who came to the UK from Rwanda now plays the time-traveling Time Lord on peak time Saturday night TV. He embodies everything the ‘anti-woke’ mob hate – and I couldn’t love him more.”

Over the years, Doctor Who has featured a whole ensemble of queer characters: from trans actor Yasmin Finney, who played Rose Noble, to the lesbian Victorian married couple Jenny Flint and Madame Vastra. Not to mention pansexual Torchwood agent Jack Harkness. Last week’s episode saw Drag Race alumni Jinkx Monsoon play “the Maestro”, wrapping people up in anthropomorphic music scores. It’s camp, it’s extra, and it’s glorious.

Doctor Who: A Safety Blanket for LGBT+ People

Doctor Who is a lifeline for queer people like me. The Doctor, in the most peculiar of ways, is one of the few television characters I thought was in some way, like me,” says Gerry Potter, poet and author of the memoir 6A Blackstock Gardens. “I was a working-class effeminate child in Liverpool’s hard-as-nails Scotland Road and they were a noble lord of time from Gallifrey. My gut and creative instinct was always about change, regeneration thrilled me.”

In 2021, 64 percent of LGBT+ people had experienced anti-LGBT+ violence or abuse. More than ever, Doctor Who is a lifeline for queer people like me, a safety blanket disguised as a show about monsters. It’s a way to live vicariously across alien worlds through a TV screen. “We choose our families. And the Doctor is a lonely wanderer, looking for their next adventure,” Ncuti Gatwa told The Guardian in 2023. Many people with chronic illnesses find solace in watching what the Doctor gets up to each week.

Doctor Who: A Reminder of Resilience

For the broken, Doctor Who is a lifeline for queer people like me. It’s a reminder that you won’t stay broken forever. Time heals. Sometimes you might get a new face, but it will all end up OK. Being kind, resourceful, and keeping running are some of the most important qualities a person can have. Entering the Tardis, bigger on the inside, is like opening a closet door and realizing just how big and beautiful the world can be.