“More of the Universe, more time with you”: Doctor Who’s same-sex storyline and seeing myself in fiction
This year, during the New Year’s special of Doctor Who, companion Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), or ‘Yaz’ to her friends, came out as gay. This gave the first female iteration of ‘The Doctor’ (Jodie Whittaker) a female love interest, the first time in the show’s history of the iconic character .
There are six versions of Willow Arlett that sit down to watch the events of ‘Eve of the Daleks’ unfold on New Year’s Day: six versions of Willow Arlett that are overwhelmed with enough emotion to fill an entire TARDIS.
The first curls up in the same position on the sofa as she does in 2018. She is three episodes into Jodie Whittaker’s first series as the elusive timelord when Yaz and The Doctor are asked: “Are you two seeing each other?” and something inside her shifts. When The Doctor herself is confused by the question and must clarify it with her companion, who panickedly denies anything of the sort, Willow’s hit with a wave of curiosity. Are the writers making a passing joke or is this a hint at something more? She’s not sure if there’s a point in rooting for this pairing yet, but nevertheless, she’s hopeful. When Yaz is asked by Dan (John Bishop) this episode “Have you told her? […] How you feel about her?” and Yaz’s first response is “Is it that obvious?”, she smiles. In this instance, curiosity didn’t kill the cat.
The second Willow walks into the viewing party exhausted, collapsing into her seat with a heart that’s sunken 10ft underground. She joins us after a study period that, instead of working, has been spent in the sixth form common area, stringing together stolen moments from the past two series of Doctor Who – that could be interpreted as romantic, if her friends could just see what she’s seeing – only for the discussion to fall on deaf ears. “Don’t get your hopes up” and “it’s probably just the actresses’ chemistry you’re seeing” are ringing in her mind and she’s fed up. The spark of hope glows a little less bright, but she refuses to convince herself she’s delusional; especially when Aisling Bea, the special’s guest star, mentions “good-hearted weirdos are always the keepers” and Yaz looks over at the Thirteenth Doctor as if she’s hung the moon and the stars. She almost yells “I told you so!” into thin air when 10 minutes later she’s met with a confessional.
The third Willow emerges from the height of the 2020 lockdown and sits quietly in the corner. After spending so much time alone the past few months, she’s come to the realisation that she’s bisexual. She’s come from such a loving and accepting family, she’d never even thought about labels or her identity before the world stopped. She doesn’t know how to feel. When Mandip Gill, with the most grace and sensitivity, acts out the words “I haven’t told anyone, not even myself”, this version of Willow breaks down with tears of relief. One of her favourite characters also took a while to realise her identity and is still figuring it out, she feels much less alone.
The fourth Willow, halfway through her first year of university, sits in the middle, feeling quite lost. She’s grown up in a world of linear thinkers, and it makes her feel out of place. The people around her all dress the same way, all listen to the same style of music, all seem to follow the zeitgeist of being a ‘typical Leeds student’. Her confidence has been knocked down by half, but she’s determined to step back into her little flat and battle this monotonous crowd. She nods as the Doctor says “come on you brilliant humans! We go again until we win.” The embers of self-assurance she once had before the pandemic rekindling.
The fifth Willow swings her legs into the latter’s lap to get more comfortable. This variant is slowly realising that it’s important to stand up for what you believe in and challenge the opinions of others. She may not always have the confidence for big strides, but she’s trying damn well hard to make second year the year of being her true authentic self: petticoats, DM boots and all. The main reason she loves Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is that she’s unapologetically quirky, clever, and kind. After four years of saying that she’ll channel this energy, the past semester is proof that, this time, those truly aren’t just empty words, even if she does still doubt herself occasionally.
The sixth, and final, Willow is the one writing this article. She’s the one who got to witness the first female doctor look at a woman with all the love and loss in the universe. Happiness and love fizz away inside of her, filling her up from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. As her phone buzzes away, racking up excited texts from close friends, she sits with the widest smile on her face. She’s so glad she sat up a little straighter when Yaz proclaimed: “I want more. More of the universe, more time with you” on the TARDIS all those years ago. She’s so proud of how far she’s come.
Image Credit: BBC