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In just a couple of weeks, Doctor Who will finally break through time and space to return to fans after more than a year's hiatus. And with Peter Capaldi's last year as Number 12 comes a brand new companion in Pearl Mackie's Bill. When she makes her big debut, she'll take very little time to clue audiences in on something that makes her quite unlike any of the Time Lord's past full-time companions: Bill is openly gay.
Ever since Pearl Mackie was first cast in the role of Bill for Season 10, audiences were ready for a change of pace from Clara and River and Rory. (As well as Nardole.) In early footage from the upcoming season, Bill has shown off something of a childlike persona, always questioning every little thing and making the good Doctor's blood pressure that much higher. But Bill definitely isn't too-childlike, as she fancies herself a good time with members of the same sex. However, just because this rather remarkable difference is present, we shouldn't expect it to override everything else about being a companion. Here's how Pearl Mackie put it to the BBC:
It shouldn't be a big deal in the 21st Century. It's about time isn't it? That representation is important, especially on a mainstream show. It's important to say people are gay, people are black - there are also aliens in the world as well so watch out for them. . . . [Being gay] is not the main thing that defines her character - it's something that's part of her and something that she's very happy and very comfortable with.
For one thing, news of Bill's sexual preference means we definitely won't have to worry about any scenes where showrunner Steven Moffat awkwardly puts the Doctor and Bill together in close quarters in a way that makes a love connection feel imminent. Nothing against Peter Capaldi or Pearl Mackie in any way, but their onscreen chemistry never needs to reach that stage.
Now, I know there are Doctor Who fans who will contest the fact that Bill will be the first openly gay companion, but it's important to remember that she's the first one who will be a full-time partner who is around for the whole season. The magnificent John Barrowman played the LGBTQ-friendly Captain Jack Harkness during Season 1 of the revived Doctor Who, with Christopher Eccleston as the Time Lord, but Jack was only the Doctor's companion throughout the final five episodes of the season, at which point Eccleston left the show and Barrowman's Captain Jack moved on to the spinoff Torchwood. Outside of companions, Doctor Who has featured other gay and bisexual characters, such as the lizardy Madame Vastra and her maid Jenny Flint, as well as River Song, though that's widely accepted despite never being implicitly stated on the show itself.
We're thankfully not far away from meeting Bill in Doctor Who Season 10 and all of its retro fun. It will finally hit BBC America on Saturday, April 15, at 9:00 p.m. ET, followed by the U.S. premiere of the spinoff series Class, which airs at 10 p.m. ET. To see what else is coming to the small screen, head to our midseason premiere schedule and our summer TV guide.