“‘I thought you said this was a science-fiction convention.’
‘It is,’ I replied.
‘Then why is everyone gay?’
‘Ah, that’s because it’s a Doctor Who convention.’”
In an essay explaining how it’s almost as hard to come out of “the geek closet” as the sexual closet, Jason Tucker admits that no one really understands why the world’s longest-running sci-fi TV series is so beloved by gay and lesbian and trans people, especially now, on its 50th anniversary. The new book Queers Dig Time Lords gathers together a terrific collection of writers for “a celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ fans who love it.”
Eleven very different actors have played the mysterious, face-changing time traveller called only the Doctor, and, until recently, he was always a rather asexual character, equally ready to save the boy as get the girl. But that doesn’t quite explain his queer appeal, says journalist Gary Gillatt:
“Jon Pertwee’s Doctor . . . may sometimes look and sound like Quentin Crisp playing James Bond, but don’t be fooled by the lisp, the frilly blouses, or the old lady hairdo. Doctor Three is our Time Lord’s most testosterone-fuelled incarnation. He likes his wine vintage and his cheese pungent.”
After the original series ran from 1963 to 1989 (and then ever since in hundreds of novels), Russell T Davies, creator of Queer as Folk, was asked to write a new series for the BBC in 2003. He said he wanted to resurrect Doctor Who. The executives laughed at him and asked why, but he insisted, “Because it’s the best idea ever invented in the history of the world!”
The essayists in Queers Dig Time Lords enthusiastically agree. Toronto graphic designer Scot Clarke movingly equates his secret love of Doctor Who with his years hiding his sexuality, while Erik Stadnik reveals the world of queer DW podcasters. While the public has mocked the older episodes’ low-budget special effects, novelist Paul Magrs says gay men love the show because of its “drag queen aesthetic . . . our shared sense of the ridiculous. We love the idea of a universe held together by a bit of tinsel and glitter.” The Doctor, Magrs says, is a force against the power of conformity, battling campy megalomaniacs, aging actresses “in full Bette Davis villainous modes” and, of course, the unstoppable fascist Daleks.
Writer Martin Warren notes that while the show is famous for its sexy girl sidekicks, the Doctor’s also travelled with Michael Craze’s handsome sailor Ben, Frazer Hine’s kilted Scotsman Jamie and John Barrowman’s bisexual secret agent Captain Jack Harkness, and the show has featured such eye-candy guest-stars as Jason Connery, Harry Lloyd and new Spider-Man Andrew Garfield. Hell, even Kylie Minogue has turned up!
Meanwhile, as Sarah J Groenewegen writes, in “The Incredibly True Adventures of an Intellectual Fan Dyke,” novelist Jennifer Pelland praises the show’s sexy mature women, River Song and Donna Noble, but Tanya Huff laments the recent seasons’ increasing emphasis on heterosexuality, failing to deliver on the promise of Captain Jack Harkness kissing the Doctor in 2005.
That was John Barrowman, who provides an introduction for this book while sneaking in a plug for his new novel, Torchwood: Exodus Code, which continues the adventures of the Doctor’s most sexually adventurous sidekick. Their universe is endless, complicated and fun.
Writer Paul F Cockburn ends his essay with what he believes “encapsulates the magic of Doctor Who in one short quote:
“When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all, ‘Grow up. Get a job. Get married. Get a house. Have a kid, and that’s it.’ But the truth is: the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.”
Here’s to the next 50 years . . .
Edited by Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damien Thomas
$17.95, Mad Norwegian Press
Torchwood: Exodus Code
by John and Carole E Barrowman
$15.99, BBC Books